Two years ago, Glenelg defeated upstart Winters Mill, 35-25, having clinched the victory before the last wrestlers even took the mat, for its first state duals title.
On Saturday evening at North Point High School, Glenelg and Winters Mill met in the 1A/2A state finals again. This time, the Gladiators played the underdog to the defending state champion Falcons, but they didn't wrestle like it.
Winters Mill "showed themselves to be the class of the state," Glenelg coach Chris Rosas said. "And we were right there with them, we hung with them match for match."
Winters Mill (16-0) won its second straight state dual meet title, 35-30, on Chase Cullison's last-bout pin.
"The loss to Glenelg (two years ago) kind of helped us emerge, but (Glenelg) emerged right back this year," Winters Mill coach John Lowe said. "In Maryland public schools we really haven't been pushed this year, and they pushed us right until the end. On paper I've been nervous about them for a few weeks and I had good reason."
Glenelg (14-2), which had the No. 3 seed coming into the state duals, never questioned its own ability.
In 2011 "I believe we were favored, based on the seeding. And this year we were definitely the underdogs," said senior captain Ryan Carter, who scored a pin at 138 pounds to put his team ahead 30-15 with four bouts remaining. "But we worked hard every day in the room and it paid off to be able to get back to states. This is my fourth year being back at state duals, and second year in the state finals, so it's just a testament to how hard Glenelg works."
On Saturday evening, the Gladiators lost two of the first four matches on narrow decisions — including Ryan Hightower's overtime win at 220. But Glenelg held a 12-6 lead thanks to pins by senior captain Sean Twigg, the defending state heavyweight champion, and his younger brother, sophomore Austin (195).
"That was what we had on paper, it was what needed to happen," said Sean Twigg, whose only loss this year was in the finals of the season opening War on the Shore tournament. "Coming in I thought we really could take them ... we came in hoping that a couple matches would go our way and we could win it."
The Falcons took back the lead on a close win by Flavio Valdez-Cortez (106) and a pin by Taylor Logue (113). Valdez-Cortez escaped with 45 seconds left to edge Glenelg sophomore Tim Null, 4-2.
Null, who won the War on the Shore tournament in December, has been greatly improved since his freshman year when he weighed only 95 pounds and finished the season 17-17.
"Tim Null had two tough matches today (against Valdez-Cortez and Owings Mills' Jacob Rendelman)," Carter said. "He fell short in both of them, but he worked hard this whole season and I look forward to what he has the rest of this season and the next couple of years ... he's going to be one great wrestler in the future and I look forward to seeing that."
Following Logue's pin, Glenelg freshman Parker Griffie tied the match at 15-15 with a tough, 4-2, decision at 120. Zack Shackelford (126) followed that with an even closer, 4-3, win and Mike Budock (132) extended the Glenelg lead to 24-15 with a big second-period pin. Griffie, Shackelford and Budock are all first year starters for the Gladiators.
"I'm impressed with a lot of the guys' mental toughness," Rosas said. "Being able to take care of business, it goes from top down. It's a great thing to see ... That's something to be very proud of, to get a couple first year guys out here winning matches and keeping matches close against some of their stars. That's all you can hope for."
After Carter's pin extended the Glenelg lead to 30-15 with only four bouts left, it seemed like the Gladiators were on their way to winning their second state duals title in program history.
But Winters Mill had four of its best wrestlers — Wes Cook (145), Cody Sharkey (152), Arizona Oxendine (160) and Chase Cullison (170) — still waiting to wrestle.
Because Glenelg's Joe Zoller, who helped clinch the win over Winters Mill as a freshman back in 2011, is out with a knee injury, Cook won by forfeit at 145. Then Sharkey put on a takedown clinic against Glenelg's Austin Pagnotta, who bumped up to 152, en route to a tech fall.
Suddenly Glenelg's lead was only 30-26. Still, a Troy Walter win at 160 could clinch the state title for the Gladiators.
But Oxendine scored a pair of reversals in the second and third periods to edge Walter, 4-0, and the match came down to Glenelg's senior captain, Anthony Pagnotta, against Winters Mill's senior captain, Chase Cullison.
Pagnotta fought off of his back in the first period, but Cullison — who defeated Pagnotta, 12-0, back in the 2011 state dual finals — proved to be too much, scoring a pin with 15 seconds left in the second period.