The Overlea Falcons fought the match of their lives against Pikesville yesterday in the semifinals of the Class 1A-2A North Dual Meet Regional, capping off a back-and-forth struggle with a pin by heavyweight Scott Luebben to earn them a one-point team victory.
The reward, however, was anything but sweet.
Facing top-ranked Owings Mills in the finals, the Falcons never got a word in edgewise, as the host Golden Eagles won all 13 matches en route to a 66-0 win.
"There's no doubt about it, they've got the best team in the state," said Overlea coach Bruce Malinowski. "There's no shame in going out there and losing to them."
For Owings Mills (16-0) -- which advances to Saturday's State Dual Meet semifinals at Howard High -- just about everything that could go right did.
The defending county, region and state champions never blinked, coming off an earlier 58-12 win over Loch Raven to dominate every match. Drew Bowers (119), Steve Kellner (125), Richie Frieman (135), Ari Dolid (140), Hayden Myers (160) and Shaun Andoli (171) each scored pins, and heavyweight Anthony Johnson recorded his first career technical fall.
"You can beat a team, 50-30, but you're depressed because maybe two guys lost who you thought could win," said Owings Mills coach Guy Pritzker. "Even though it's a team sport, it's an individual sport, so when everybody wins that's about as happy as you can get."
Now comes the true test for the Eagles, who last year were edged by Northeast in the state dual meet semifinals after losing both Willie Broadnax and Anthony Smith to injuries.
For Smith, the loss was particularly hard to swallow. After suffering a knee injury at the county tournament, the heavyweight tried valiantly to wrestle in the decisive match against Northeast, but had to throw in the towel when his leg stiffened up.
"Since we didn't win it last year, we'd really like to do it this year," said Erik Walder.
The Eagles already have proved their worthiness by defeating DeMatha, the state's top-ranked team at the time. After last night's performance, they seem to be at their peak.
"I think we've got the team to do it this year," said 152-pounder Steve Kessler, who ran his high school record to 95-0 with two more victories. "Right now, everyone's looking strong. I think we'll be a really tough team to beat."
For Overlea (10-2), beating Pikesville was a good consolation prize.