Owings Mills coach Guy Pritzker said he thought his Golden Eagles would finish fourth in the Class 1A-2A state wrestling championship. He said anything above that would be a bonus.
Pritzker got his bonus. In fact, he cashed in.
Owings Mills got championships from Steve Kessler and Josh Ellin, and the Golden Eagles rallied to stun defending champion Damascus by 1.5 points and claim their third state title in five years last night at Western Maryland College.
The Eagles finished with 91.5 points, nipping Damascus (90), which won last year by a half-point over Northeast. Owings Mills last won the title in 1992.
Damascus appeared in good shape before the consolation finals, leading by five. The Hornets stretched the lead to 6.5 (90-83.5) heading into the finals and appeared in good shape, but Owings Mills rallied for the title.
"I believe in miracles," said a visibly surprised Pritzker. "I can't believe this happened. It's awesome."
The bottom line is that Owings Mills received several big breaks. Damascus had two wrestlers in the finals -- Bobby Mann (135) and Danny Wolford (152) -- and each lost.
Ryan Hersey of Lackey, who had lost twice to Wolford this year, defeated him by a 2-1 count. Tommy Kiler of North Carroll edged Mann, 1-0, on a technical violation with 30 seconds left.
Those losses, combined with Kessler's win at 140, opened the door for Owings Mills. And Josh Ellin (125) gave the Eagles the state title with his 5-4 upset of Dunbar's Bruce Pendles.
Ellin (33-4) wrestled defensively most of the match and trailed, 3-0, in the third period. But he rolled Pendles on to his back for a five-point move with 55 seconds left in the match. Pendles escaped to cut it to one, but Ellin hung on for the victory.
"I was looking for that one opportunity," said Ellin. "I was hoping to
get a four-point move, and I got a five. I don't know how to feel. I'm so excited."
Kessler got things started for Owings Mills -- he wrestled first as the normal order was reversed -- as he completed his second straight 36-0 season by winning the title at 140.
Going for two in a row, he faced Francis Scott Key's Randy Owings, a two-time champion and the defending champion at 135. Kessler then finished off another unbeaten season -- stretching his state-record streak to 72 victories -- with a 3-2 victory.
Kessler took a 2-0 lead in the first minute with a takedown, but Owings escaped 12 seconds later. Three seconds into the second period, Kessler escaped for a two-point lead.
Owings cut it to 3-2 after Kessler got penalized for stalling with 34 seconds left. But Kessler held on and rode out the clock as Owings unsuccessfully tried to break his hold.
"It was a very tough match," said Kessler, who won by criteria in last year's title match at 130. "It was the toughest match of my career. I just wrestled with all my heart."
After the match, Pritzker just shook his head when asked about Kessler's success.
"That was amazing," said Pritzker. "He pretty much controlled the tempo of the match. Steve wants to win so badly that he refuses to lose."
But teammate Adam Fink (119) had no such luck. Mike Kusick (35-1, 125-5) of Northeast won his third state title, defeating Fink by technical fall, 20-5. But everything else went Owings Mills' way.
Owings Mills also got a third-place finish from Willie Broadnax (171) and a fourth from Jimmy Hudson (130).
Northeast finished third with 76 points.
Francis Scott Key took fourth with 60 and came away with one state title.
Tommy Free (33-0, second last year) of Sparrows Point won the title at 103 with a 4-2 decision over Davey Blake of Kent County.