Down 33-0, Ocean City Wrestling Team Rallies to Down Washington Twp.
WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP — At some point, the math simply becomes impossible and no pep talk is going to save a high school wrestling team from a loss. Ocean City was dangerously close to that tipping point on Saturday morning under bright sunshine at the 50-yard line of Tom Brown Field, where Washington Township plays football. The host Minutemen jumped out to a 33-0 lead, winning the first six bouts of the day, including four straight pins to start the match — which was the first ever outdoor match for both schools.
But Red Raiders coach Dan Calhoun knew his team had the advantage in the upper weights, and if things fell the right way in the final eight bouts, his squad would have a chance in the end. Ocean City ripped off six straight wins and 220-pounder Aiden Fisher avoided a pin to set up a winner-takes-all heavyweight bout where Ocean City senior Matt Christy sent everybody home with a pin in just 26 seconds. The Red Raiders came all the way back from down 33 points to win, 42-37, in dramatic fashion.
“It was big-time, and I got it done, I guess. I just had to stay calm and focused. I usually just walk around, think about stuff and try to keep my head clear. This was the first time ever (wrestling outside) for me, I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s pretty awesome. Blue skies above, everything. I was excited. It was a great feeling,” said Christy, a second-year wrestler who also is a star defensive lineman on the football team. “Coach said to the final seven (wrestlers) that if we all win our matches, we’ll come back and win, and that’s what we did. I knew it was possible for us to come back. Anything can happen on a wrestling mat.”
After the Minutemen (2-3, 0-1 Olympic American) got pins from Aiden Hardy, Tyler Lucia, Blake Basich and Jackson Hoopes to start the match, Township’s Maurice Huggins worked hard for an 8-5 win over Liam Cupit at 132 pounds, and at 138 the Minutemen got a pin from Ethan Wilson to stretch the lead to 33-0. But then the tide began to change at 145 pounds, where Ryan Callahan scored a second-period pin to put the Red Raiders on the board. Charley Cossaboone, Jacob Wilson and Joey Garcia ripped off three straight pins to cut the deficit to 33-24, setting up two huge matches at 182 and 195. At 182, Ocean City’s Sam Williams turned a three-point win into a six-pointer by getting a pin with just 11 seconds left, and at 195 senior Nick Bell scored a second-period pin to give the Red Raiders their first lead of the day, 36-33.
“We knew we were going to be down a bit, we just had to climb back with the upper weights. We knew we could do it, and we pulled through. We have some strong guys, some tough guys. They have a really good team, but we knew we had it in us, we just had to be tough,” said Bell, who missed all of last year with a back injury. “I knew it was going to come down to the wire with Aiden and Christy’s matches. We’re really fortunate that Matt was able to come through for us. I felt like I needed a pin — the plan was to just try to get a win and if the pin was there, go for it. Luckily, it was there for me.”
Dominic Petracci scored an 11-3 major decision over Fisher at 220 pounds to give Township the lead, 37-36. That set up Christy’s heroics at heavyweight for Ocean City (3-3, 1-2 Cape-Atlantic League East).
“You kind of have an idea of how things will go, but you never know. Once they start rattling wins off, you start to see that snowball effect and they were all feeding off (those pins). But I’m excited about this win because a lot of our kids are new to the sport. Matt, our heavyweight, this is just his second year, so it’s really cool for these kids to experience something like this win and to be a part of it,” Calhoun said. “Bell gets that pin and before that Sam gets the pin — it was looking like that was going to be a decision. He was controlling the match and pinned with 11 seconds left, and that was really big.”
Said Washington Township coach Eric Ring, “With that start, and being up 33-0, I knew we were stronger down low and they were stronger up high, but I definitely didn’t expect (all those pins by Ocean City). To be blunt about it, it came down to effort — some of their kids tried harder. The difference was their kids fought off their backs.”
The win was a big confidence booster for Ocean City, which was coming off two tough losses to St. Augustine Prep.
“We knew this was going to be a battle, but we knew we could do it. We’ve been working hard, conditioning and all of that. This definitely helps us out because we knew we had it in us,” Bell said.
The win was especially gratifying for Calhoun, who graduated from Township back in 1995 after winning three district titles and a region crown, and finishing third in the state as a senior. The said the atmosphere of an outdoor match at his alma mater was a great experience.
“This is unbelievable, and to come back to your hometown where you grew up and competed, I couldn’t tell you the last time I was in that (Washington Township) wrestling room and it’s neat. It’s nostalgic for me to come back. Eric is a guy who I coached when I was younger, and you have people who watched me compete when I was here. Washington Township did a phenomenal job with this, it was awesome. Some of these kids have wrestled in outdoor tournaments but they have tents and stuff like that. This was perfect; the temperature was perfect, they had music going. It was awesome,” he said. “As a coach, you always want to match up with a team that has the same philosophy as you , and you know the coaches and you know they do things right. It’s great to get competition from other areas to help make these kids better for the end of the season.”
“Aside from the result, from our standpoint, it was a great day,” he said. “The set-up was easy. We’re blessed to have an administration that has our back and helps us out with everything. Our athletic director, Kevin Murphy, is here driving around taking care of everything. I thought it was really cool. We were excited to have our fans in attendance and be able to invite Ocean City to have their fans as well. A huge benefit of being outside is you get to open things up a little more.”
The wrestlers also were thrilled to be able to perform at an outdoor match on a Saturday on a football field. That’s not something any of them had ever done before.
“This was awesome,” Bell said. “I’m going to remember this one for a while, especially with the win and how it ended. I’d love to do this more, and it’s great we were able to do this.”
What’s next: Ocean City hosts Middle Township on April 8 at 10 a.m. Washington Township hosts Camden on Monday, time TBA.