Jake Sharp and William Spann, two of the smallest wrestlers in the Beaufort High School gymnasium Wednesday, warmed up quietly on the mats behind the scorer's table.
The Eagles' lightweights were easy to miss, but people sought them out. The Region 8-AAAA match with Bluffton High School depended on them.
Fired-up Beaufort High senior Forrest Kimbrell walked back and forth between the two, issuing last-minute wisdom. Eagles coach Bill Damude told Sharp and Spann the match hinged on their bouts.
The Eagles, traditionally stronger in the heavier classes, needed a big contribution at 106 and 113 pounds to defeat Bluffton for the first time as region opponents, and Sharp and Spann delivered. Sharp won a decision at 106, Spann pinned his opponent in the third period, and Beaufort High escaped with a 38-28 victory.
"I knew I had to get a win," Sharp said. "I was hoping a pin, but it didn't work out. I fought my hardest. I knew it would help, even if it was just three (points for a decision)."
Bluffton, which led early by the strength of its middle weight classes, forfeited bouts at 160, 220 and 285 to hand Beaufort High 18 points. An upset at 152, with Beaufort High's Michael Holmes winning a decision over Michael Meyerink, helped the Eagles slip by their new county rivals.
Bluffton coach John Hollman said the Bobcats suffered from not having the wrestlers to compete in all classes and that his wrestlers underperformed in some bouts.
"We donated 18 points to the cause tonight," Hollman said. "You can't do that. It's disheartening. Our guys fought hard."
Damude pointed to key matches from freshmen Spann and Connor Gruel, who won an overtime decision at 138. Gruel, who wrestled at Beaufort Middle School as an eighth grader, earned a spot on the varsity squad in a wrestle-off early in the season.
Damude said he likes the newcomer's fire. Gruel said he just wants to contribute where needed.
"Coach told us in the locker room, if you're going to lose, stay off your back," Gruel said. "That's what my mindset was. But you go out every day expecting to win."
Spann started fast, trying for a first-period pin and quick end to the match. He led 7-1 during the second period before Buddy Drew cut the deficit with a pair of reversals and a takedown. Spann ended it with a pin in the final minute of the third period.
"All I was thinking of was the wrestling region (championship banner) up there, getting our year up there," Spann said.
Beaufort High (10-3, 1-0 Region 8-AAAA) travels to a dual tournament in Lexington this weekend before resuming the region schedule next week. Road trips to Class 4-A powers Fort Dorchester and Summerville lurk later in the month.
"We've got the toughest region in the state," Damude said. "To get a region win is big, especially the first day back from break."
Beaufort High 38, Bluffton 28
Note: Match started at 120. Beaufort High was penalized one team point due to unsportsmanlike conduct.
106: Jake Sharp (Beaufort) dec. Nick Stead, 10-3
113: William Spann (Beaufort) pinned Buddy Drew, third period
120: Levi Joly (Bluffton) major dec. Brahm Gideon, 13-3
126: Lloyd Williams (Bluffton) dec. William Gallant, 7-5
132: Talon Seitz (Bluffton) pinned Tommy Collins, second period
138: Connor Gruel (Beaufort) dec. Collin Placke, 6-4
145: Alex Waddell (Bluffton) pinned Wesley Hunt, first period
152: Michael Holmes (Beaufort) dec. Michael Meyerink, 4-3
160: Forrest Kimbrell (Beaufort) won by forfeit
170: Trey Arant (Beaufort) pinned Andreas Nava, first period
182: Kyle Waddell (Bluffton) pinned Eric Blakely, third period
195: Edgar Prada (Bluffton) dec. Connor Lundgaard, 7-4
220: Clint Wright (Beaufort) won by forfeit
285: Tyler Wilson (Beaufort) won by forfeit