Given the way things went the first time, the Class 4A Lower State wrestling championship should have been relatively drama-free. After all, Region 74-A power May River handled rival Hilton Head High easily in their regular-season clash.
But the Sharks were short-handed for the rematch, resulting in more than a little anxiety within The Tank about how it would shake out Wednesday night.
It was much ado about nothing, as May River racked up eight pins — including seven straight to close out the match — turning what started as a competitive dual into a 58-18 rout to punch the Sharks’ ticket to the Class 4A championship match.
May River will face Upstate powerhouse Eastside in the championship match at 4 p.m. Saturday at Dreher High School.
The Sharks have fallen short of the state title match the past two seasons, running into nemesis Gilbert in the Class 3A Lower State finals a year ago and in the Lower State semifinals the previous season. But they left no doubt in their first season in Class 4A.
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The underdog Seahawks got off to a quick start when Peter Rougeux scored a second-period pin at 285 pounds to start the night, but a forfeit at 106 evened the match and Emilio Mendoza’s third-period pin of freshman phenom Zao Estrada brought The Tank to life.
Hilton Head star James Levy answered with a first-period pin to even the score, and after May River’s Santiago Rueda scored a major decision over former teammate Drew Vigh, Darnell Browner’s pin at 138 gave the Seahawks an 18-16 lead at the midway point of the bout.
It was short-lived.
Miguel Cavalheiro’s pin at 145 started off a string of seven straight falls for the Sharks. Jaxson Meriwether, Anthony Nelsen, Gabe Juarez, Wyatt Banfield, and Chris Snowden all followed suit before reigning state champion Eli Hall added the punctuation with a first-period pin at 220.
The Sharks will try to claim their first state title on Saturday, but they’ll have to go through a dynasty. Legendary coach Jack Kosmicki has led Eastside to 14 state championships — all since 2000 — including four straight. The Eagles won the Class 3A crown in 2016 before bumping up to claim the Class 4A title each of the past three years.
For the Seahawks, it’s time to shift their focus to the individual postseason, where both they and the Sharks will compete in the Lower State qualifier Feb. 26-27 in hopes of qualifying for the state championships March 6-7.
By Justin Jarrett / Photos by Mary Beth Lyons