The Hilltop High School wrestling team rules as the 2012-13 Mesa League dual meet champion – but not by much.
It took the third tiebreaker to declare a winner Thursday night at Otay Ranch High School, leaving the Lancers with a harrowing 34-33 victory against the host Mustangs. It took pins in the final two matches by Hilltop to draw the teams even on the scoreboard at 33-33 after 14 matches.
There are no longer any ties in high school wrestling dual meets and the teams had to pour over the rule book to see which team would emerge with a win.
The first tiebreaker was most pins. Each team had three.
The second tiebreaker was most forfeits. There were none.
The third tiebreaker was most technical falls. Hilltop had one.
After much debate, the Lancers were finally declared the victor.
The loss was bittersweet for Otay Ranch, which coughed up what seemed like an insurmountable 29-3 lead after seven matches.
Each team came away with seven wins on the mat.
“A great showing for the Metro Conference,” Otay Ranch match announcer Troy Vierra boomed over the public address system, nearly drowned out by ecstatic Hilltop fans.
Had the Mustangs won, Otay Ranch, Hilltop and Eastlake would have finished as tri-champions.
The Mustangs won the opening four matches to lead 20-0 and won six of the first seven bouts to build a 26-point lead.
But the Lancers refused to fold: they won six of the final seven matches.
It was a roller coaster of emotions inside the ORHS gym.
Adrian Hernandez recorded a 14-5 major decision against Seamus Beyerle at 138 pounds to push the hosts ahead 33-11 after Hilltop had started to ignite its engine with back-to-back wins by 126-pounder Jordan Griffin (26-9 tech fall over Michael Orona) and 132-pounder Wyatt Brenner (4-2 decision over Jacob Valois) to add what turned out to be eight valuable points to the team score.
But, incredibly, on a night when everything seemed to be going the Mustangs’ way, Hernandez’s win wasn’t enough.
Hilltop took the final four matches 22-0 to finish out a perfect league season at 5-0.
Dramatic? How about heart-attack material for everyone in the gym ...
The Lancers needed pins in the final two matches to force a tie on the scoreboard. Anthony Ardagna put away Otay Ranch strongman Shawn Cooker in 1:37 in a bit of a surprise at 160 pounds.
That left the visitors down by six points with the final 170-pound match remaining, and it looked like anything could happen in the evenly paired bout between Hilltop’s Xavier Plascencia and the Mustangs’ Francisco Solis.
In fact, Solis nursed a lead though into the second period against the shorter, more muscular Lancer grappler. But Plascencia only seemed to get energized as time ticked down in the second period – and as the decibel level rose in the gym.
Solis only needed to stay off his back in order for the hosts to escape with the dual win -- and a share of the championship banner.
But he finally fell victim to his Hilltop opponent with 16 seconds left in the period. Bedlam ensued in the stands.
Plascencia said he just didn’t want to fail with so much on the line.
“I was feeling I didn’t want to let my team down – the last pin would win (tie the team score),” Plascencia said. “I just blanked out and wanted to win. I just saw myself as the wolverine.”
Ironically, at the midpoint of the dual, Otay’s Jake Schaeffer had raised his arms in triumph after dealing heavily-favored Cruz Jaime a shocking 4-0 defeat. Schaeffer’s inspirational victory followed a 3:27 pin by the Mustangs’ state medalist Tommy Espinoza.
But the cheers would eventually turn to tears.
Griffin’s tech fall eventually stood up as the tie-breaker winner.
The loss was doubly agonizing for the Mustngs, who dropped a 33-32 decision to visiting Eastlake the previous week.
Hilltop defeated Eastake, 44-27, to face off league play.
More details to follow.