The Glenelg-River Hill wrestling rivalry has featured some of the best dual meets in Howard County over the last two decades, and Friday night’s showdown under the spotlight in Clarksville looked to be another classic for much of the evening.
The back-and-forth bouts, the rematches, the freshman flexing his muscle against the experienced veteran — the first seven half of the meet had it all, and the score at the halfway point was a just 13-11. Music to the ears of wrestling fans.
The final seven matches, however, couldn’t have been any different, as all seven bouts featured either a technical fall, pin or forfeit. The pin-happy Gladiators wanted it that way, and they turned a 24-11 deficit into a 41-24 victory by winning the final five bouts by fall or forfeit to pull away.
The turning point came at 170 pounds. Ethan Mackey, who Bichner calls “Max Sotka 2.0” after the 2018 state champion, battled River Hill’s Laith Aboarob to a 5-5 tie through two periods, but the Gladiators grappler took control in the third period and ran Aboarob over to get the fall in 4 minutes, 54 seconds.
Nick Kingsbury (182) followed a nearly identical game plan as his teammate. He and Daniel Fahmy were scoreless through four minutes of action when Kingsbury reversed Fahmy, locked up Glenelg’s signature cross-face cradle and pinned him in 4:42.
“Mackey missed practice all week because he’s been sick,” Bichner said. “He usually goes after kids and wears them down, so we were curious how that would hold up today because we knew he wasn’t feeling great, but it was good for him to dig that out and get that win.
The one-point Hawks lead with three matches to go disappeared in the blink of an eye. Jake Durkin (195) locked up a cradle of his own and won by fall in 1:55, and Glenelg clinched the victory after River Hill forfeited to Drew Sotka at 220 pounds. For good measure, Lucas Suri (285) finished the dual with another Glenelg pin.
“It was a race to 30 points, and they got there first,” Hawks coach Kevin Cannon said. “… We have those close ones and then we’re rolling over. I think it’s more mental than physical — I like where we’re at conditioning-wise — but we need to get it in our heads that we have fight in us and that we can compete with some of these top teams.”
The dual meet started with a rematch of last year’s 106-pound JV county final between Glenelg’s Kevin Hansberger and River Hill’s Hamza Aboarob. Aboarob scored the first takedown — River Hill scored first in nine of the 13 matches that were contested — and had a 3-0 lead early in the second period before it all fell apart. Hansberger scored nine unanswered points in the final three minutes and won, 9-3.
David Ridenour (113) turned the switch on, too, once his coaches instructed him to take River Hill’s Nick Bakhtiar down and let him up in the second period. Ridenour did that nine times in less than two minutes and won a 23-8 technical fall before the start of the final two minutes.
The Hawks won back-to-back decisions at 120 and 126 from Dyson Muller and Aiden Mihalik but lost one they likely expected to win at 132. Glenelg freshman Ethan Sotka scored three reversals, the last of which broke a 4-4 tie in the third period, and held on to beat Jonah Richardson, 6-5.
“That was awesome. That was a great match,” Bichner said. “He’s really been getting better lately and getting better each day.”
River Hill won the next four matches and earned bonus points in three of them — Dylan McCullough (138, major decision), Nick Li (145, decision), Dailen Jeng (152, pin), and Mike Crisitello (160, technical fall) — but the 13-point lead wasn’t enough.
Glenelg 41, River Hill 24
106: Kyle Hansberger (G) dec. Hamza Aboarob (RH), 9-3 [3-0]
113: David Ridenour (G) tech fall Nick Bakhtiar (RH), 23-8 [8-0]