Things started well enough for Hilton Head Island on Saturday in Columbia.
Senior Martin Duane came out and defeated Eastside’s Joseph Fernandez by a technical fall and the Seahawks jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the Class 3-A State Wrestling Championship at Dreher High School.
Unfortunately for the Seahawks, the Eagles reeled off the next 36 points and Eastside claimed the 3-A state championship, spoiling Hilton Head Island’s first state final appearance since 2010.
“The way we had it mapped out coming in was we needed to win eight weight classes,” Hilton Head Island head coach Mike Newton said. “They have enough hammers that I felt like if we won seven and they won seven, they were going to beat us by getting bonus points. They don’t have any holes in their lineup.
“There aren’t many weight classes where we felt like we could go and get pins.”
Newton felt like the weights between 132 and 195, along with the heavyweight class, were the nine spots the Seahawks could win. But it just didn’t go Hilton Head’s way.
“We really had to wrestle the perfect match to win eight of those nine weights,” Newton said. “And the rest, we had to try and not get pinned. Starting at 182 didn’t help matters. ... We had to bump our 182 to 195. But that’s part of wrestling.”
Seahawks Elihu Torres and T.J. Sullivan suffered back-to-back pins at 195 and 220, and then Harvey King lost a tight 2-1 decision at heavyweight.
“The ball started rolling against us,” Newton said.
With two more pins in the lower weight classes, including a first-period pin of Griffin Fingar by Eagles star Sam Mitchell at 120 pounds and it was clear the Seahawks were in trouble.
When James Roberts fell 2-1 to Chance Pride at 132 pounds, it was the second straight close loss for Hilton Head Island, and it clinched the win for Eastside.
“It’s such a momentum thing,” Newton said. “If kids are in a tight match and we’ve won the previous four or five, a kid’s going to find a way to win. If you’ve lost four or five in a row, you tend to find a way to lose. It’s momentum and we were on the wrong end of it.
“The gameplan was for us to win eight matches. I don’t know if we would have won eight, obviously we didn’t. But I would have liked to have seen those matches. It just wasn’t our day.”
Eastside took forfeits in the final five weight classes and walked away with a not-as-close-as-it-looked 36-35 final. Hilton Head’s most dominant wrestler, Talon Seitz, never saw the mat.
“(Our guys are) upset. But in the sport, teams do this,” Newton said. “Once they secure the championship, they want to celebrate it with each other.”
Newton said the Seahawks still have some tangible goals this season, one of which is the coaches’ championship at the state individual tournament.
“We have the type team that will score really well,” he said. “We’re going to see if we can qualify as many guys as possible and get as many titles as possible.”
Aside from the key losses of Seitz and Duane, next year’s team has a chance to be improved.
Still, this team was special for Newton.
It had already been a stellar year for the Seahawks even before the championship loss. They won four tournaments, the most in program history, and won their own Seahawk Duals for the first time.
“As a coach, these past two years have been by far the most enjoyable for me,” Newton said. “These kids make me smile everyday. They truly care for each other and are good kids. That is what I’m most pleased about.
“We have 25 guys that are really good people. They happen to be good wrestlers, as well.”
EASTSIDE 36, HILTON HEAD ISLAND 35
182: Martin Duane (HHH) def. Joseph Fernandez by tech. fall; 195: David Maholtz (EAS) pinned Elihu Torres, 2nd period; 220: Sullivan (EAS) pinned T.J. Sullivan, 2nd period; Grande Esparza (EAS) def. Harvey King, 2-1; 106: Pangmazan Rumtheo (EAS) pinned Erik Hinton, 1st period; 113: Jordie White def. Logan Johnston, 6-0; 120: Sam Mitchell (EAS) pinned Griffin Fingar, 1st period; 126: Cruise Baker (EAS) def. Kaden Seitz; 132: Chance Pride (EAS) def. James Roberts, 1-0; 138: Eric Ashdown (HHH) won by forfeit; 145: Chris Soler (HHH) won by forfeit; 152: Cristian Ordonez (HHH) won by forfeit; 160: Billy Christie won by forfeit; 170: Talon Seitz (HHH) won by forfeit.