Before last night's match with visiting Urbana, Liberty coach Mike Flemming challenged his team to win five of the 10 pairings.
The Lions went him one better, winning six. Still, that effort was not enough to hold off the Hawks (7-3), who rode two pins and three forfeits to a 38-28 Central Maryland Conference victory. The result marked the fifth straight loss for Liberty (3-9), although Flemming and his wrestlers had to be encouraged by the team effort.
It certainly was a dramatic improvement from an early December meeting at the Catoctin Duals, where Urbana won all but three bouts in a 46-15 triumph.
These are both emerging teams, as Urbana, with primarily a young team (three seniors), has turned around a 2-11 team of a year ago.
"You hate to lose with forfeits [injuries and a discipline situation], but I'm proud of the way we went out there. There's nothing more you can ask," Flemming said. "It comes down to looking them in the eyes and asking if they gave their best effort, and they did."
Liberty collected pins from Zach Egolf, Darren Stephens, and Nick LaPlant, a major decision from Rich Skelly, a junior whose 18-5 record is a team best, and decisions from Mike Haran and Ryan Bellin.
LaPlant, a .500 wrestler who had been pinned by Urbana's Jeff Covell in the second period of their earlier meeting, reversed that outcome. With all the points on reversals, Covell led 2-0 after the second period, and led 4-2 going to the final minute.
LaPlant, backed by some words of encouragement from Flemming, promptly got a reversal with 50 seconds left, and turned it into a pin 19 seconds later.
"He's fundamentally sound, and for him to turn the match around from down 2-0 to come back and then get the pin -- he did a great job," said Flemming of what had to be a confidence booster for LaPlant.
Skelly has to be the team's most improved wrestler. From losing records his first two years (10-13 a year ago -- although he reached the county 152-pound final, where he lost to John Muse of Westminster) -- last night's win upped his mark to 18-5.
"As a team, we have improved a lot this season," Skelly said. "I think it's the experience and perhaps some maturity. I know I've improved from a year ago. One of the reasons is our hard practices. Coach has made them progressively tougher as we have gone along and the younger ones have adapted to his style."
At the Hammond tournament, which drew some top teams, Skelly finished sixth, and cited wrestling tougher guys at a higher competitive level as being important to his development.
He had wrestled Covell, who is more than a head taller, at Catoctin, winning 18-12. "I was intimidated by his height the first time, but beating him gave me confidence this time," Skelly said.
Aside from LaPlant, the Lions' other two pins came in the third period. At 130, Urbana's John Ramirez got an escape for a 4-3 lead, but Egolf countered with a takedown, and got the pin at 4 minutes, 43 seconds. Stephens had a much easier task, piling up a 13-0 lead before the pin at 5: 31.
The two decisions were squeakers.
At 103, Haran set the tone when he led Nick Limparis, 2-0, yielded two escapes (the second with 20 seconds left in regulation), then won in overtime with a takedown.
At 171, Bellin led 3-2 in the third period, then gained a reversal just ahead of the buzzer.
Pub Date: 2/02/99