It’s a fate many teams have suffered over the years, and the May River wrestling team experienced it for a second straight season — losing a state championship match at the hands of Palmetto State powerhouse Eastside.
The afternoon began with optimism for the Sharks when Gabe Juarez opened the dual with a quick pin, but Eastside’s loaded lineup delivered 10 straight wins — including six pins — to roll to a 58-15 victory and the Eagles’ seventh consecutive state title and 17th in 22 years.
“They’re absolutely the gold standard in South Carolina, and our goal is never to finish second,” May River coach Ashley Powell told Lou Bezjak of The State. “We come here and fight and practice every day to try to be called state champions. At the end of the day, I think we’ve got something to take pride in. We’re a sixth-year school, man, and we’re climbing this mountain.”
The day was not without its highlights for the Sharks, starting with Juarez’s impressive first-period pin to kick things off. It was a long wait for the next one, but it was worth it. After enduring 10 straight losses, Santiago Rueda gave the May River faithful something to cheer.
Bumping up from 138 pounds, where he is ranked first in the state, Rueda earned a thrilling 6-5 decision over Lane Schrader, the No. 2 wrestler at 145 and last year’s state champion at 126. Rueda found himself trailing by one and on bottom with time ticking away, but he got to his feet and avoided being returned to the mat long enough to draw a stalling call and a point, then escaped and staved off a takedown in the final seconds for a marquee win.
Senior Will Durham, thrust into the lineup when junior Miguel Cavalheiro suffered a late-season injury, followed Rueda with a pin before the Eagles closed it out with one of their own.
Now the Sharks turn their attention to the Lower State qualifying meet Friday and Saturday at Bluffton High School, where the top four finishers in each weight class will advance to the state tournament.
“I’d like to think that we’re getting close,” Powell said. “The gap between us and them is not where we want it to be. We’ve got a ways to go, but we’re proud of them. We’ll go back to work Monday and see if we can go win some gold medals here in a couple of weeks.”
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