Using four pins, two forfeits, a tech fall and a decision, Westminster trounced Atholton, 44-24, on Feb. 6 to improve to 25-10 on the season.
"We're trying to work on controlling all three phases at this point in the season. It's fine-tuning," said Owls coach Mike Fleming. "I though we did a pretty good job on our feet controlling the tempo and staying in good position. ... This match going into the next week is a really good stepping-stone. You're trying to polish things at this point in the year."
Westminster split the first four matches, but the difference came down to bonus points, while the Raiders could only muster two decisions in that stretch. In total, Atholton won half of the matches wrestled, but only Willie Hampton (120 pounds) and Drew Preuett (106) notched pins.
"I was happy with the way we wrestled," said Raiders coach Bruce Lindblad. "Our guys that needed to do well did well."
Westminster, which is on the outside looking in for the 3A/4A North regional duals, held a 12-6 lead after four but pushed it to 24-6 after Jamie Rodriguez (220) won by fall and Chris Gartrell (heavyweight) took a forfeit.
That's when Atholton (5-6 county, 10-19 overall) started a run of its own. Pruett made quick work of Collin Moore by sticking him in 42 seconds, and Derek Noppinger (113) earned a hard-fought 5-0 decision. County and region finalist Willie Hampton (120) kept the momentum, building a 14-point lead before securing the pin. The trio of wins cut the deficit to just three points.
"Willie has done really well. He's going to have a tough road," Lindblad said. "The county is loaded this year at 120 pounds. ... We'll see what transpires, but he was in the county and regional finals last year so I'm sure his goal this year is to win those."
Westminster, though, responded by putting out its best wrestler – Ryker Eckenbarger (126). He dominated Atholton's Stephen Frazier en route to an 18-3 technical fall to give his team an eight-point advantage. Another forfeit at 132 made it 35-21, and a 2-0 decision by Tyler Watkins at 138 pounds sealed the win for the Owls.
"We feel from 126 pounds and up we can compete with anybody in the state," Fleming said. "It was nice to see guys respond the right way. One of the things we want to constantly do is work for those bonus points. You never know when it's going to be the difference but we're going to try to build that lead as much as possible."
Westminster has a dual meet against Winters Mill on Feb. 11, and a tri-meet with Linganore and Tuscarora on Feb. 13. Atholton still has a dual meet against Eastern Tech on Feb. 11 and Lindblad is excited to see how his team fares at the county tournament on Feb. 19-20.
"I think we're doing well," he said. "We're wrestling well in practice and we're getting better every match; every practice we look better."
Westminster 44, Atholton (5-6 county, 10-19 overall) 24
160: Jett Duegeneo (W) pinned Mark Bailey (A), 3:56 [6-0]
170: Jahymyrie Jones (A) dec. Garrett Vandervaulk (W), 7-3 [6-3]
182: Austin Raines (W) pinned Kevin Qualls (A), 3:00 [12-3]
195: Joe Lazzari (A) dec. Christian Hauffman (W), 4-2 [12-6]
220: Jamie Rodriguez (W) pinned LaRodge Lawrence (A), 2:31 [18-6]
285: Chris Gartrell (W) fft. [24-6]
106: Drew Pruett (A) pinned Collin Moore (W), :42 [24-12]
113: Derek Noppinger (A) dec. Zach Caltrider (W), 5-0 [24-15]
120: Willie Hampton (A) pinned Mike Thomas (W), 5:32 [24-21]
126: Ryker Eckenbarger (W) tech fall Stephen Frazier (A), 18-3 [29-21]
132: Brad Walsh (W) fft. [35-21]
138: Tyler Watkins (W) dec. Cito Altamarino (A), 2-0 [38-21]
145: Riley Eckenbarger (W) pinned Michael Johnson (A), 1:30 [44-21]
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152: Sean Billups (A) dec. Nick Boyle (W), 6-3 [44-24]