In a charged atmosphere before a capacity crowd at Hammond, 119-pound Ethan Cohen delivered a soul-satisfying victory for the No. 4-ranked Bears wrestling team last night.
The senior captain scored a two-point takedown on River Hill's David Heckman with 12 seconds left and then held on for a 6-4 decision that gave the Bears a 30-27 triumph, their first over No. 5 River Hill since 1999.
"This was the biggest match of my career in an incredible atmosphere," said Cohen. "Even though there was a lot of pressure, I was real happy it came down to me. I wouldn't want that pressure on anyone else. I knew it would be close, and he fought hard the whole time, but listening to the crowd, I said, 'I have to win. I'm not giving all this up.'"
Cohen (15-1), a state runner-up last season and ranked No. 2 at 119 pounds behind Heckman by The Sun, had lost to him, 7-6, earlier this season.
Last night, Cohen went up 3-0 in the second period, when he scored an escape, then a takedown with 20 seconds left.
Heckman rallied in the third period with a two-point reversal and two near-fall points. Cohen scored a one-point escape, tying the bout at 4-4 with 37 seconds left.
"Ethan picks the team up on his shoulders every day in practice," said Pedro Barbossa, who has coached Hammond for five years and got his first win over River Hill. "I had confidence he could finish it out."
Hammond (13-0 overall, 4-0 Howard County) rolled to an 18-3 lead when the night began at 125 pounds. The Bears won five of the first six bouts, including state champion Vince Taweel's 12-4 major decision over Ryan Lauer at 130 pounds and an upset, 15-9 win by Ryan McKevitt over Justin Mayhew at 140 pounds.
But Ben Diamond started the Hawks on the comeback trail with an 11-5 win over Adam Blake at 160 pounds. Jesse Story of River Hill decisioned Mark Greenstein, 6-1, and teammate Kevin Biegel pinned David Greenstein in 1:27. That narrowed the gap to 18-15.
After Hammond 215-pound linchpin Steve Sessa defeated stubborn Ryan Deiter, 9-3, River Hill charged ahead 27-21 on back-to-back pins by heavyweight B. J. Benning and 103-pounder Bryan Williams.
Hammond's Bryce Harley pinned Kevin Golden in 3:04 at 112 pounds to tie the match, 27-27.
"Fourteen guys stepped up and wrestled their hearts out tonight," said Barbossa. "River Hill has dominated Howard County wrestling for a long time, and I knew they'd make a charge after we went up early. We've been getting a lot of press, and I wasn't certain if it was all deserved, but nothing could be bigger than this."