Atholton already knew their postseason fate before Thursday’s home finale against Centennial. The Raiders, for the first time since 2007, had qualified for the 3A East regional duals, win or loss.
So coach Bruce Lindblad used the dual meet as an opportunity for his guys to get one final tune up before their first postseason match since losing to Stephen Decatur in the regional final 11 years ago. He liked what he saw in a 60-21 victory, thanks in large part to a complete lineup and 10 individual wins that included nine pins and a forfeit.
“We had a full lineup, which was nice, for the first time all year,” he said. “We’re excited. We got Michael [Altamarino] back for the first time in a couple weeks and he had a tough match. We’re coming along and we’re excited.”
Against either Stephen Decatur or Mt. Hebron — one of which will earn the No. 1 seed for Wednesday’s regional duals — a full lineup will almost undoubtedly be a requirement if Atholton hopes to make it to the championship match. Earning bonus points will be just as key. Both of those boxes were checked off during Thursday’s match.
It’s the second straight match the Raiders scored 60 points and it matches a season-high mark that they also reached against Howard in the season opener.
“Before we were down in the 30 range and hanging out around there,” Lindblad said, “so to score 60 tonight was good.”
For Centennial coach Cliff Kraisser, the end of the regular season means they can start preparing for the county tournament in more than two weeks. The Eagles are a better tournament team with a handful of potential county champions, so having 10-plus straight practices to fine-tune technique and their conditioning is something Kraisser is looking forward to.
“I like the tournaments much better than the dual meets, but now we get a bunch of practices in a row,” he said. “We can fix some things that they’re doing wrong and get them ready for the county tournament.”
Jacob Blyukher (138 pounds), Jason Kraisser (145) and Matt Demme (195) each won by fall for the Eagles (3-8 county, 6-15 overall), while Matt Ritchie (182) picked up a 10-9 decision that Cliff Kraisser said was much deserved.
Ritchie tied his match against Atholton’s Ben Lew at 8-8 with a takedown, and instead of working toward overtime, he elected to give Lew an escape and a one-point lead. The strategy worked perfectly, as Ritchie secured another takedown with 35 seconds left and held on for the decision.
“He’s a senior and a first-year guy and he comes in and works hard everyday, so it was fun to see him in a close match and see him come out on top,” Cliff Kraisser said. “Demme, it was the same thing. He’s a second-year guy, so it’s fun to see them get the wins that they earn.”
Kraisser stuck a former junior league teammate, Stephen Frazier, in 1 minute, 5 seconds to improve to 29-0 on the year, while Blyukher gave up the first takedown but bounced back in a hurry and pinned Altamarino in 1:10 to move to 24-4 overall.
Atholton (7-4, 9-5), however, dominated. All 10 of their victories came before the start of the third period, while three came by fall in the first — Derek Noppinger (132), Alex Mattes (160) and Miles Easterling (220). Shea Collins (126), Aiden Healey (152), Haashim Rahmin (285), Peter Frazier (106), Drew Pruett (113) and David Panda (120) all picked up pins, while Sean Billups (170) received a forfeit to improve his season record to 24-0.
Billups and Jason Kraisser are the last two undefeated wrestlers in the county.
The Raiders now turn their attention to regional duals. Lindblad knows his top wrestlers — Pruett, Panda, Noppinger, Frazier and Easterling — will need to be at their best in order to advance.
“I’m excited,” Lindblad said. “We’re going to wrestle some good teams. We’ve seen Hebron before and we forfeited a few weight classes when we wrestled them, so that kind of hurt and could make a difference. And Stephen Decatur ... they’re tough down low and tough up high.”
Atholton (7-4, 9-5) — 60, Centennial (3-8, 6-15) — 21
126: Shea Collins (A) pinned Zaid Narmouq (C), 3:15 [6-0]
132: Derek Noppinger (A) pinned Jordan Carton (C), 1:03 [12-0]
138: Jacob Blyukher (C) pinned Michael Altamarino (A), 1:10 [12-6]
145: Jason Kraisser (C) pinned Stephen Frazier (A), 1:05 [12-12]
152: Aiden Healey (A) pinned Tristan Kneas (C), 2:38 [18-12]
160: Alex Mattes (A) pinned David Kim (C), 1:26 [24-12]
170: Sean Billups (A) fft. [30-12]
182: Matt Ritchie (C) dec. Ben Lew (A), 10-9 [30-15]
195: Matt Demme (C) pinned Desmon Craig (A), 3:34 [30-21]
220: Miles Easterling (A) pinned Noah Bussink (C), 1:05 [36-21]
285: Haashim Rahmin (A) pinned Nick Yee (C), 3:39 [42-21]
106: Peter Frazier (A) pinned Chris Lee (C), 3:19 [48-21]
113: Drew Pruett (A) pinned Ibaad Shaikh (C), 2:12 [54-21]
120: David Panda (A) pinned Kevin Brock (C), 2:35 [60-21]
Oakland Mills (7-4, 11-8) — 36, North Hagerstown — 31
Hammond (7-4, 31-5) — 49, Milford Mill — 21
River Hill (7-4, 23-8) — 60, St. Charles — 12
Arundel — 42, Reservoir (1-10, 3-25) — 38
Mt. Hebron (10-1, 20-3) — 33, South River — 24
“This team is determined right now to do something special,” Vikings coach Dan Harman told The Capital Gazette after the win. “We have the regionalduals next week, and this team is really buying into that, jelling at the right time and trying to get some wins in the postseason and see what happens.”