Nathan Mollat/Daily Journal
Half Moon Bay's Evan Maschall locks up Terra Nova's Justin Persino during the Cougars win over the Tigers.
After 13 matches of the Half Moon Bay-Terra Nova wrestling dual meet in Pacifica Thursday night, Terra Nova was clinging to a 30-29 lead going into the final match of the night.
As the final two combatants — Half Moon Bay’s Evan Marschall and Terra Nova’s Justin Persino in the 113-pound class — circled each other on the mat, looking for an opening, the already raucous crowd raised its level another notch.
As the Half Moon Bay fans broke into chants of, “HMB! HMB! HMB!,” the Terra Nova fans responded with, “TNT! TNT! TNT!”
It was a fitting end to a match that would determine the Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division championship.
When the final buzzer sounded, Marschall had a 5-0 win to give his team a 32-30 victory and the Cougars and their fans started celebrating an undefeated PAL season and their second Bay Division title in three years.
“I couldn’t hear anything. All I heard was the crowd,” said Marschall. “There were nerves. But they went away once I started winning.”
After battling to a stalemate for much of the first period, Marschall got a late takedown and a two-point near fall in closing moments of the period to take a 4-0 lead. He added a one-point escape in the second period and then rode out the win in the third period.
As the final score indicated, the meet could not have been any closer. Both teams recorded seven wins apiece, just as Half Moon Bay coach Tom Baker expected.
“I had it seven matches to seven matches,” Baker said he projected before the meet started. “Whoever scored the most points was going to win.”
Both teams recorded three pins, which are worth six points each. Terra Nova also had four decision, compared to two for Half Moon Bay,which are each worth three points.
The difference in the meet, however, were the two major-decision wins the Cougars picked up from Dante Del Porto at 126 and Tristan Keller at 106. A major decision is worth four points, which gave the Cougars two extra points — the difference in the match.
Terra Nova (4-1 PAL Bay) had a 30-19 lead after David Melton picked up a big win at 220 pounds over Half Moon Bay’s Marcus Sarabia.
Melton, who was originally slated to wrestle at his normal 195-pound class, moved up to face Sarabia, one of the best 220-pound wrestlers in the Central Coast Section. Melton started fast, getting a takedown and three-point near fall in the opening seconds of the match, but the weight discrepancy took its toll on Melton, who was visibly winded as the match wore on.
Sarabia managed to pick up a couple of escape points and had a two-point takedown, but he could not catch up to Melton, one of the top 195 pounders in the section, who recorded a 7-4 victory.
It was one of two change ups Terra Nova coach Bill Armstrong threw at Half Moon Bay (5-0). He also sent nominal 182 pounder Dante Campagna to take Melton’s spot at 195. The Tigers won both gambles as Campagna recorded a pin less than a minute into the second period.
“We were expecting it,” Baker said. “We warned our kids.”
After the Tigers’ win at 220, however, Half Moon Bay won the final three matches of the night to pull out the victory. Cougars heavyweight Jose Ayon started the comeback by winning his match by second-round pin, that cut his team’s deficit to 30-25. Keller won his 106-pound match 9-0 for a major-decision win to close to 30-29 and set up the winner-take-all finale at 113.
Marschall said as the meet wore on, he began to realize it might come down to his match if the Cougars were going to wrest the PAL Bay crown from the defending champion Tigers.
He said it didn’t become a reality until the last three matches before his.
“He’s good,” Marschall said of Terra Nova’s Persino. “Last year, he beat me. I heard he was coming after me.”
Other Half Moon Bay winners included: Spencer Boling (132, pin), Matt Spigelman (145, 3-2 decision) and Raul Hernandez (182, pin). Other Terra Nova winners included: Patrick Palomata (120, 10-3 decision), Chase Edgington (138, pin), Iakona Simpliciano (152, pin), Osvaldo Gazo (160, 8-7 decision) and Leo Grabowski (170, 4-2 decision).