A Fallston-Harford Tech wrestling rivalry, defined in recent years by close matches and controversy, added another exciting chapter last night.
With the score tied at 24, the No. 4 Cobras took the last three matches to capture a 39-24 victory over the host Cougars.
Fallston's two-time state champion, Nathan Bachmann, had evened the match by capturing a 6-4 decision over previously undefeated Josh Taylor in the night's marquee match at 152 pounds.
But the Cobras closed with a 6-0 decision by Matt Zaun over Ben Minshall at 160, and consecutive pins by Jeff Gardner and Tony Gibson at 171 and 189.
Gardner's second-period pin over Dan Sullivan was the clincher for the Cobras, who improved to 5-0, 3-0 in Harford County, but not without the tussle that they have come to expect from the Cougars (4-1, 2-1).
"It's just a rivalry where both teams bring their A game," said Harford Tech senior 140-pounder Brad Dreyer, who improved to 9-0 with a 16-0 technical fall over Mike Rainey.
When asked if he was glad there was no controversy this year, Dreyer laughed and said, "Yeah, this was a real win this time."
Two years ago, it was a controversial takedown with no time on the clock that gave the Cobras a 30-25 victory.
Last year, Fallston coach Andy Amasia was incensed that Cobra Eric King was not assessed a stalling call in the decisive match in Harford Tech's 34-30 triumph.
However, the Cobras, with statement blowouts over ranked Boys' Latin and Eastern Tech teams, appear to be even more powerful than last year's team, which finished a couple of points shy of a state title.
It took awhile for them to show it last night, but the Cobras started to roll when the match swayed into the middle weight classes.
Three-time county champ Mike Taylor notched a major decision at 130 and - after the Cougars' Mark Christenson out-dueled Patrick Conlon for an 8-4 decision at 135 - Dreyer got five points with his technical fall to deadlock the match at 21.
Chris Bigdeli secured the Cobras a 24-21 lead with a 5-4 decision over Brandon Bowers at 145, setting the stage for the Bachmann-Josh Taylor match.
Bachmann (7-1) had the early edge, but spent the majority of the second period fighting off Taylor's advances. Midway through the third, Bachmann again fought his way out of a dangerous situation to get a late takedown and the 6-4 decision
"I was sweating it a little, but I knew I had time," said Bachmann. "I'm not afraid to lose. I am just preparing myself for states."
After Zaun's decision gave the Cobras a 27-24 lead, Gardner (9-0) avoided a near pin in the first period before putting Sullivan on his back at the 3:46 mark of the second, giving Harford Tech an insurmountable 33-24 lead with one match to go.
"It always gets tough in here," said Cobras coach Gary Siler. "I don't know what it is, it's always close."