Three weeks ago, the Mt. Hebron wrestling team was humbled after being swept in a tri-meet with Reservoir at Marriotts Ridge.
On Tuesday night at Oakland Mills, the Vikings (3-2) got a chance to reestablish themselves as a local power, and took advantage, dispatching Wilde Lake, 46-16, and Oakland Mills, 42-26.
"We had a talk the next practice (after the Marriotts Ridge tri meet)... and we said 'Guys, this is serious, we need to get back out there and get after it'," said senior Ryan Hassan (220), who captains the Vikings along with junior Connor Strunk (152). "We came out here expecting everybody to be on top of things and it looks like we took care of business, so we're pretty happy with that."
Hassan, the Vikings' last undefeated wrestler, collected two pins Tuesday night, including the clincher against Oakland Mills in the featured match of the tri-meet.
"I got invited by Down Under Sports to wrestle down in Australia and New Zealand this past summer, so in preparation for that I did weeks and weeks of offseason wrestling with Team Penguin (River Hill) and the Warhawks barn (Glenelg)," said Hassan, who placed fourth at the state tournament last year. "But I'm just doing my best, not expecting anything, just going out there and having fun with it. One thing that I've learned over the last four years is that if you worry about everything you're just not going to perform well."
Glenelg, Reservoir and River Hill are the last three undefeated teams in Howard County.
"We're hoping to be right up at the River Hill level. That's what we're aiming at since the preseason. You've got to respect them, they're the team to beat," said Hassan, whose biggest win so far this season was over Mount Mat Madness champion Michael Sullivan of Reservoir.
In the featured dual, Mt. Hebron built a decisive early 24-11 lead after pins by Jeff Hayden (132), Connor Strunk (152) and Stefen Chavis (160).
But Oakland Mills rallied on back-to-back wins by Dylan Juskus (pin) and Joey Celtnieks to make it 24-20 in favor of Mt. Hebron with only four bouts remaining.
However, the Vikings took any drama out of the home stretch, as Austin Day (195), Hassan and Nick Suri (285) recorded consecutive pins to put the match away.
"We knew it was going to be tight and come down to some swing matches, but I thought we wrestled pretty good out of the gates," said Oakland Mills coach Brad Howell.
The Scorpions (2-3) got two wins each on the evening from undefeated freshman John Rynn (106), sophomores Dakota Thompson (120) and Alex Asifo (145), juniors Matt Claxton (138) and Celtnieks (170), and undefeated senior captain Juskus (182).
"I thought Dakota looked awesome all day today, he's the man," Howell said. "We were really strong right there with Claxton and Asifo (between 138 and 145). Matt has been really coming on for us."
A product of the Columbia Vipers junior league program with a family legacy at Oakland Mills, Rynn looks to have a very bright future as a Scorpion and throughout Maryland wrestling. He was one of only three wrestlers, along with Hassan and Suri, to record two pins on Tuesday night. The second came on the final bout of the tri-meet with only 23 seconds left on the clock.
"Johnny's been making headway all along. He's our only Viper kid that came up this year and we're taking good care of him," Howell said. "He's still a little small but getting bigger everyday. Lifting hard, working hard ... but the skill level is off the chart. They did a great job with him down on the Vipers. He's a tough, scrappy kid."
In the opening match of the tri-meet, the Scorpions took out neighborhood rival Wilde Lake, 41-21.
Then Mt. Hebron got a warm-up for Oakland Mills by defeating the Wildecats (1-3), 46-16.
That match featured the main event of the evening, as Wilde Lake two-time county champion Malik Jackson took on Mt. Hebron's two-time county finalist Connor Strunk in a 2013 county championship rematch.
Jackson, who lost to Strunk earlier this season in sudden death overtime at the Scorpion Duals tournament, fell behind early after being taken down on a reshot. Trailing 3-1 in the third period, the Wildecat got in deep on Strunk's leg and took him to his back for a five-point move, and eventually the 6-3 win.
"He's a great kid ... this whole season I've been busting my tail, sprinting, imagining that he's in front of me, chasing after him, because I really want this so bad. It's my senior year," said Jackson, who competed in the Fargo Nationals and New Jersey Super Duals this offseason. "I was a little worried in the third period. I said 'I've got to shoot, I've got to push the pace, I can't let this kid beat me.' Once I started getting in on his leg I realized I could take him down...I got the leg and took him down and his head was there. Locked up the cradle and put him on his back and just held on."