Most wrestling programs enter a tournament with one squad composed of its best wrestlers, hoping to have enough talent to bring home some hardware. Richmond Hill took a different approach this past weekend.
The Wildcats took two teams to the North Oconee Duals on Saturday, travelling four hours to face off against 10 teams. Nine were top-notch programs from Georgia and one, Hillcrest, is a South Carolina squad with two state titles and two Final Four appearances over the past five years. After a long day on the mats, Richmond Hill ‘A’ took first place (outscoring its opponents 296-85) while Richmond Hill ‘B’ took fourth (outscoring its opponents 210-149).
“Both of our teams won their final pools, which is all we can ask for,” Richmond Hill Coach Robert Parker said. “In order to build a program, you have to venture outside of your area, let your wrestlers face different competition, and use the outcome to gauge where you’re at. This was huge for our team, and is something we can build momentum off of as the season goes on.”
The final match of the day pitted the ‘A’ team against Dawson County, a team the Wildcats lost to by three points at the same meet in 2015.
This time was markedly different, as Richmond Hill took control early with a win by fall from Drew Renshaw at 220 pounds. Taylor Wilson sealed the match win and the tournament title with a win by fall at 182 pounds.
“We wanted to take first and second, but we’ll take this any day,” said Wildcat senior Ethan Maikranz, who was 4-1 at 132 pounds for the ‘A’ team. “We really wanted to see Dawson County again, and winning big against them felt great.”
The Wildcats almost stumbled on the way to the final, tying Hillcrest 33-all in what turned out to be the championship match due to Hillcrest also beating Dawson County in the first-place pool.
“Yeah, we may have been thinking about getting back at Dawson County and looked past Hillcrest a little,” said Maikranz. “But we did enough to win, and then got it back together for our final match. I’m really proud of how everyone wrestled today, and of how we finished out the day with a big win.”
While the ‘A’ team was efficiently working its way through the field, the ‘B’ team was quietly flexing its muscles. Several squads saw their wrestlers fall at the hands of two Wildcat grapplers.
“We have high expectations for our entire team, and we are always thinking of what we can do to ensure the team wins,” said Richmond Hill junior Maurice Smith, who was 5-0 at 195 pounds for the ‘B’ team. “Putting both teams in the top four is a big deal, but we work hard together and know we’re capable of this type of performance.”
After an early loss to Hillcrest, the ‘B’ team rolled through the rest of the competition. It finished 4-1 on the day.
“This is the first weekend in my five years here that most of the guys understood if you can’t win, don’t get pinned,” Parker said. “We matched up well with the teams here, and our guys got a lot of experience today. This was huge, and teams from our area showing up like this will go a long way to building the sport in the Savannah area.”