After nearly surprising 10th-ranked Oakland Mills last week, Howard had the tables turned on it last night as host Centennial edged the Lions, 30-25.
Centennial's win pushed the Eagles (7-5, 4-2) into second place in the county behind Oakland Mills, while Howard (6-4-2) dropped to third with a 4-2-1 county mark.
"This win was a team motivator coming off our 30-29 win over Hammond," said Centennial coach Todd DeCrispino, whose Eagles returned 28 wrestlers from a year ago.
With Centennial leading Howard 27-20, the match's top showdown between Centennial junior Joon Kim (20-1) and Howard senior Frank Tortella (19-2) at 189 pounds took on more than county bragging rights.
"I told Joon the match was one, for individual honor, and two, essential for us to win," DeCrispino said.
"I hate to put that kind of pressure on a kid, but I knew Howard's heavyweight [Brian Neal] was on a roll."
DeCrispino was right about Neal, as the Lion heavyweight pinned Eagle sophomore Aaron Perkins in 1:25 with the match already clinched by Centennial.
Kim came through for the Eagles with a difficult 3-1 decision as he kept Tortella at bay. Kim's victory clinched the Eagles win at 30-19, with a point being deducted from Howard for unsportsmanlike conduct.
"The tournament will be a different story," Howard coach Joe Thomas promised.
Centennial's Robert Rix fended off Lion senior and defending county champion Eric Paskin's pin attempts in the 140 class. Paskin's 14-4 defeat of the Eagle wrestler earned four points to close the gap to 24-11. Paskin improved to 20-1.
"That match, with Robert hyping our team up by losing only a major decision combined with Jason Jones winning at 162 and preventing a six-point swing in their favor were the keys to us winning," DeCrispino said.
Howard's side saw the swing in momentum at a different time.
"The tone was set early when I was forced to put a JV guy in against Rhodes and that put a lot of pressure on the bottom of the lineup," said Thomas, referring to the loss of T.J. Dameron (16-4) to an injury.
Dameron cut his hand in chemistry class during the day and could not get a doctor's approval to wrestle. Dameron's absence forced Thomas to juggle his lineup with several wrestlers moving up in weight class.
Centennial gained an early 12-0 advantage as Billy Allen pinned Howard sophomore Kapil Bhanot (4:36) at 103 and Rhodes followed with a pin of Lion sophomore Jeremy Brizzi (5:13) at 112.