Winters Mill had the first of its self-proclaimed “Big Three” dual meets take place Wednesday on the road against a Liberty team coming off a thrilling victory over perennial stalwart Middletown.
The Falcons have been eyeing another regular-season Carroll County Athletic League championship, and to get it they’d have to secure a victory before focusing on Friday’s tilt with Williamsport — Round 2 of 3, also on the road.
The final leg of that journey takes place Jan. 30, at home against rival South Carroll.
So beating Liberty 39-33 checked off the first box, and Winters Mill used bonus points to keep the Lions at bay.
The Falcons (11-4, 5-0 CCAL) posted four pins and took advantage of two Liberty forfeits. Their 33-6 lead after seven bouts stood up despite the Lions (20-8, 3-2) ending the match with six wins in seven bouts.
“We had a nice momentum going for a while, and then it just kind of died out,” said WM coach John Lowe. “I want them to realize that momentum doesn’t have to go past one match. You can be your own momentum. So hopefully we can reinforce that.”
Hunter Merson’s pin at 145 pounds gave Winters Mill its 27-point lead midway through the dual, and it marked Merson’s first official match of the season. The junior returned last week against Francis Scott Key, after recovering from knee surgery, and won by forfeit, so Wednesday counted as his first real action.
Merson decked Anthony Marsico in 56 seconds after cinching a tight cradle hold for the fourth Falcons pin.
“It felt good. I was ready for it,” said Merson, a county champion last year whose torn meniscus in November caused him to miss the first 13 matches of the winter.
Merson (32-4 last season) said he suffered the same injury last winter, just before the regional tournament, and underwent surgery during the summer. When it happened again, Merson said he was discouraged — but only for a little while.
“I knew if I gave it time, in the right time I could come back and be stronger,” Merson said.
Garrett Dell (113), Logan Konold (120), and Colby Unkhart (138) added pins for Winters Mill.
Liberty battled back in the second half of the dual — sparked by Sammy Nehme’s 3-2 win over Josh Burndley at 160. Nehme trailed 2-1 in the final seconds before securing a takedown as time was running out.
The Lions closed out the match with pins from Max Ellis (195), Noah Wienclawski (220), and Braden Puller (285), but it wasn’t enough to overcome the early deficit.
“It was good to see that kind of wrestling,” said Liberty coach Jeff Kent, whose squad beat Middletown 37-36 on Monday thanks to a pin from Ellis in the final bout. “They’ve been competitive like that all year. It’s a good group of kids. The weight classes have worked out pretty well.”
Winters Mill stayed in contention for a Class 2A West dual-meet tournament spot with Wednesday’s win. The Falcons will likely need another one Friday against Williamsport, which is among the top four teams in the region.
Winters Mill then battles Southern Garrett, another tough foe, Saturday at home as part of a tri-meet.
A showdown with South Carroll (5-0 CCAL), the reigning county tournament champion, is also in view. And while team accomplishments are first up, Lowe said being able to get wins at this stage of the season is critical for everyone.
“We’re going to see some of these guys in the county [tournament] and then even again in the region,” Lowe said of Liberty. “We’ve got to make sure our game is tight for that.”