After losing a heartbreaking decision to open the night against Bishop England in what might have been the match of the night, Battery Creek’s Sam DeGroat walked to the center of the wrestling mat for his second bout Wednesday with one goal in mind — clinch a Region 8-3A title.
DeGroat did just that, scoring a first-period pin to seal a 40-30 win over Hanahan that essentially iced the Dolphins’ first region crown since 2016. After opening with a 47-30 win over Bishop England, Battery Creek still had to take care of North Charleston, but with the Cougars giving up forfeits at five weight classes, it was a foregone conclusion that resulted in a 66-18 rout.
“The guys came out and wrestled hard and with class,” Battery Creek coach Alex Rutherford said. “This is a special group of guys who don’t shy away from big-time wrestling. It was a team effort, from our parents, fans, staff, community, and coaches. This was a team effort to turn the tide.”
Reily Doray, Elmer Linares, Sebastian Sanchez, and Dre’shaun Brown all went 3-0 for the Dolphins with Sanchez recording three pins, Doray pinning two of his opponents and earning a forfeit, and Linares picking up a pin and a technical fall to go with a decision.
The opener against the Bishops got off to a grim start, as DeGroat — ranked second in Class 3A at 120 pounds — bumped up a weight class and lost a 4-0 decision to Sam Cherichello, who is ranked second at 132 but weighed in at 126 for the event. The Bishops picked up pins in the next two weight classes to take a 15-0 lead, and after Sanchez’s pin stopped the bleeding, Bishop England answered with a pin at 152 to maintain a 15-point edge.
The Dolphins’ upper weights took control, though, as Nate Gallego’s pin followed by three consecutive forfeits propelled Battery Creek to a 30-21 advantage. The Bishops earned a pin at 220, but Dustin Nakamura’s pin at 285 put the Dolphins on the brink of victory. BE delayed it with an overtime decision at 106, but Doray’s pin at 113 clinched the win and Linares capped it with a technical fall.
The showdown with Hanahan came next, and after the regular-season meeting came down to the final bout, it was apparent the matchup would determine the region title. Bradley Smith got the Dolphins off to a strong start with a major decision, and Ryan Israel and Sanchez each earned pins to help Creek jump out to a 16-6 lead.
The Hawks bounced back with a pin and a decision to pull within 16-15 before Brown turned the tide temporarily with a decision at 182. A decision and two more pins pushed Hanahan to a 30-19 lead, and Creek’s John Coker earned a forfeit at 106 to pull the Dolphins within five with three bouts left. Doray’s pin set the stage for DeGroat to clinch it, and he needed only 74 seconds to do so before Linares capped another win with a decision.
It was just a formality at that point due to the Cougars’ thin lineup, as Battery Creek rattled off pins in four of the first five weight classes with Sanchez, Israel, Gallego, and Hunter Smith doing the damage. Five forfeits assured the Dolphins of the victory, and Linares and Bradley Smith finished off a stellar night with two more pins.