Even though he won a county title and placed fourth at the state tournament last year as only a sophomore, Wilde Lake's Malik Jackson (145) is the first to admit that he still gets nervous before big matches.
So when Jackson saw that he would be wrestling Mt. Hebron sophomore Connor Strunk — a 2012 county finalist who is already 24-3 this season — the Wilde Lake wrestler obviously had a few butterflies.
Coming into the match, Jackson was ranked No. 1 and Strunk No. 2 in Howard County at 145 pounds.
"I was really nervous. I had seen him wrestle before and I was getting myself worked up," said Jackson, who won 33 matches last year as a sophomore. "I kept thinking to myself that I've worked hard enough, and I belong in this match. I can win this match. That's all I kept saying to myself."
Strunk led, 5-4, after an escape early in the second period. But in the second period, Jackson scored a takedown to take the lead, although Strunk escaped again to tie it, 6-6, heading into the third period.
"I never wrestled him before, so I was ... going out there blind," Jackson said. "I didn't know what to do ... The first period I was just feeling my way through the match and then the second period I started to turn it up and kick it into gear."
Jackson quickly hit a reversal ten seconds into the third period, but couldn't ride Strunk out. Then, with less than 45 seconds remaining, Jackson hit one last takedown to secure the 10-7 win.
"I just went out there and took the shots that I knew I could hit. I was like, 'all I can do is trust my moves.'," Jackson said.
That win was Wilde Lake's third in a row to open the match, following wins by Daniel Andrews (132, tech fall) and Tyler Anderson (138, major) to give the Wildecats a 12-0 lead.
Just like the showdown between Jackson and Strunk, the match as a whole between Wilde Lake (7-4, 21-8) and Mt. Hebron (6-5, 21-7) would be telling. Although neither team was still in contention to qualify for the upcoming regional duals, the fifth spot in the county standings was on the line.
After Jackson's win, Mt. Hebron responded with consecutive pins by Joe Kendrick (152) and Nick Lucchessi (160) to knot things up at 12-12. But then Wilde Lake countered with back-to-back 90-second pins by undefeated powerhouse Tola Morakinyo (170) and Xavier Franks (182). Then Nathanael Haase (195) scored a major decision to extend the Wilde Lake lead to 16 points at 28-12.
Ryan Hassan (29-2) helped the Vikings regain some ground with a 30-second pin at 220, but that was quickly neutralized by a Ne'co Jones (285) pin for Wilde Lake.
Mt. Hebron was still in it after Josh Kendrick won a forfeit at 106, but — down by ten at 34-24 — the Vikings would need to win each of the last three matches.
Jeff Hayden (113) kept Mt. Hebron alive with a hard fought, 2-0 win over rival Noah Polonsky. But then Ethan Eckley (120) clinched the Wildecats' victory with a 9-7 overtime victory against Mt. Hebron's Brandon Wilson.
Wilson nearly pinned Eckley at the beginning of the first period, then took a 7-5 lead into the third period. Eckley hit a third period reversal to tie the match, and although Wilson appeared to score the winning reversal as time expired, the match went to overtime, where Eckley scored the winning takedown.
With victory in hand, returning county finalist Jordan Trinh (126) closed the match out in style for the Wildecats with a pin.
Next up for Mt. Hebron is Winters Mill at Catonsville on Thursday. Wilde Lake, meanwhile, will host Tuscarora, and then both teams will prepare for the county tournament, Feb. 15 and 16 at Oakland Mills.
Jackson will attempt to defend his county title, and then try to build on his third-place regional finish and fourth-place state finish from a year ago.
"We work really hard, and coach (Bill Smith) has been kicking us to shreds downstairs (in the wrestling room) telling us that we belong, that we can do this," Jackson said. "I'm not as nervous as I was last year coming into the postseason, I'm just ready to just have at it."
