LA PLATA Emmanuel Zamba just buried his head into the mat while on his knees in the immediate aftermath of his 220-pound championship bout, realizing just how close he came to pulling off an improbable upset Saturday at the 4A-3A South Region wrestling tournament at La Plata High School in Charles County.
The Charles H. Flowers High School senior was leading the bracket's top-seed, Tommie Boozer of Eleanor Roosevelt, by a 5-3 count with 1 minute and 33 seconds to go. He retook a 6-5 lead with a gifted escape as the clock started the countdown for the final 30 seconds.
Boozer never panicked despite being heavily tested, drawing even when Zamba was called for stalling with 15 ticks left before executing a clutch takedown with three seconds left to capture the 8-6 comeback win.
“I underestimated him, I underestimated him,” Boozer admitted in clashing with the unheralded Zamba for the first time. “I just thought I was going to win. I thought it was going to be easy. I was totally prepared [for overtime].”
Finishing fifth in the state a year ago at then 215 with his sights now set on a Maryland title, Boozer added, “When I knew he was going to give me a problem, I worked even harder. I never give up.”
All was hardly lost for Zamba, who came out of nowhere in his bracket to become a finalist.
“When I first came in, there was a lot of talk about Tommy Boozer,” he said. “I wanted to prove myself. I thought I could pull the upset and get the win, but he proved me wrong. He's a very good wrestler.”
Zamba epitomized a Flowers team that thrived amidst being underestimated going into the Friday and Saturday gathering that featured the bulk of the talent-laden Southern Maryland Athletic Conference.
Flowers was the top Prince George's County team at the tournament with a respectable fifth-place outcome of 97 points, only trailing four SMAC powers while being within reasonable reach of defending state champion La Plata's top output of 154.5. La Plata claimed its ninth straight regional title.
DuVal finished seventh (76 points), Parkdale eighth (56.5), Roosevelt 11th (44.5) and High Point 12th (29). Bladensburg, Bowie and Suitland were knotted in 13th (16), Crossland and Friendly tied for 17th (10) and Laurel and Oxon Hill rounded out the county's scoring at the regional level with a tie for 19th (5).
Last year Roosevelt was the regional runner-up but was 117.5 points behind an even more potent La Plata squad.
Roosevelt had been the four-time county champion until getting unseated last weekend at the Prince George's County Championships by Parkdale, which had a 14-0 regular season record in duals.
Thus, Parkdale entered the regional tournament expected to headline the Prince George's contingency, albeit its county championship title was only by a point over Flowers.
“It means a lot because we've been working real hard to get to where we are, especially with matching up with Parkdale,” said Flowers coach Odist Felder, whose program had never achieved such a lofty team finish beyond the county scene since he arrived in 2006. “Being the top P.G. school is a big accomplishment, especially in this South Region where it's real tough here. Our guys have wrestled hard. It means a lot.”
Flowers qualified a county-best four wrestlers for next weekend's state tournament at Cole Field House at the University of Maryland in College Park, matching DuVal.
The top four regional placers from each weight class earn state berths.
In addition to Boozer, DuVal teammates Thierno Diallo (120) and Antwan Reddick (138) along with Flowers' Derrall Bridges (160) were the county's individual regional champions.
“It feels pretty good,” Bridges said. “I'm the first one from my school to ever be a regional champ. I'm glad to help my team like this.”
“Thank God I won,” Diallo added after pulling out an electric 11-10 finals bout over Leonardtown standout Sam Corey, a three-time SMAC champ. He celebrated by landing a running leap into his coach's arms. “It [was everything I expected it to be] and a little bit more. I didn't think the match was going to go back and forth. I thought it was going to be controlled by one or the other.
“It was a wide-open final because the match could've gone either way.”
4A-3A South Region wrestling tournamentat La Plata High SchoolTeam standings1. La Plata 154.5; 2. North Point 153; 3. Thomas Stone 106; 4. Leonardtown 101; 5. Flowers 97; 7. DuVal 76; 9. Parkdale 56.5; 11. Eleanor Roosevelt 44.5; 12. High Point 29; 13. (tie) Bladensburg/Bowie/Suitland 16; 17. (tie) Crossland/Friendly 10; 19. (tie) Laurel/Oxon Hill 5Championship finals120: Thierno Diallo (DUV) d. Sam Corey (Leonardtown), 11-10132: Alex Truitt (Leonardtown) inj. def. DeAndre Norman (SUI), 4:51138: Antwan Reddick (DUV) pinned Sean Mulloy (North Point), 1:43145: Eric Hoffman (Northern) pinned Zachary Mills (DUV), 3:19152: Josh Llopez (La Plata) pinned Clyde McBride (CHF), 0:32160: Derrall Bridges (CHF) d. Colton Rowe (Huntingtown), 6-1170: Garrett Lineberger (Stone) tech fall Andres Perdomo (PKD), 18-2 (3:05)182: James Cannon (Chopticon) pinned Aburough Abegesah (ER), 5:56220: Tommie Boozer (ER) d. Emmanuel Zamba (CHF), 8-6PG state-qualified wrestlers (top four each weight class)Flowers: 4 (Bridges 160 champion, McBride 152 second, Zamba 220 second, Watson 285 third)DuVal: 4 (Diallo 120 champion, Reddick 138 champion, Mills 145 second, Green 132 third)Parkdale: 3 (Deogarcia 126 second, Perdomo 170 second, Yates 152 third)Roosevelt: 2 (Boozer 220 champion, Abegesah 182 second)High Point: 2 (Robles 106 fourth, Smith 170 fourth)Bladensburg: 1 (Brown 126 fourth)Suitland: 1 (Norman 132 second)