Briar Woods senior Michael Hulcher stood near the edge of the mat, knelt and fastened a red anklet that nicely accented his green socks with the Santa Clauses on them. But his 132-pound opponent in the 5A North region final — Mount Vernon sophomore Bill Adusei — slapped his thighs and his headgear with both hands in rhythmic fashion, looking more combative than jolly.

Both wrestlers are defending state champions at 126 pounds and entered Monday’s match at Tuscarora with a combined season record of 89-4. The meet’s de-facto main event didn’t disappoint, as Adusei gained a quick escape to start the third period and landed a high-crotch takedown in the waning moments to secure a 7-5 win.

“I was just shooting like I usually do,” Adusei said, “seeing if [the takedown] would open up, and it did open up.”

Adusei led 2-1 after two periods, but flipped the momentum with his escape. After Hulcher deferred, Adusei glanced to the corner of the mat to confirm his choice of down position with his club coach, Ronnie Mills. The pair has trained together since Adusei was a seven-year old on the Hayfield Junior Hawks.

“I usually watch the guy in the match before to see if he’s good on top,” Adusei explained. “I see if he throws the legs. I hadn’t seen [Hulcher], but I haven’t met anybody who could hold me down.”

Mountain View won the meet with a score of 235.5. Conference 14 champion Freedom-South Riding (140) finished third, led by Bradley Nelson, who pulled off one of the biggest shockers of the evening at 160 pounds. Nelson overcame a late 3-1 deficit to upend Potomac Falls’ Omar Nezam, 4-3. Nelson’s tying takedown with 19 seconds left in the bout sent Eagles Coach Kent Nagy streaking down the perimeter of the mat pumping his fists.

“I was looking for my elbow pass the entire match, and he wasn’t collaring me,” Nelson said. “Once he got tired, he came with that collar and I took advantage of it and was able to get to my shot.”

Edison’s Robert Garnett kicked off the finals with a 6-2 win over Broad Run’s Timmy Brown at 106. Garnett kept the bout scoreless throughout the second period by clinging to Brown’s leg as he fought for the escape.

“It’s really all mental,” Garnett said. “You have to believe that you can do it and tell your body that you can hold on, that you can pull this out.”

As Adusei heard the huge roar rise up for Hulcher during the pre-match introductions, it was all mental then, too.

“I didn’t let it bother me,” he said. “I’m a state champion as well, and I know what I can do.”

The top four qualifiers from each weight advance to Saturday’s 5A state meet at Robinson.