Bluffton wrestling coach John Hollman isn't the biggest fan of his Bobcats' down-to-the-wire finishes.
"Theater plays out nice for the fans, but I just hope people remember me when my heart conditions develop, if and when they do," Hollman said.
For the second consecutive match, the Bobcats entered the final weight class of the evening trailing on the scoreboard. And for the second consecutive match, they came out on top.
Alex Waddell's pin of Dreher's Robert Cooley in the second period of the 138-pound weight class lifted the Bobcats to a thrilling 35-30 victory Wednesday in the first round of the Class 3-A playoffs. With the win, Bluffton earned a date with top-ranked St. James, which the Bobcats will meet next Monday night in Conway.
"It was crazy," Waddell said. "I just had to step up and do what I had to do."
Bluffton (19-3) was just a week removed from another win in its final weight class, as Levi Joly helped seal the region crown with a pin of Cane Bay's Paul McKeever last Wednesday. Both Bluffton wrestlers took the mat with their squad down by a point.
"I told Alex in the locker room, I said, 'There's been one other time this year where the match has come down to you and you pulled through,'" Hollman recalled." ... 'You're the last weight, and it could all be tied up and come down to you in the very last match.'
" 'I know I can count on you. Believe in yourself and get the job done.' "
He came through once again for Hollman, this time against the Devils (17-9). Waddell held a 4-2 advantage before earning the pin with 3.3 seconds remaining in the second period.
"All I had to do was win. But I wanted more than that," Waddell said. "I wanted to pin him. I wanted to do everything I could."
He wouldn't have had the opportunity to deliver a win if not for Evans Beach, who pinned Casey Harris in the third period of the 126-pound weight class. Beach trailed by a 9-2 score before rolling Harris over to earn the pin with 1:03 remaining.
"He was stronger than I thought he was going to be," Beach said. "I don't even think I was supposed to wrestle him. But I didn't quit."
The pin helped the Bobcats take a 29-24 lead. They had to forfeit the following weight class as Austin Farmer -- ranked No. 3 in his weight class by scmat.com -- was held out due to an injury.
Hollman realized as he put together his lineup that the injury might cost his team a shot at a state title. But he also knew he had a veteran right behind him in Waddell to count on.
"Every guy believes they have to win," he said. "Every guy believes they have a responsibility and a role to play, and they do that. That's what made us successful."
The Bobcats also got pins out of Lloyd Williams at 113 pounds and Isai Hernandez at 220. But the tone of the match was set right from the start, as Bluffton's Mike Meyerink earned a 12-6 decision over Chris Bloch at 145 pounds. Bloch is a two-time state qualifier and entered ranked No. 7 in his weight class.
Bluffton 35, Dreher 30
NOTE: Match started at 145 pounds
106: Kenyante Bush (Dreher) pins Nick Stead, 2nd period
113: Lloyd Williams (Bluffton) pins Michael Haddad, 1st period
120: Levi Joly (Bluffton) dec. Derrick Frazier, 2-0
126: Evans Beach (Bluffton) pins Casey Harris, 3rd period
132: Sheldon Melvin (Dreher) wins by forfeit
138: Alex Waddell (Bluffton) pins pins Robert Cooley, 2nd period
145: Mike Meyerink (Bluffton) dec. Chris Bloch, 12-6
152: Artemas Corbett (Dreher) dec. Harry Chirinos, 9-7
160: Jason Carter (Dreher) dec. Alex Ruppert, 11-9
170: Kyle Waddell (Bluffton) dec. Ben Hampton, 4-3
182: Dante Martin (Dreher) pins Edgar Prada, 2nd period
195: Giovanni Dwight (Dreher) pins Corey Stoner, 1st period
220: Isai Hernandez (Bluffton) pins Nolan Beacher, 2nd period
285: LaDarius Hughes (Bluffton) dec. Jeffery Wider, 6-1