Jesse Fawcett last stepped on the mat in the Maryland 4A/3A dual championships as a freshman, when he suffered the first of consecutive pins that ultimately led to River Hill's two-point loss.
Last night, Fawcett helped start a run of five consecutive victories that lifted River Hill past La Plata, 31-18, for the Howard County school's first state dual title. River Hill, in its seventh year of varsity wrestling, has reached the state dual meet in each of the past five seasons but made its first appearance in the final since losing to Old Mill by two points in 2000.
"We certainly talked about [the loss to Old Mill]," said River Hill Coach Earl Lauer, whose son Brandon, the captain of the 2000 team, gave the Hawks a pep talk before the match. "This win has helped put an exclamation point on what the River Hill program has accomplished."
The Hawks (23-3) won nine of 14 bouts in the final, including the first five to jump out to a 18-0 lead. None proved as exciting or important as Fawcett's 7-5 overtime win over La Plata's John Payne. After Mikey Lignelli began the match with a 6-3 win over Anthony Romero, Fawcett earned a third-period escape to force overtime before taking down Payne seconds later for the win.
Heavyweight Daniel "Stove Top" Stahovic followed with a pin and Vince Cina and Bryan Hartman each earned decisions to put River Hill ahead 18-0 before La Plata's Joey Farrell ended the streak with a 2-1 win over Ryan Lauer.
"It feels good to come back and do it for Coach [Earl Lauer] and myself and do something that has never been done here before," said Fawcett, the area's second-ranked 215-pounder. "This feels great now. We've all worked hard as a team, and to be a part of this for as long I have has been great."
The Hawks clinched the victory with a defeat. After senior Nick Shevland defeated Josh Weimert, 13-6, at 140 pounds, twin brother Ryan Shevland scored consecutive takedowns in the final 30 seconds to avoid suffering a major decision and put River Hill ahead 19 points with three matches remaining.
La Plata's magical season hit its first bump in the road last night. The Warriors (17-1) rolled into the tournament for the first time since 1997 having completed a difficult Southern Maryland Athletic Conference season undefeated and winning the conference title last weekend without an individual champion.
"Right now, we're a little disappointed," said third-year La Plata coach Todd Sharp. "Tomorrow and later on, we will start to realize what we accomplished."
In the semifinals, La Plata knocked off defending 4A/3A tournament champion Chesapeake, 39-26. River Hill jumped out to a 30-3 lead over Northwest before winning 38-36.
Owings Mills Wins
Centennial's toughest foe at the Maryland 2A/1A dual championships may not have been host Owings Mills. It may have been a simple scale.
Five Centennial wrestlers were too heavy in a pre-match weigh-in, and despite a reshuffling effort by the Eagles, the Maryland 2A/1A South Region champions never recovered and were soundly defeated by Owings Mills, 51-30, in the semifinals.
Owings Mills defeated Beall, 43-26, in the championship to earn its second straight state title. "When we are getting ready to leave, I have them step on a scale so I know they are on weight. I double check," said Centennial Coach Todd DeCrispino, who has had only two wrestlers miss weight all season. "They were all on weight, but you have to go and accept the scale that's there. . . . But that's not why we lost the match. They outwrestled us today."
The weigh-in problems may not have been the entire reason, but after senior 171-pounder Anthony Aiello injured his shoulder and sophomore Andrew Maas suffered a concussion at the Howard County wrestling tournament Saturday, the Eagles (14-2) were already short-handed.
After undefeated senior David Nakasone opened the match with a pin for Centennial, Owings Mills pinned six straight wrestlers, including several who had to bump up a class after missing weight. Junior Dominic Ventura stopped the bleeding with a pin at 125 pounds, but by then it was too late for Centennial.
The six straight pins were "demoralizing," Ventura said. "I looked on in horror. It stunk. I saw our whole dual season go down the drain."
The rematch between Centennial senior Mark Nakasone and Owings Mills sophomore Mike Kessler never materialized.
Mark Nakasone had beaten Kessler, the second-ranked 145-pounder in the Baltimore area, in a tournament earlier in the season, but Kessler wrestled at 140 pounds last night, earning a technical fall in four minutes over Centennial junior Evan Bulger. Mark Nakasone pinned Josh Copeland at 145 pounds in 3:06 to raise his record to 29-0.