SIMPSONVILLE -- It's hard to call No. 3 beating No. 1 an upset.
Be that as it may, Fort Mill's wrestling team turned in one of its best performances of the season in knocking off Class AAAA's top-ranked Hillcrest Rams, 37-21 Monday night.
Fort Mill's win came down to the next-to-last match, between Fort Mill's John Ettell and Hillcrest's Tommy Cotton at 130 pounds. Fort Mill led 28-21 with two matches left. A pin and any other kind of decision would put the Rams over the top and send them into Wednesday's Upper State championship match.
Ettell was having no part of losing. He stormed to a 13-8 decision, putting the Yellow Jackets ahead 31-21 and assuring them of a spot in the next round.
Fort Mill got six points in the final match when Hillcrest coach Tommy Bell elected to forfeit to Cody Melton at 135.
The Yellow Jackets (20-3) will host Rock Hill, a 39-21 winner over Lexington. Hillcrest knocked off Fort Mill in the Upper State championship last year, 28-26.
"John is capable of wrestling like that all the time,'' Fort Mill coach Chris Brock said. "He's small, but he's one of the most talented athletes in our school and works hard in practice.
"We're back in the Upper State championship like last year. This time I hope we make a better accounting of ourselves. We'll put it on the mat and see what happens.''
Hillcrest (25-3) took its best shot with five matches remaining. At 112, Jack Eddy scored a second-round pin against Colby Hice and closed the gap to 22-21, Fort Mill.
But the Yellow Jackets responded with wins from John Green, James Brotemarkle, Ettell and the forfeit to nail down the win.
"I've been struggling all year,'' said Ettell, a senior. "I've been moving back and forth between 130 and 135, not really being able to find my place.
"But I've been busting my butt, and coach told me to go out and do my best tonight. It's the first time in a while that I've felt energized and in shape.''
The match was intense throughout. A prime example was the battle at 160 pounds, where Fort Mill's Mac Wells scored three points with his 6-5 decision over Jonathan Sullivan.
Sullivan led 5-4 late in the third and final period. With just over eight seconds left, Sullivan gave up a point for stalling, tying it at 5-5. The wrestlers took their stance in the middle of the mat, and it looked like overtime was in the near future.
But Wells squirmed free enough to get an escape point at the buzzer for the victory. Hillcrest's Bell charged to the scoring table, as did Fort Mill's Brock.
The referees waved off the coaches after conversing and returned to the center of the mat where they raised Wells' hand as a chorus of boos from the home fans rang down from the stands.
The win put Fort Mill up 15-0 after the first four matches.
It didn't stop there. In the next match, Fort Mill's Matt Simons led Andrew Parker 6-5 with just seconds left. But in another buzzer-beater, Parker escaped to tie the match 6-6 and send it into a one-minute overtime. Simons won 8-6 on a takedown, giving the Yellow Jackets an 18-0 lead.
Back roared the Rams. Sean Gaffney got Hillcrest on the board with three points at 189 for his 6-2 decision over Cody Cunningham.
Hillcrest got pins from Matt Broad at 215 and Wes Younts at heavyweight. As quickly as Fort Mill had jumped ahead with five straight wins, the Rams were back in it 18-15 after the next three because pins are worth six points.
"It all came down to conditioning,'' Bell said. "Fort Mill's Chris Brock has his team wrestling well at the right time. We had a shot, but Fort Mill won the last four matches. It's been a while since we had a butt-beating like that.''