It was a year ago that the Fallston Cougars wrestling team surprised a bunch of people in winning the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference's tournament, a first for the Cougars, who ended the reign of three others, Harford Tech, Bel Air and Rising Sun, all of whom had won the title multiple times.
On Saturday, however, Fallston joined the ranks of the three others by hoisting the championship plaque again, the Cougars' second straight title, and they did it in championship style.
The Cougars, not so surprisingly, led after Friday's first few rounds with 78 points. Bel Air had 63.5, but everyone knew this was going to be a dogfight.
After the semifinal round and a couple more rounds of wrestle backs, Bel Air found itself out front with a lead of 174-160.5. With consolation finals on tap for third through sixth place, no lead was safe.
As it turned out, Fallston picked up 11 points in those all-important consolation matches, while Bel Air scored none. Therefore, the once 13.5-point Bobcat lead was shrunk to just 2.5. with championship bouts looming.
Coincidentally, both teams had five wrestlers in those finals and I guess most appropriately, two of the title matches pitted each against the other. We know now that Fallston won both of those key matchups and the rest was history.
The Cougars were led by their seniors, or were they? Well, actually yes. It was two seniors, CJ Austin and Ridge Myers, who won those titles against Bel Air opponents.
Austin started the Cougars comeback at 152 pounds. His 4-3 win over Bel Air junior John Cross was for me the epitome of the sport. Both are class people who are good friends, even after one beat the other in a title bout.
Lots of people look at wrestling in a weird and goofy way. I hear it from time to time; "oooh, it's two boys grabbing each other and more blah, blah, blah." I try to get their minds right, but for some, I can't win.
Anyway, it was Myers who went to the mat a few bouts later and sealed the title for the Cougars. Myers was in complete control from the start of the 195 final and his pin just over a minute into the second period was the moment of lock for him and his teammates. Myers says he didn't have any idea that a pin could seal the deal, but was very pleased when his coach relayed the information.
But back to the question of who led the Cougars? Two juniors also played key roles in the title run. Austin Rutkowski might have been as big as any. His 4-2 title win at 182 was huge for many reasons, but his desire to get there was even bigger. The Cougars can look at a number of reasons why they were able to repeat as UCBAC champs, but Rutkowski's semifinal win was large. He edged top seed Doug Thier of C. Milton Wright, 5-4, in overtime.
Fellow junior Alex Helm then went out in the last bout of the night and with no pressure, posted a shutout, a 6-0 win at 285. Just good stuff.
The Cougars also have reasons on the sidelines. The coaches have done a great job, led by long-time head coach, the ornery, yet fun-loving Andy Amasia. It was Amasia who drew the boos from the crowd at lunchtime after ordering his wrestlers off the mat during a somewhat traditional game of duck, duck, goose.
There was no booing, though, when the Cougars were named 2012-13 UCBAC champions. Congrats to Andy and all the Cougars. Job extremely well done.