Hammond returned to power in SCISA wrestling on Saturday, defeating four-time defending champion Cardinal Newman 53-27 in the state title bout on Saturday at Ben Lippen.
The Skyhawks ruled the first four years of SCISA sanctioning before giving way to the Cardinals. Last year, Hammond endured a 42-39 defeat to their archrivals — a decision that came down to the final bout.
Hammond would not be denied again.
“I think last year brought back some fire to the program, even though we came up short,” Skyhawks coach Michael DeVita said. “It raised the expectations coming into this year and these guys lived up to it. This is a team that wrestles with a lot of heart and it shows on the mat.”
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Senior Matthew Kay is the only Hammond wrestler who experienced a state championship — as a seventh grade rookie in 2008.
“I never thought I’d have to wait five years to be part of another one,” he said. “Every day at practice I told the team that five years was long enough to go without winning a championship. I was absolutely confident everyone was going to do his job.”
Kay’s pin of Nathan Hayes at 138 pounds was the turning point. Cardinal Newman had a 17-11 lead after five bouts, and sent Hayes, the top-ranked man at 138 by scmat.com, out against second-ranked Kay. Hayes scored a quick takedown, but Kay responded with a reverse and eventually got a pin with 10 seconds left in the first period.
It was the start of a Hammond surge — seven pins over the next eight weights.
“All I was thinking when I went out was to get a first-period pin,” Kay said. “I knew this was a key match for us, and it seemed to fire everybody up.”
Lang Phillips (145), Stephen Mitchell (160), Edward Mitchell (170), Cody Sims (182) and Calhoun McDougall followed Kay’s lead. Edward Mitchell was nearly pinned early in the first period before he escaped and flipped James Garrick on his back for a stunning fall at 1:13 of the first period. Sims’ second-period pin of Patrick Nieri was the clincher.
“We needed some things to go our way early in the match that didn’t,” Cardinal Newman coach Eric Goff said. “But I’m proud of the way my guys competed. Hammond is a great team and they wrestled a great match.”
106: Ray Castles (H) dec. Matthew Hayes 17-2 (technical fall). 113: Mitchell Pennington (CN) dec. Tommy Edmunds 17-2 (technical fall). 120: Evan Mikula (CN) pinned Noah Ware 1:01. 126: Gantt Castles (H) pinned Bernie Herbkersman 0:58. 132: Nick Maracich (CN) pinned Riley Pharr 0:32. 138: Matthew Kay (H) pinned Nathan Hayes 1:50. 145: Lang Phillips (H) pinned Brice Spigener 1:30. 152: Matt Wilson (CN) dec. Shand Owens 9-1. 160: Stephen Mitchell (H) pinned John Shows 3:58. 170: Edward Mitchell (H) pinned James Garrick 1:13. 182: Cody Sims (H) pinned Patrick Nieri 3:39. 195: Calhoun MacDougal (H) pinned Paul Dodds 3:43. 220: Samuel Miller (H) pinned Thomas Burke 1:09. 285: Desean McMillian (CN) won by forfeit.