May River wrestling is headed back to the Lower State finals for the fourth consecutive year after squeaking out a 37-36 win over rival Hilton Head High on Monday in The Tank.
The Sharks essentially clinched the win — barring an untimely penalty point — when Josh Echeverria fended off a pin in a major decision loss to Carter Saleeby and held on for the one-point victory despite the Seahawks recording pins in the final two matches of the night.
From the first bout of the night, both teams were focused on preserving every point possible, an indication of how easily Sharks coach Ashley Powell and Seahawks coach Patrick Boulware thought the balance could swing with any result.
That’s why both teams celebrated when Hilton Head’s William Jakeway recorded a technical fall to open the night at 106 pounds — the Seahawks were happy to start with a win, while the Sharks were satisfied to save themselves a point that proved to be huge. May River’s cheers were more robust after Kaedin McCallum scored a pin to give the Sharks their first lead.
The first twist of the evening came in the third bout, when Hilton Head had to send out its wrestler first and elected to bump two-time girls state champion Zao Estrada up a weight class — but it backfired. May River sent out little-known backup Walter Brionas, who scored a quick pin, and Emilio Mendoza earned a major decision over Estrada to give the Sharks a 16-5 advantage.
Hilton Head’s Drew Vigh reversed the momentum temporarily when he earned his 100th career win with a 13-7 decision over Isaiah Wysong in the latest installment of a heated rivalry between the state’s No. 2 and 3 wrestlers at 132 pounds. EJ Seman quickly regained control with a technical fall, and the teams kept swapping wins, with Hilton Head’s Darnell Brawner recording a pin before May River’s Santiago Rueda bumped up a class and earned a crucial major decision to make it an 11-point margin.
Devin Espinoza won by injury default at 160 to get the Seahawks back within five, but May River’s Gabe Juarez picked up a huge pin to restore the lead, and Chris Snowden fought off his back at 182 and reversed the course of the match, earning a fall to leave the Sharks needing only to avoid losing the last three matches by pin to get back to the Lower State finals.
When Carter Saleeby had to settle for a major decision, Powell instructed his wrestlers to control their emotions and avoid giving up a critical penalty point — which proved to be the difference when Jesse Salinas and Brayven Shapiro scored pins to close out the night.
Third-ranked May River will travel to No. 8 Hartsville on Wednesday in what should be a terrific matchup for the Lower State title. The winner will advance to face Eastside or Lugoff-Elgin in the Class 4A title match Saturday at Dreher High School.
Some local sports content that is not sponsored is now available only to LowcoSports.com’s Patreon supporters. Pledge your monthly support here for as little as $1 per month to ensure you have access to all of our grassroots LOCAL sports coverage!