The South River wrestling team pulled the surprise of the weekend, taking the title at the Harford Tech Duals with a 42-21 win over No. 4 DeMatha. The eighth-ranked Seahawks won all seven matches at the event, including a semifinal victory against John Carroll — the seventh-ranked squad in Maryland, according to MarylandWrestling.org.
Junior Collin Alley (132), junior Jordan Orme (106), senior Josh Perren (113) and sophomore Tre Puccinelli (120) went 7-0 during the two-day tournament to spark the impressive run. Add in six wins from junior Austin Alley at 126, and the team’s entrants at the five lightest weights combined to go 34-1 overall.
“It’s more validation for our kids that if you continue to work hard good things will happen to you,” 12th-year Coach John Klessinger said. “We tell them that all the time, and this past weekend kind of highlighted our whole philosophy.”
The victory marked a breakthrough for public schools that can have trouble matching up with the top private squads. Seven of the top nine teams in the state rankings come from private schools, and the Seahawks finished ahead of three of them this weekend.
Just last season DeMatha scored a convincing 53-13 win over South River at the Centennial Duals. (“They really beat us up,” Klessinger said.) But in Saturday’s final the Seahawks (25-2) carried over the momentum from upsetting John Carroll to knock off the Stags (26-1) and celebrate their second tournament victory of the season.
Orme, who recently came back after missing more than a year because of injury and illness, scored the win that Klessinger called “a dagger.”
With the Seahawks protecting a slim lead late, Orme trailed DeMatha freshman Steven Simpson, 11-0, before catching him for a rare defensive pin and six team points. Perren’s ensuing 4-0 decision over sophomore Shane Wilson at 113 clinched the title.
In addition to taking the disputed defensive pin call, DeMatha lost several tight decisions and was penalized three team points for unsportsmanlike conduct in the match.
Last year “we saw that they were building,” DeMatha Coach Dick Messier said of South River. “They’re always scrappers. They keep the match tight and wrestle really defensively on their feet. They don’t make a lot of bad mistakes.”
South River — the Anne Arundel tournament champion last season — has already clinched the county regular season title, and Klessinger hopes this weekend’s performance is a sign that the Seahawks are peaking at the right time. They will likely be the No. 2 seed in the 4A/3A East duals tournament, which will be held Feb. 8.
“To me, it’s a tool that we can use for the next couple weeks,” Klessinger said of the win. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to use that confidence in our county, region and state tournaments.”