Video highlights from Hammond wrestling beating Atholton, 38-37, on tiebreaker "Criteria H" in a Howard County dual meet on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2018.
Wrestling coaches commonly preach to its grapplers the importance of scoring first. It never hurts to have a lead but it also gives that wrestler choice of position if a match were to be decided in the ultimate tiebreaker, a rare occurrence but far from unprecedented.
But there is another reason scoring first in matches is critical, and Hammond found out exactly just how significant it can be on Thursday. With the Golden Bears and host Atholton tied, 37-37, after the completion of all 14 bouts, the winner of the dual meet was decided on a tiebreaking system that came down to “criteria H,” which says the team having the greater number of first points shall be declared the winner.
Neither team or coach was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct and both teams had the same number of wins (seven), pins (five), technical falls (zero) and major decisions (one), but Hammond scored first in eight matches compared to six for the Raiders. That decided the victor and gave the Golden Bears a 38-37 victory.
It’s the second time in as many years they have won a match on the eighth criteria, coach Will Yeo said, as they edged Dunbar last season on the same tiebreaker.
The Mount Saint Joseph Gaels crowned four champions to win the 15th annual Mount Mat Madness wrestling tournament while Centennial senior Jason Kraisser was named the tournament's most outstanding wrestler.
“There are so many nuances in any sport that if I took the time to explain all of them we wouldn’t have any time to practice, so that’s one I have not shared with the boys,” Yeo said of explaining the situation to his team. “The kids who were on the team last year with a good memory probably knew that but nobody had any idea. They didn’t even know why I was at the table talking to the official.”
Atholton coach Bruce Lindblad, in his 29th season at the Columbia school, can’t recall a match ever being decided on “criteria H.”
“Not that far down the list,” he said. “I’ve been in other ones that went right to falls but never that far down. That’s amazing.”
Hammond (6-0 Howard County, 22-2 overall) took an early 15-0 lead but needed a late comeback to even have the match decided at the scorer’s table. Sean Billups secured an 11-1 major decision at 182 pounds to give Atholton a 37-25 lead with two matches remaining, which meant Hammond needed falls in the final two bouts to tie the dual. Both grapplers came through and did so with ease, as Linus Sekedjah (195) pinned Desmond Craig in 1:02 and Loic Tueguo (220) stuck Maxime Arbaren in just 19 seconds.
“Sekedjah, he wins more matches than he loses, but he’s lost some matches that he wants back,” Yeo said. “So for him to go out there and get a pin against a quality wrestler is huge for him. He’s a sophomore and he works really hard. He does the right things. And [Tueguo] did what he’s supposed to do.”
The Raiders (4-2, 9-5) rallied from the early hole by winning five straight matches, including four by fall, to score 27 unanswered team points. Reigning county champions David Panda (120) and Drew Pruett (126) secured a pin and decision, respectively, and Aidan Healey (132), Derek Noppinger (138) and Michael Altamarino (145) pinned their opponents before the end of the second period.
Elliott Bauer (152) and Shemar Laing (160) picked up timely bonus point-victories to get the Golden Bears to within two points only to see Atholton answer with a pin from Michael Johnson and Billups’ major decision.
Billups, a reigning county and regional champion who lost just once all of last season, dominated Jordan Davis but was unable to put the match out of reach with a technical fall or pin.
“I thought we’d win eight matches but I was wrong,” Lindblad said. “I knew it was going to be tight but we didn’t get the bonus points we should’ve picked up. Billups, that cost us. Credit to them; [Davis] did what he had to do to not get turned. I told Sean, people are going to do that to you to win a [dual meet]. And you can’t give up falls like we did. That killed us.”
Yeo was also disappointed with how many pins his team gave up and with its overall performance. The team has its sights set on a deep postseason run but will need to find a way to score more points in order to do so, Yeo said.
“They did enough to get a win, but when we’re trying to achieve what we want to achieve, just getting a win — even against a tough team like Atholton — is not where we need to be,” he said. “We need to be able to put up more points. ... We got lucky today. It’s going to be tough to continue that with all the mental mistakes.”