Nick Bautista knew his opponent well entering the championship match of the individual finals of the USMC Seahawk Slam.
And how could he not? The Hilton Head High wrestler faced the same opponent, White Knoll's Jake Beckett, earlier in the season and lost a decision. The defeat spurred Bautista to work on specific moves in practice, with the Beckett match in mind.
Given the chance to redeem himself Thursday on his home mat, Bautista avenged the previous loss, earning a decision over Beckett to claim the 182-pound title on the final day of the Seahawks' grand event.
The 3-2 decision happened because Bautista took a late shot, a prospect he once dreaded.
"My shots are terrible," Bautista said. "I could not take a shot for the life of me, before this year. I took a shot, and it paid off."
Bautista was one of four area wrestlers to reach the finals of the 24-team individual tournament.
Battery Creek wrestler David Ratliff won the heavyweight championship, earning a decision over Socastee's Craig Burton. And Beaufort High wrestler Clint Wright won the finals' only major decision, defeating Lugoff-Elgin's Zach Connell 14-2 at 195.
Battery Creek's Chris Bockelman (106) was pinned in the first period by Lexington's Jackson Myers.
Wright's victory helped Beaufort High to an eighth-place finish. The host Seahawks finished 16th, Battery Creek 18th, Bluffton 19th and Whale Branch 23rd.
For Ratliff, Thursday's final also provided a chance to avenge previous defeats. Burton bested Ratliff at last season's Lower State meet and the year before that at Lugoff-Elgin.
Conditioning was the difference Thursday, Ratliff said. He said his motor during practice prepared him for a match like the one Thursday.
"I push myself every day, so it's really outlasting him, being more conditioned than he was," said Ratliff, the defending Class 3-A champion at 285. "I don't think anyone I wrestle now, and I've seen wrestle, can keep pace the third period."
By the third period, Wright was coasting, though he narrowly avoided a late pin before getting off his back. A returning Class 4-A state qualifier, Wright said he didn't expect the ease with which he cruised to the Seahawk Slam title.
He led Connell 11-0 after two periods.
"I saw his previous matches," Wright said. "He was pinning them left and right."
Such was the parity at the seventh annual Seahawk Slam, an event that has grown in size and level of competition to rival the state's other top meets.
The 24-team field was the largest the event has hosted. And organizer Mike Newton said that would probably remain the ceiling in future years, that quality would be raised while numbers stay the same.
"Every year we've creeped it up a notch," Newton said. "I'm already looking forward to what we can do with it next year."
USMC Seahawk Slam
106: Jackson Myers (Lexington) pinned Chris Bockelman (Battery Creek), first period
113: Blake Walker (Cherokee) dec. Andy Szalwinski (Lexington), 6-2
120: Jordan Wigger (Summerville) dec. Griffin Higginbotham (Union Grove), 8-1
132: Kamaal Shakur (Parkviw) dec. Gavin Perkins (Summerville), 10-6
138: Codi Rothermel (St. James) dec. Bryce Carr (West Laurens), 4-2
145: John Vanslooten (St. James) pinned Keyon Taylor (West Laurens)
152: Derek Rothermel (St. James) pinned Harrison Kruger (Lugoff-Elgin)
160: Jamal Lackey (White Knoll) pinned Khalil Shakur (Parkview)
170: Hunter Gamble (Union Grove) dec. Mark Moody (Bamberg-Ehrhardt), 10-6
182: Nick Bautista (Hilton Head High) dec. Jake Beckett (White Knoll), 3-2
195: Clint Wright (Beaufort High) major dec. Zach Connell (Lugoff-Elgin), 14-2
220: Nate Meagher (Lexington) pinned Allen Jenerette (Lugoff-Elgin)
285: David Ratliff (Battery Creek) dec. Craig Burton (Socastee), 5-1
Final team standings
1. Lexington 228
2. St. James 198.5
3. West Laurens (Ga.) 181
4. White Knoll 173
5. Parkview (Ga.) 144
6. Lugoff-Elgin 135.5
7. Summerville 126
8. Beaufort High 124.5
9. Union Grove (Ga.) 117
10. Cherokee (Ga.) 114
11. Effingham (Ga.) 107
12. Cane Bay 84.5
13. South Effingham (Ga.) 83.5
14. Bamberg-Ehrhardt 83
15. Fort Dorchester 80.5
16. Hilton Head High 74.5
17. Socastee 65
18. Battery Creek 64.5
19. Bluffton 62
20. Glynn Academy (Ga.) 50
21. Benedictine (Ga.) 41
22. Richmond Hill (Ga.) 36.5
23. Whale Branch 19
24. Charlotte Country Day (N.C.) 16