Glenelg wrestling beats Oakland Mills wrestling in a Howard County wrestling dual meet on January 3, 2016 in Columbia, Maryland.
The expectation every time Glenelg and Oakland Mills square off on the mats is that bonus points will decide the outcome and possibly the county title.
That was certainly the case in Columbia Tuesday night.
The defending county champion Gladiators (7-0 county, 14-1 overall) remained unbeaten in league duals and handed the 2015 county champion Scorpions (6-1, 10-5) their first league loss of the year in a 37-32 battle in which both teams won seven bouts.
Glenelg won five by fall or forfeit, however, which proved to be the difference as both teams were without a number of regular varsity starters.
"Both teams look like they're fighting to get back to full strength so I knew it would be interesting," said Glenelg coach Matt Bichner, whose team finished second to Oakland Mills in the county race two years ago. "I knew it would come down to bonus points, getting some match-ups that we liked and getting it done."
After several exciting matches that fired up both crowds, the air seemingly left the building when, with the Gladiators leading 25-20 with four bouts remaining, the teams traded forfeits at 113, 120 and 126 pounds. Glenelg earned two of them and entered the final match of the night at 132 pounds — a match-up of two of the state's best in Glenelg sophomore Jared Thomas and Oakland Mills junior Kyle Farace — up by 11 with the dual meet already clinched.
The win keeps Glenelg tied atop the county with undefeated Mt. Hebron.
"I thought we wrestled well. I would have liked to see us persevere, but we got challenged and we had a couple guys who were out of our lineup tonight," said Oakland Mills coach Brad Howell. "So we had to try and look at it and try to persevere with what we've got; let's go make it happen. I thought we had a couple opportunities to hold off some [pins] that could have made the difference in the match. We won all the matches we were eyeing to win.
"We won where we were supposed to and they got their forfeits. We just had to go after not giving up a couple of bonus points, and they had an edge there."
Bichner pointed at a pair of early matches that, even though the Scorpions won both, the Gladiators benefited from. Ben Goldfein (138 pounds) and defending county and regional champion Johnny Rynn (145) won via major decision to give Oakland Mills an early 8-0 lead, but Bichner said just not giving up pins there were key, especially with the heart of Glenelg's lineup being between 152 and 195 pounds.
The Gladiators reeled off three straight wins from returning county finalists Jacob Jones (152, pin) and Max Sotka (160, decision), and county champion Garrett Murray (170, pin) to take a 15-8 lead, one they wouldn't relinquish.
A forfeit to Sam Alsheimer (195) after Oakland Mills' Paul Johnson won a tightly contested decision at 182 pounds extended the lead to 10, but the Scorpions made it a one-point dual meet with a 1-0 decision and pin from Aaron Smith (220) and Khalil Abdul-Malik (285), respectively.
Kevin Hansberger, however, essentially ended the dual meet with what was to come. The Glenelg sophomore that competed at 113 for the first month of the season dominated Oakland Mills freshman Jalen Cornelius at 106 pounds in a 12-0 major decision victory.
"Kevin's been doing really well," Bichner said. "He's finally down at weight and I think he's going to do big things at 106 pounds. He's wrestled some of the top guys in the state down at 106 and he's battled them tough."
The trio of forfeits followed, as Logan Gwin (113) and Tino Campanile (126) had their hand's raised for Glenelg and last year's state finalist Daiquan Anderson (120) had his go up for the Scorpions. Campanile's forfeit gave the Gladiators an insurmountable 11-point advantage when Thomas and Farace stepped onto the mat in the most anticipated showdown of the evening.
Thomas, who won the 126-pound title at the Damascus Holiday Tournament Dec. 28, started the match with a takedown but Farace answered with a reversal and two near-fall points to take a 4-2 edge into the second period. Howell thought Farace may have secured the fall in the scramble, though Bichner thought the points were awarded too quickly.
Thomas, however, tied things at 4 with his own reversal early in the second period, which remained the score entering the third. Farace earned an escape to take a one-point edge, but Thomas answered with his second takedown to take a 6-5 lead into the late stages of the bout.
Farace, a two-time state finalist, got back into a scramble and looked to be close to the reversal when instead he managed to get Thomas' shoulders flat on the mat in the exchange to secure the fall with 15 seconds left in the final period.
"We always talk about getting pushed and popping zero's. I don't like goose eggs (zero losses) coming into the end of the year," Howell said. "... We were hoping to get that match and obviously at that point the dual was wrapped up. I was real proud of Kyle. He gave up that first takedown and stayed real composed, didn't lose his edge and wrestled his way back into the match."
Glenelg faces Westminster Thursday and Atholton and Howard next week before getting a chance at Mt. Hebron on Jan. 17. Oakland Mills will battle River Hill and Long Reach Jan. 10.