Atholton had suffered one setback in 16 matches entering yesterday's Howard County League showdown at No. 7 River Hill. But the visiting Raiders were emphatically reacquainted with losing during a rout that ended their winning streak at nine matches.
Ryan Lauer (125 pounds) put the finishing touches on a 52-10 victory with his 5-2 decision over Ryan Conroy as River Hill won 12 of 14 bouts in capturing its 28th consecutive dual meet - its 38th straight over a Maryland team - and its second consecutive league dual-meet crown.
The Hawks (18-0, 10-0 league), who had a 21-0 lead after five bouts against the Raiders (15-2, 8-1), will begin defense of their first state duals title in the Class 4A-3A North regionals on Wednesday.
Some believed River Hill, which likely will meet No. 6 North Carroll (14-0) in the regionals, would struggle in a rebuilding season. Instead, the Hawks have won their matches by an average of more than 40 points despite returning just five county tournament place-winners and five seniors.
"Everyone's pretty much stopped talking about us, but we've been crushing teams," Lauer said. "We dominated today. And for myself to get a win along with the team, it's real nice."
River Hill's match-opening run began with a first-period pin by Alex Proia (130 pounds, 19-6 record). It included a third-period pin by senior Kevin Cannon (145, 24-3) and decisions by David Adams (135, 16-4), Matt Hawkland (140) and Ben Diamond (152, 20-2).
River Hill coach Earl Lauer, Ryan's father, successfully juggled his lineup, moving Cannon up to 145 and dropping Hawkland and Diamond from their normal weights.
"I had to cut some weight to make it to 152, but it was worth it," said Diamond, a sophomore whose late reversal broke a 4-4 tie with Josh Burke, who lost, 6-5. "Coach figured if I did that, it would be another win, and it paid off."
Long Reach (5-10, 1-10) lost, 63-9, to Atholton, which makes an appearance in Wednesday's 2A-1A South regional duals after being 1-13 last year.