Move over, there’s new champions in the state.
River Bluff knocked off powerhouse Rock Hill 31-30 Saturday in the Class 5A state championship to claim the school’s first wrestling state championship in the fourth year of the program’s existence. The victory denied Rock Hill a record 19th state championship.
“I definitely felt like we were an underdog,” River Bluff coach Evan Moxie said. “Everybody was talking about Rock Hill going for their 19th. They have such a rich tradition in wrestling and River Bluff is only four-years-old. For us to be here and win that match is amazing.”
Moxie earned his fourth state title as a coach. He won once at Lugoff-Elgin and twice with Cardinal Newman.
Things worked out perfectly for the Gators. The match started at 138 pounds with Ben Emery and allowed River Bluff (26-4) to take control early before holding on down the stretch.
Emery started things with an 11-1 major decision. That started a streak of five consecutive victories by the Gators that staked them to a 19-0 lead.
Carlos Ortega and Connor Slattery earned close decision before William Butler scored a pin at 160 pounds to make it 16-0. Edwin Brown continued the streak with another decision at 170 before the Bearcats could get on the board.
“We started at a good weight for us,” Moxie said. “We’re good from 138 to heavyweight, so when they picked the 138 weight, I felt good about our chances.”
Rock Hill won two in a row at 182 and 195 pounds, but more importantly for River Bluff, they didn’t allow a pin in either match.
Jake Scott then scored four points late in the third period to pull out a 10-6 victory at 220. Heavyweight Fabian Leon added a pin and the Gators had a 28-8 advantage with the strength of Rock Hill’s lineup coming up at the 106-pound class.
“I knew when we got back around to 106, that was the heart of their lineup,” Moxie said. “I was never feeling comfortable. We had to keep fighting at the lower weights and try to stay off our backs. Out bigger guys did such a good job of giving us a solid lead.”
Leon said watching the final few matches tested his nerves.
“It was a little bit nervewracking for us,” he said. “Our adrenaline was going and we knew if we could just pick up a few more points and avoid getting pinned, we would be champions.”
Rock Hill (52-8) got pins at 106 and 120, but Sam Emery gave the Gators a much needed three points with a 6-0 win at 113 pounds. After Emery’s win made it 31-14, Rock Hill needed to win the final three weight classes by pin.
They got the pin at 120, but Hunter Lint stayed off his back to seal the match at 126. Even though he lost, it still set off a wild celebration by the River Bluff fans. Rock Hill won the final match by forfeit and the Gators could claim supremacy.
“That was a complete team effort,” Moxie said. “Sometimes it comes down to kids not giving up pins and not going to their backs, and that’s what saved us there that last match. It was an awesome job by everyone on the team.”
138: Ben Emery (RB) maj dec Bailey Wilkins 11-1; 145: Carlos Ortega (RB) d. Chris Clayton 8-3; 152: Connor Slattery (RB) d. Coleman Hoffman 4-0; 160: William Butler (RB) p. Alex English; 170: Edwin Brown (RB) d. Garrett Davis 9-4; 182: Noah Reynolds (RH) tech fall Isaac Ortega 17-0; 195: Brandon Mills (RH) d. Dalton Hart 3-2; 220:Jake Scott (RB) d. William Ramirez 10-6; 285: Fabian Leon (RB) p. Jose Nunez; 106: Jose Mora (RH) p. John Zahm;113: Sam Emery (RB) d. Eli Rhoads 6-0; 120: Justin Beck (RH) p. Dylan Granda; 126: Danny Lover (RH) maj dec Hnter Lint 13-3; 132: Jared Blake (RH) by forfeit.