Cardinal Newman humiliated Hammond 69-6 in the regular season preview of the annual showdown for SCISA wrestling honors between the perennial contenders on Jan. 18.
Saturday’s match with the big prize on the line was a radically different affair. Hammond pushed the three-time defending champs to the brink before the Cardinals secured a 42-36 win and their fourth straight title on a 9-6 decision by heavyweight Zach Khammash in the final bout.
Khammash gave up five quick points when Patrick McLean took him down and put him on his back. He clearly was in danger of being pinned before making a dramatic escape and rallying for the title-clinching decision.
“I didn’t expect that it to come down to the last match, but I was ready for the challenge if it came,” said Khammash.
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“(McLean) threw me there when I tried to push off him and he nearly got me, but thankfully I was able to get out of it. That took a lot of pressure off and I stayed focused the rest of the way. This feels pretty great.”
CN coach Eric Goff was confident when Khammash hit the mat for the winner-take-all confrontation.“I told him ‘there was no other way I’d rather have this end, so get out there and let’s take it home’,” he said.
Khammash’s reply: “Yes, sir.”
Khammash gained a 6-5 lead on a takedown early in the second period and added a clinching reverse along with a stalling point on McLean in the third.
“I can’t remember being involved in a closer match with so much at stake, and I’ve been at this since I started wrestling in the sixth grade,” said Goff. “Sweet? Yeah, it was sweet, especially for the 12 seniors on the team that have been with me for a long time.”
Hammond, which handed Cardinal Newman 18 free points because of three forfeits, needed a perfect storm to pull off the monumental upset, and almost got it.
It started brilliantly for the Skyhawks when Ray Castles (106 pounds), Gantt Castles (113) and Gervais Baker (120) delivered pins for an 18-0 lead. Things continued to go well when Lang Phillips lost but avoided a pin at 126 and Matthew Kay pinned Craig Clyburn at 138 for a 24-9 Hammond edge.
Cardinal Newman stormed back to take a 33-30 lead through 182 pounds thanks to pins by Thomas Touma (145) and Matt Wilson (152) and forfeits to Nick Pavelich (160) and Jake Wilson (182).
Goff hoped to clinch it at 195, but Hammond’s Calhoun MacDougal pinned Taylor Patten in the third period. Patten was nearly pinned in the first period, and almost planted MacDougal in the second, but neither got the call. Eventually, MacDougal polished off the exhausted Patten in the third, which negated the six points the Cardinals gained for a forfeit to Billy Solomon at 220 and set up the grand finale.
“We were too nervous, too jacked up the first time we wrestled, but we were a different team today,” said Hammond coach Michael DeVita. “We had the guys in the right weights, and everybody did their job. I couldn’t be more proud of the way we performed as a team today.”
CARDINAL NEWMAN 42, HAMMOND 36
106: Ray Castles (H) pinned Nicky Winterstein 3:35. 113: Gantt Castles (H) pinned Bernie Herbkersman 0:30. 120: Gervais Baker (H) pinned Joseph Womack 3:13. 126: Cole McCarter (CN) dec. Lang Phillips 6-3. 132: Nathan Hayes (CN) pinned Franklyn Owen 0:36. 138: Matthew Kay (H) pinned Craig Clyburn 3:10. 145: Thomas Touma (CN) pinned Will Pope 0:37. 152: Matt Wilson (CN) pinned Shand Owens 3:47. 160: Nick Palevich (CN) won by forfeit. 170: Cody Sims (H) pinned Hollis Carrouth 4:40. 182: Jake Wilson (CN) won by forfeit. 195: Calhoun MacDougal (H) pinned Taylor Patten 4:27. 220: Billy Solomon (CN) won by forfeit. 285: Zach Khammash (CN) dec. Patrick McLean 9-6.