For a while, it looked as if the St. James wrestling team would be moving on in the Class 3-A Lower State wrestling playoffs.
Then, Hilton Head Island turned the tide.
The Seahawks landed three straight pins in their final three matches, pulling off a come-from-behind 37-31 road victory over the Sharks on Saturday to advance to the Lower State semifinals.
Hilton Head Island beat Gilbert in a first-round match just before taking on St. James.
“I’m pleased that we got the wins. We wrestled well, and they wrestled extremely well,” Seahawks head coach Mike Newton said. “We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. We lost some matches early on that I thought could have went our way. It’s real easy for a team to fold when they see those guys go down and the momentum is going for the other team. Our guys did a good job of bouncing back and riding the storm. But I have to compliment and give credit to St. James. They have a great team and they very easily could have won this match.”
It was a somber end to the season for the Sharks as 10 of their seniors have now wrestled in their last team match.
“We’re a very close team – like a family,” said Sharks senior Michael Mewhorter, who won by major decision (15-7) over Eric Ashdown at 145 pounds to extend St. James’ early lead. “It’s very disappointing wrestling for the last time as a team and not being able to get a win.”
Saturday’s win had a lot to do with strategy. Hilton Head Island bumped its two best wrestlers up a weight class, taking advantage of St. James’ weak spots as the Sharks had to forfeit at 113 and 195 pounds due to a lack of wrestlers at those divisions.
The Seahawks moved senior Talon Seitz – ranked No. 1 in Class 3-A at 170 pounds, according to SCMat.com – to 182 pounds to take on Spencer Deegan, who is accustomed to wrestling athletes bigger than himself. Seitz pinned Deegan in 41 seconds to start Hilton Head’s rally and push the lead to 31-19 after a forfeit at 195 pounds.
“They take a defending state champ, a power from 4-A last year, and bump him up against Deegan and it worked,” St. James coach Matt Anderson said. “I always put in Deegan’s head that when you go against the best, it’s a whole different world. But he’s always so confident in himself and he’s so long and he can wrestle the big guys better than he does athletic guys, like (Seitz).”
Then, the Seahawks had senior Martin Duane, who is ranked No. 1 at 182 pounds, wrestle at 220 pounds and he pinned St. James’ Charles Pederson in 38 seconds to put Hilton Head ahead 37-19. The Seahawks forfeited the final two matches where Sharks senior heavyweight Aaron Foster, ranked No. 1 at 285 pounds, and Mackenzie Tecco, a female grappler were set to go. The forfeits handed St. James 12 points, and it was too far out of reach as Hilton Head took the win by a margin of six points.
“We knew we had to be down by only 12 going into the last two matches,” Anderson said. “With them bumping the way they did, they came prepared knowing we didn’t have enough depth. If we did, I could have bumped with them. We didn’t have that option; we don’t have a 195. But if one match goes our way, one match swings and we could have flipped that around and could be going back to the final four again.”
The Sharks beat the Seahawks in last year’s Lower State semifinals, and Anderson was expecting another dogfight Saturday.
“It was good. I knew it was probably going to come down to the wire. We beat them last year in the very last match of the night,” Anderson said. “With us dropping 195 out of our lineup, and with Spencer going down to 182, it’s counterproductive. We can’t do anything with it. And of course with them bumping their two best guys up, that made it too tough on us.”
Hilton Head Island will host the Lower State semifinals at 6 p.m. Monday, taking on Swansea.
“The hardest part is the long bus drives,” Newton said. “But this year’s bus ride home will certainly be better than last year’s. We’re going to enjoy it, but not for too long because we’ll likely have to take another trip Monday.”
106: Mackenzie Tecco (SJ) wins by forfeit; 113: Logan Johnston (HHH) won by forfeit; 120: Chase Smith (SJ) dec. KadenSeltz, 3-2; 126: Tyler Wiggins (SJ) pin. Kai Liska, 0:57; 132: James Roberts (HHH) tech fall. Uriel Mauricio; 138: Brandon Ellis (SJ) dec. Alex Braden, 4-3; 145: Michael Mewhorter (SJ) maj dec. Eric Ashdown, 17-7; 152: Ross Miller (SJ) dec. Jeb Lesch, 8-3; 160: Chris Soler (HHH) dec. Mackenzie Cange, 6-4; 170: Billy Christie (HHH) pin W. Stewart, 3:14; 182: Talon Seitz (HHH) pin. Spencer Deegan, 0:41; 195: Chri Alcantara (HHH) won by forfeit; 220: Martin Duane (HHH) pin. Charles Pederson, 0:38;285: Aaron Foster (SJ) wins by forfeit