Glenelg wrestling defeated Mt. Hebron wrestling 51-18 to clinch at least a share of second straight Howard County wrestling dual meet title on January 17, 2017.
The Glenelg wrestling program has a deep tradition that dates back decades. So excuse Gladiators coach and alumnus Matt Bichner when he said after his team's dominating 51-18 win over Mt. Hebron Tuesday night that his team has bigger goals than winning their second straight Howard County regular season dual championship.
"I don't want to get too greedy and say it doesn't matter — obviously it's awesome to go undefeated because I really think our county is really tough," said Bichner, who has led Glenelg to a 41-2 county dual record since taking over his alma mater in 2013. "I never want to take it for granted going undefeated and obviously we did that last year, but we want to have higher expectations and go on to regional duals and state duals and get into the state dual final and have a shot to knock off Damascus and move on to the individual part of the season where we haven't had as much success as we've liked to."
The Vikings, who entered the highly anticipated match with a matching 9-0 county record and an 18-1 overall mark, never seriously threatened the Gladiators. They lost six of the first seven bouts, including a pair of swing matches at 182 and 195 pounds by pin, to fall into a 28-3 hole at the halfway point.
Aside from two forfeits awarded to Mt. Hebron (9-1 Howard County, 18-2 overall) at 220 pounds and heavyweight, it won just two matches by decision and lost 10 of the 14 bouts.
Mt. Hebron coach Dan Harman expected his team to put up a tougher fight.
"I thought we were going to battle it out a little more," he said. "We talked about not giving up bonus points and I thought at 182 and 195 we could have hung better and at least not give up bonus points. My 145-pounder was winning the match and had a poor stance at the end and ended up losing. Don't give up bonus points and win that match and it's a different score."
The Gladiators (10-0, 22-2), who can win the county title outright with a victory over winless Wilde Lake Feb. 2, got off to a strong start Tuesday night behind Drew Sotka (138 pounds) and Dylan Istre (145). Both secured multiple takedowns in the third period and overcame early deficits to win via decision.
The 152-pound matchup between Glenelg sophomore Jacob Jones and Vikings senior Jimmy Hayden was a rematch of last year's county championship semifinal, won by Jones, and regional consolation final, won by Hayden. Hayden, coming off his first-ever varsity tournament win Jan. 13 at Franklin's Warpath Invitational, continued his momentum and scored 11 of the last 13 points in an 11-4 victory.
The team momentum, however, quickly went back into the Gladiators' hands. Max Sotka (160) notched six takedowns, including one in the final 30 seconds, to win a 13-5 major decision, and Garrett Murray (170) was awarded a forfeit to push the advantage to 16-3.
The match was essentially decided by the next two bouts. Glenelg's Jake Arnone (182), who started on JV before starter Jonathan Spiropoulos was injured earlier this month, pinned Zach Wilhelm in 1:43, and returning county finalist Sam Alsheimer (195) stuck Mt. Hebron's Shaber Ahmad in 1:11 to give the Gladiators a 25-point edge.
"They were both pretty big," said Sotka, who placed second at the county tournament last year. "Jake Arnone has filled in for Jonathan and he's come a long way since he started off the year on JV, and Sam is a lot better than he was last year. He's won some big matches for the team and got the big pin. It was helpful with our upper weights not being able to wrestle today."
Glenelg's lead was cut to 13 after Mt. Hebron's Isa Pender (220) and defending county champion Nick Nordhausen (heavyweight) were awarded forfeits, but the Gladiatos got those 12 points back with pins from Kevin Hansberger (106) and Logan Gwin (113). Gwins's pin secured the victory for Glenelg, which also won two of the last three bouts by technical fall and pin.
Bichner said he was proud of the way his team won most of the close matches and did so by continuing to push the pace and control matches. It's something that he has worked to instill in his wrestlers from the start of the season, and he said that style carried over from his team's performance against top competition at Archbishop Spalding's Cavalier Duals on Jan. 13, where they went 4-1 with wins over MIAA schools Loyola and Spalding.
"This weekend we wrestled really well against some tough teams and it looked like the guys were still feeling from that and wrestled well," Bichner said. "I thought we wrestled tough and that's kind of what we're trying to get the guys to do. Kind of gritty, it doesn't have to be the prettiest win. Just put in the grit and the grind and come out with a win."
Glenelg hosts Century Thursday while Mt. Hebron finishes up its regular season tournament competition at Severna Park's tournament this weekend. The Vikings' hope of qualifying for the 3A/4A East regional duals will likely be decided by outcomes against Oakland Mills on Jan. 31 and South River on Feb. 2.
"I feel like we're a better team than this score shows and I think we can move on from here and finish with a win at the end of the year," Harman said. "We've got the Severna Park tournament this weekend and we should really do well there ... and then we have to get ready for Oakland Mills and South River, so I'm stressing to the team that we can't lose both of those; we've got to win one if not both of those to get into regional duals."