HOWARD COUNTY, MD — No. 5 Glenelg entered Thursday’s showdown against No. 13 Mt. Hebron winners of its last 27 Howard County dual meets for a reason.
The Gladiators have consistently had the right mix of dominant wrestlers who score bonus points and above-average grapplers who know the importance of not giving up bonus points. It’s why they have succeeded beyond the county line as well with a 65-5 dual-meet record since the start of the 2016 season.
That winning combination was also the reason undefeated Glenelg beat the previously undefeated Vikings in front a sizable home crowd to take sole possession of first place in Howard County. It won nine of the 14 bouts, including five by fall, to earn a 43-30 victory and improve to 6-0 the league and 11-0 overall. Mt. Hebron fell to 5-1 and 11-1, respectively.
“I thought we won some good matches and we got some pins, but we also gave up a lot of pins which made it a little bit closer than we thought it would be,” Gladiators coach Matt Bichner said. “I’m pretty happy with the younger guys.”
The depth of the Gladiators is in the box score. Two of their top wrestlers — county champion Jacob Jones (170 pounds) and state finalist Max Sotka (182) — combined to earn just seven team points in their victories, but they were picked up by their lesser-accomplished teammates.
Among them were sophomore Drew Sotka (152), who earned a first-period pin, and junior Jake Arnone (195), who has been in and out of the varsity lineup dating back to last season and is currently in the spot of injured county and regional champion Sam Alsheimer. His pin of John Ross in 2 minutes, 26 seconds sealed the Gladiators’ victory.
“Jake is one of those guys who when we talk about studs we don’t really bring up, but he has a lot of experience, he’s a good athlete and he’s able to get in good positions and to his moves that work,” Bichner said. “He’s really a 182-pounder who has been wrestling up to cover that spot ... He was really on the fence about wrestling this year, so we’re really glad about him coming out.”
Mt. Hebron won all five its matches by fall, including a big one at 106 pounds to start the dual. Cassy Lopez trailed Andres Campus Lopez, 12-4, in the final 30 seconds but earned a reversal and was able to beat the buzzer and get the pin with 1 second left on the clock.
The early momentum allowed the Vikings to hang around in the early stages, as Yahir Lemus (120) answered a Glenelg pin at 113 pounds with a fall of his own to tie match at 12. Another pin from Bryce Kampert (145) cut the deficit to 21-18, and a first-period pin from Ali Pender (160) again made it a three-point match at 27-24. And even though Jones and Max Sotka couldn’t put the match away, Arnone’s pin did by making it 40-24 with two matches left.
Logan Gwin (113, pin), Kevin Hansberger (126, pin), Nick Kingsbury (126, decision), Jared Thomas (138, pin) and Robbie Baxter (220, decision) were other winners for Glenelg, while Nick Nordhausen (285) was Mt. Hebron’s other victor.
“Honestly, we expected to win,” Vikings coach Dan Harman said. “I have high expectations of the team but Glenelg is a very tough team. They’re solid top to bottom. They’re deep and there aren’t a lot of holes. ... I thought we wrestled pretty well overall. We were in a lot of matches.”
Glenelg has now defeated arguably the four next-best teams in the county — Marriotts Ridge, Atholton, Oakland Mills and Mt. Hebron — in the first three weeks of the season and is the lone unbeaten county team remaining.
“It’s good to be competitive in the county. I like having good dual meets,” Bichner said. “I really think Howard County is one of the toughest places to wrestle in day in and day out. You’re not going to have a lay-up match most days, and it keeps us on our toes and you can’t take anybody lightly.”
Glenelg (6-0 Howard County, 11-0 overall) — 43, Mt. Hebron (5-1, 11-1) — 30