South River coach Chilly Orme stared across the wrestling mat Tuesday night at Southern coach Tyrone Neal -- his friend and his former assistant coach of nine years.
For the first time, they met as rivals, and their teams were battling for the county's class 3A/2A league wrestling title.
Orme won this round, as his team won a 42-27 victory that included an exciting 152-pound match between South River's Brian Hunt (21-1-1) and Southern's Jason Braithwait (20-1-1) that ended in a 3-3 draw.
A 37-second pin by South River sophomore Jaron Hairston (171) putthe match mathematically out of reach of the Bulldogs, 36-21, with two bouts left. Hairston was subbing for veteran Harold Love (13-6), who came down with the flu shortly after winning the Southern Invitational tournament.
"Hairston's only wrestled in about four varsity matches, but he's as strong as an ox," said Orme, whose Seahawks improved to 10-2 overall, 2-0 against the Class 3A/2A. "We haven't had a full team all year because of illnesses and accidents. We were missingtwo wrestlers tonight. But when push came to shove, this team has shown a lot of heart."
It was the Seahawks' eighth consecutive victory over Southern and their 10th straight 10-victory season. Still, Neal, a two-time state champion at Southern 20 years ago, said he enjoyed an exciting homecoming.
"I know Chilly, and he knows me. I knewwe'd both try to play cat-and-mouse with our lineups," said Neal, whose Bulldogs dropped to 7-3, 1-1.
Hunt is the second-ranked 145-pounder behind Annapolis' Pat Flynn; Braithwait is ranked No. 2 at 152 pounds. Their bout was a crowd-pleasing grudge match.
"We're longtime friends and wrestled freestyle camp during the summer together. We knew each other well, and this match showed it," said Hunt. "I wanted to meet him before the county tournament and if it didn't happen tonight, it might not have happened. I feel stronger at 152, so maybe I'll see him again in the countys."
"It's the match everyone wanted to see, and I think the people got their money's worth," said Braithwait, a 145-pound runner-up last year and a favorite to win this year's Class 2A/1A title. "Nobody won our match tonight, so I don't knowwhether I'll wrestle at 145 or 152 in the county tournament."
Thetwo teams traded pins in the final two bouts.
South River's 189-pound Brian Anderson (13-2) recorded a second-period fall, and Southern heavyweight Robert Burley (19-2) finished his opponent in the firstperiod. Burley, a junior, recorded his 16th pin of the season.
Southern 160-pounder Chris Boston (19-4) then won a 15-2 major decisionto bring the Bulldogs to within 30-21.
In addition to Hairston's quick pin, the Seahawks got a second-period pin from David Rule (140) and a 50-second pin from Jim Chomas (145), which put them ahead, 28-15. Chomas raised his record to 16-4.
The two falls snuffed a Southern rally after the Bulldogs had used back-to-back victories by Keith Trader (130), who won a 9-2 decision, and David Ley -- a 50-secondpin -- to come within 16-15 after trailing, 16-6.
Southern's Sherrard Neal (103) gave his squad a 6-0 lead with his second-period pin,but the Seahawks responded by taking a 16-6 lead on a second-period pin by Pat Stone (112), Bill Whitcher's forfeit victory at 119 and a major decision by Greg Nida (125).
Whitcher improved to 21-3 and Nida, last year's Region IV champion, raised his record to 17-4.
With its 44-9 shellacking of Meade, No. 5-ranked Annapolis (11-1 overall, 7-1 4A league) kept alive its hopes for a three-way tie with Old Mill and No. 6 Broadneck for the 4A league title. The crown would be the Panthers' first county title in the career of 11th-year coach DaveGehrdes.
No. 3 Old Mill (12-1) kept pace with its tri-meet victory, sweeping Arundel, 60-0, and North County, 67-6. Arundel (6-7, 4-5)defeated North County, 36-21.
North County fell to 5-9, 4-5, and Meade dropped to 2-9, 1-6.
For Annapolis, top-ranked 145-pounder Pat Flynn (23-0) added Meade's Luther Scott (19-1) to his impressive list of victims Tuesday night, handing Scott his first loss of the season, 4-0.
Also among Flynn's list of accomplishments is a 3-0 victory over South River's No. 2-ranked Hunt and a 14-0 victory over Bullis' No. 5-ranked Tom Bristow. He also has wins over Old Mill's John Earle and Broadneck's Seth Lopatkiewicz -- two of the county's top 152-pounders.
In the biggest match of the night at Old Mill, the Patriots' No. 4-ranked heavyweight Don Marco (22-1) built a 12-0 lead over Arundel's previously unbeaten and No. 5-ranked Pat Beach (21-1, 13 pins) before pinning him 42 seconds into the third period.
"We wanted to get a bagel (shutout) against Arundel tonight, and I knew I had to win to get it," said Marco, who also pinned North County's Jim Ray for his 18th pin of the season. "This match was the first time I've been scared before a match, but I just got out there and started pounding. I was surprised that I still wrestled good."