Highlights from Glenelg vs. Spalding in a wrestling dual on Friday, January 19, 2018. (Tim Schwartz / BSMG video)
HOWARD COUNTY, MD — Where Glenelg is strong, so is Archbishop Spalding.
The individual matchups between the two squads in Severn on Friday night under the spotlight were high level and high intensity, and several featured potential state champions squaring off.
The team result, however, was never in question. The No. 4 Gladiators’ depth was too much for the No. 9 Cavaliers, who forfeited three weight classes, in a 51-25 victory that kept their undefeated season alive.
“Luckily our guys down low did their job so we could get some of the big matchups,” Glenelg coach Matt Bichner said. “Spalding’s always got a lot of good guys. It’s a shame they can’t get those big guys to join their team because they’d be tough. They have some really tough kids and it was good for our kids to get beat up a little bit, win some close matches and hopefully learn from it and get better.”
While a tight dual meet sizzled out because the Cavaliers (9-5) forfeited the final three matches at 195, 220 and 285 pounds, several earlier bouts were highly anticipated. Five of the bouts featured two wrestlers ranked in the top 20 of their weight classes in the official Maryland high school rankings, and the Gladiators (16-0) came out on top in three of them.
After a quick pin at 106 pounds set the tone, Logan Gwin (ranked No. 10) made quick work of Mitch Garretson (No. 13) at 113 pounds by locking up a cradle to win by fall in 1 minutes, 14 seconds to give the Gladiators an early 12-0 advantage. But 2016 Maryland Independent Athletic Association champion junior PJ Truntich (No. 3) answered with a fall at 120, and at 126 Sam Smirnoff (No. 11) dominated Howard County champion Kevin Hansberger (No. 18 at 120) and won a 13-0 major decision.
In the only matchup between wrestlers ranked in the top six of their weight class, Glenelg third-place state finisher Jared Thomas (No. 7) held off National Preps placer Rick Couch (No. 6), 3-1, with a first-period takedown proving to be the difference.
“Couch is tough, he works hard, but Jared as ready for it,” Bichner said. “I wish he would’ve opened up more but in a tight match, a big match, sometimes conditioning goes out the window. So he’s just got to work a little bit harder in practice and get his conditioning back up to where he can push. He got in a few sketchy situations but he was able to hold onto those.”
The two teams traded pins at 138 and 145, but the Gladiators’ five-point lead ballooned to 11 after Drew Sotka won by fall at 152. The advantage allowed Glenelg to stick to their lineup and send Jacob Jones (No. 4) to the mat at 160, but Garrett Fisk bumped up from his usual 152-pound weight class and answered his coach’s call.
Fisk (No. 7 at 152) dominated from start the finish by securing several takedowns and using a tight ride on top to beat Jones, 6-1.
“That was a big match for us,” Spalding coach Mike Laidley said. “We thought he could handle him and it turns out he did, but we put somebody else at his weight class and he got pinned. We don’t have enough depth and we have to make those changes on the fly, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.”
At 170, Spalding again bumped their lineup and had Tyler Savage (No. 6 at 160) take on state finalist Max Sotka (No. 4), but even an early 5-0 lead wasn’t enough for Savage. Sotka turned it on and picked up six takedowns to wear Savage down, and he eventually took a 12-10 lead before pinning him in 4:57.
“We knew Savage would gas a little bit and that plays into Max’s strength,” Bichner said. “Obviously we didn’t want to give him a five-point lead and have him fight back from that but we knew we were never out of it with Max. He can score a lot of points pretty quickly. He’s very mentally tough.”
Bichner believes his team is starting to hit its stride. County, regional champion and fourth-place state placer Sam Alsheimer returned to the lineup for the first time this season on Thursday against Century after breaking his leg playing football on Sept. 2, which allows several others to fill out their appropriate weight classes.
The Gladiators only have two matches after the mid-term break and a dual against Reservoir on Saturday. Bichner said he hopes the time off will allow some of his wrestlers to heal up before they gear toward a big county match with River Hill on Jan. 30 and the 2A South regional duals in early February.
“We’ll get ready for River Hill and Westminster, but obviously the duals are something we’ve been eyeing for a while,” he said. “We’ll firm some things up on our technique and get our conditioning back and we’ll be good to go.”