Wilde Lake 43, Mt. Hebron 27
132: Daniel Andrews (WL) tech. Alexander Bisant (MH), 0:00/18-1. [5-0]
138: Tyler Anderson (WL) maj. Liam Curran (MH), 14-2. [9-0]
145: Malik Jackson (WL) dec. Connor Strunk (MH), 10-7. [12-0]
152: Joe Kendrick (MH) pin Adam Glass (WL), 1:50. [12-6]
160: Nick Lucchesi (MH) pin Ernie Jose-Ferman (WL), 3:20. [12-12]
170: Akintola Marakinyo (WL) pin Alex Hanson (MH), 1:31. [18-12]
182: Xavier Franks (WL) pin Andrew Ansaldi (MH), 1:31. [24-12]
195: Nathanael Haase (WL) maj. Austin Day (MH), 8-0. [28-12]
220: Ryan Hassan (MH) pin Jonathan Pearlman (WL), :30. [28-18]
285: Ne'co Jones (WL) pin Nicholas Suri (MH), 1:44. [34-18]
106: Josh Kendrick (MH) wbf. [34-24]
113: Jeff Hayden (MH) dec. Noah Polonsky (WL), 2-0. [34-27]
120: Ethan Eckley (WL) dec. Brandon Wilson (MH), 9-7 OT. [37-27]
126: Jordan Trinh (WL) pin Steven Sung (MH), 2:28. [43-27]
Around the league
Howard built a 21-12 lead after consecutive victories by Drew Williams (170, pin), Jared Rodriguez (182, pin) and Michael Moran (195). But then Hammond won four in a row on senior night, including a pin by Jeremy Nelson (220) to put the match away.
Hammond 42, Howard 36
145: Michael Patton (Ho) pin Sabir Shrestha (Ha), 3:03.
152: Justin Taylor (Ha) pin Colin Hawes (Ho), 2:26.
160: Bryan Overton (Ha) pin Matthew Polen (Ho), 1:01.
170: Drew Williams (Ho) pin Josh Thibodeaux (Ha), 4:23.
182: Jared Rodriguez (Ho) pin Derrick Lee (Ha), 1:17.
195: Michael Moran (Ho) dec. Justin Nelson (Ha), 6-3.
220: Jeremy Nelson (Ha) pin Justin Hipp (Ho), 1:57.
285: David McLaurin (Ha) wbf.
106: John Lowe (Ha) wbf.
113: John Hedrick (Ha) wbf.
120: Nicholas Williams (Ho) pin Henry Tin (Ha), 5:43.
126: Darren Ketchum (Ha) wbf.
132: Bryan Crumback (Ho) wbf.
138: Robert Bruffey (Ho) dec. Evan Nuss (Ha), 6-5.
The Eagles took a 19-0 lead after the first four bouts, which saw wins by Austin Kraisser (138, major), Hutson Baumann (145, pin), Sameh Boulos (152, pin) and Nick Shearin (160). But the Gators took control the rest of the way, including pins by Brian Glueck (182) and Troy Kilcarr (113) and four forfeits.
Reservoir 48, Centennial 25
138: Austin Kraisser (C) maj. Hans Wicklein (Re), 17-6.
145: Hutson Baumann (C) pin Paul Quattrone (Re), 5:28.
152: Sameh Boulos (C) pin Stephen Sims (Re), 3:04.
160: Nick Shearin (C) dec. A.J. Strott (Re), 11-7.
170: Wesley Beattie (Re) maj. Bradley Fasulo (C), 10-0.
182: Brian Glueck (Re) pin Steven Wysocki (C), 2:42.
195: Michael Sullivan (Re) wbf.
220: Bryan Lewis (Re) wbf.
285: Tyler Boettcher (C) pin James Clements (Re), :18.
106: Tyler Ponton (Re) wbf.
113: Troy Kilcarr (Re) pin Matthew Nickell (C), 0:00.
120: Trent Kilcarr (Re) wbf.
126: Joe Quattrone (Re) dec. Sam Routt (C), 11-4.
132: Mason Kilcarr (Re) tech. Cody Vergel de Dios (C), 5:16/17-1.
Oakland Mills sophomore Jaron Smith (160) defeated Atholton defending county champion Pat Mullens for the second time in four days after losing to him twice last season. On Saturday, Smith defeated Mullens, 6-2, in the finals of the Snowverlea Invitational. Then, in Tuesday's dual meet, Smith won, 4-2, in overtime.
