The gym at South Carroll was packed Thursday night in anticipation of the showdown between No. 2 Winters Mill and the No. 12 Cavaliers. On the line was not only the outcome of a single match, but also the Carroll County championship.
When junior John Gaunt held on for a 4-1 decision over Winters Mill's Chase Cullison in a 145-pound match, the Cavaliers danced on the mat and their fans danced in the stands as Gaunt leaped into the air and pumped his fists before being lifted by his teammates. South Carroll had won, 34-28, to capture its first county title in nine years.
The Cavaliers stayed perfect in the county, improving their record to 7-0, while moving to 17-1 overall.
Winters Mill, which had been unbeaten, dropped to 7-1 overall and 5-1 in the county.
"It's kind of unbelievable, this win," Gaunt said. "I was nervous all day. But when the match started, I got pumped up and did what I had to do. It's one of the biggest wins of my career. We've been training all week, and this was the last match in our county competition.
"It just felt great when my team picked me up. I was so happy."
So was everyone else on the South Carroll side of the mat. The Cavaliers had managed to keep the Falcons from getting too many bonus points, avoiding most major decisions and pins, while picking up their share.
"It was a lot of fun," South Carroll coach Bryan Hamper said. "We knew we were up against a great team. In a match like this, every point counts."
Hamper and his staff had done their jobs well. They knew exactly where Winters Mill's strength was -- in the middle weights -- and shuffled the lineup to give up those matches in order to be strong in other weight classes.
"I thought their coaching was brilliant," said Winters Mill coach John Lowe, who coached Hamper when he was a wrestler at McDaniel College. "They did a little jostling, moving their 152 to 160 and their 160 to 171. It threw us off style-wise."