Highlights of Glenelg wrestling beating Marriotts Ridge, 50-29, on Wednesday, December 6, 2017. (Tim Schwartz / BSMG video)
Glenelg didn’t expect to be tied at 29 with Marriotts Ridge with four matches left in both team’s season opener Wednesday night. And with Gladiators freshman Massimo Conti trailing by two in his 220-pound match and fighting off a cradle, the Mustangs could sense a potential upset on the road.
Before he was turned, however, Conti scooped the head of Marriotts Ridge’s Jack Baxter — a freshman also competing in his first varsity match — and earned a reversal and near-fall points and eventually the pin in 1 minute, 56 seconds to turn the tide.
The fall gave Glenelg a 35-29 lead, and it won the next three bouts to pull away with a 50-29 victory. The Gladiators overcame a 23-12 deficit by winning seven of the final eight bouts to start their season 1-0.
“We have a lot of confidence in Massimo. He’s come in and he’s picked up a lot of stuff,” Glenelg coach Matt Bichner said. “We knew he was new, so we weren’t sure. The atmosphere and the first match can sometimes overwhelm you but it didn’t. He got out there, got taken down but didn’t let that get to him, then fought off a cradle and put the kid on his back.”
Overall, neither coach was particularly excited about how their team performed. Pins are expected this early in the season, but both Bichner and Marriotts Ridge coach Jason Conley thought their squad failed to fight off their backs well enough.
“We tell the new guys that they need to be able to fight off their back and we expect them to fight,” said Bichner. “Some of our guys got caught in some things and part of that is not getting hand control on bottom or not realizing when they’re in compromising positions, and part of that is now being on varsity. But we knew early matches are always a little rusty.”
Glenelg county champions Kevin Hansberger (120 pounds) and Jared Thomas (138) traded pins with Marriotts Ridge regional finalist Ethan Bohan (126) and Brett Gladstone (132) to keep the score deadlocked at 12 after four bouts.
The Mustangs (0-1 Howard County, 0-1 overall) took an 11-point lead after Mustangs sophomore Will Vaxmonsky (145), who placed fourth at the 1A/2A state tournament last year, won a 15-0 technical fall and Jake Fratta (152) won by fall.
Conley said he was impressed with his sophomores and how they are handling the jump in weight classes.
“Vaxmonsky bouncing all the way up to 145 after being at 106 last year and getting that tech fall was huge, and Ethan Bohan doesn’t look like he’s missed a step,” he said. “A couple of the other guys like Jake and Brett, I thought they looked good.”
County champion junior Jacob Jones (170) won the biggest match of the night against Marriotts Ridge state place-winner Justin Hooper after sophomore Drew Sotka won by fall at 160 pounds. Jones trailed, 5-3, midway in the second period but put Hooper to his back from neutral and secured a pin that gave the Gladiators a 24-23 lead.
“Whether he was going to win or lose, we shouldn’t have given up six points there,” Conley said. “That’s a big swing.”
Bichner said he was a little nervous but his confidence in Jones, a third-tear varsity wrestler and two-time county finalist, never wavered.
“He’s a gamer. He just finds a way to get it done,” he said. “It shifted the momentum and got us back to where we needed to be. That was huge.”
State finalist Max Sotka put on a clinic with seven takedowns to win a 19-4 technical fall at 182 pounds for Glenelg, but a forfeit to Marriotts Ridge’s Austin Cestone at 195 pounds tied the match at 29 and set the stage for Conti’s victory.
Robbie Baxter (285) earned a tight 3-2 decision, and Jake Kunzelman (106) and county champion Logan Gwin (113) both won by fall to close out the match.