Oakland Mills 48, Atholton 12
195: Robby Happy (OM) wbf.
220: Joseph Celtnieks (OM) wbf.
285: Roy Kadje (OM) pin Chris Davis (A), 1:26.
106: Dakota Thompson (OM) pin Sean Divver (A), 2:30.
113: Cody Thomas (OM) dec. William Brown (A), 7-4.
120: Zach Hensley (OM) pin Alec Lewin (A), :57.
126: Josh Pickens (A) dec. Anthony Ahumada (OM), 5-0.
132: Scotty DeJames (A) dec. Matt Claxton (OM), 6-4.
138: Sam Bernard (A) dec. Aaron Wood (OM), 10-8.
145: Bradley Montecino (OM) dec. Phillip Frazier (A), 6-3.
152: Zach Smith (A) dec. Nerio Bunn (OM), 7-0.
160: Jaron Smith (OM) dec. Pat Mullens (A), 4-2 OT.
170: Dylan Juskus (OM) wbf.
182: Dominick Clarke (OM) dec. Brian Rodriguez (A), 6-1.
Gladiators sophomore Austin Twigg, younger brother of defending state heavyweight champion Sean Twigg, scored a big win over Mustangs' defending regional champion Chris Park at 195.
Glenelg 66, Marriotts Ridge 6
152: Austin Pagnotta (G) pin Ben Switlick (MR), 3:16.
160: Troy Walter (G) maj. Michael Min (MR), 16-2.
170: Anthony Pagnotta (G) pin Lyle Fugate (MR), 1:21.
182: Michael Shin (G) pin V.J. Stout (MR), 3:25.
195: Austin Twigg (G) maj. Chris Park (MR), 10-2.
220: Craig Burris (G) pin Alex Zaldo (MR), 3:27.
285: Sean Twigg (G) pin Ryan Austin (MR), :47.
106: Tim Null (G) pin Romtin Habibi (MR), 1:01.
113: Christopher Winter (G) maj. Thomas Olsen (MR), 14-0.
120: Parker Griffie (G) pin Will Parks (MR), 3:40.
126: Zack Shackelford (G) Nicholas Spano (MR), 6-5 OT.
132: Michael Budock (G) dec. Zach Moody (MR), 9-2.
138: Ryan Carter (G) pin Sam Deitemyer (MR), :29.
145: Spencer Wyatt (MR) pin Christopher Dornan (G), 1:30.
River Hill 83, Long Reach 0
106: Matt Shealy (RH) wbf.
113: Taariq Mohammed (RH) pin Ronald Hindman (LR), 1:36.
120: Ryan Erskine (RH) wbf.
126: Matt Shipley (RH) pin Wesley Young (LR), 3:08.
132: Sean Guthier (RH) pin Joshua Pitaniello (LR), 4:22.
138: Lee Carter (RH) pin Konner Kick (LR), 4:34.
145: Patrick Gover (RH) pin Diego Galindo (LR), 2:30.
152: Donovan Delore (RH) pin Troy Douglas (LR), 3:28.
160: Casey Guthier (RH) wbf.
170: Sebastian Ames (RH) tech. Jacob Kim (LR), 5:59/19-2.
182: Brian Kirby (RH) pin Eric Fida (LR), 1:22.
195: Cory Daniel (RH) wbf.
220: Logan Kirby (RH) pin Deon Williams (LR), 1:26.
285: Justin Nestor (RH) pin Chris Stewart (LR), 2:47.
Over the weekend
On Saturday, Hammond finished 2-2 at the Harford Tech Duals. The tournament was shortened from two days to one due to snow.
The Golden Bears defeated Chesapeake and DuVal, and lost to Rising Sun and North East.
Anthony Solis (138) finished the tournament 4-0 with three pins, and Henry Tin (113, two pins), Bryan Overton (160, pin, tech fall), Derrick Lee (170, pin) and Justin Nelson (195) each finished 3-1.
Overton’s only loss was 4-3 to Rising Sun’s defending state champion Anthony Cimorosi.