Arundel wrestling coach Bill Royer commended his group for a strong performance after last night's match against visiting Chesapeake of Anne Arundel, while Cougars coach Rex Miller didn't seem nearly as impressed with his team's effort.
Based on the coaches' post-match demeanors, you wouldn't have been able to determine that the No. 4 Cougars left with a 36-31 victory that kept their dual-meet mark for the season perfect at 5-0.
Pins by juniors Jake Couch (171 pounds) and Patrick McLanigan (215), along with technical falls from Corey Bowers (now 11-0 at 125), Craig Sturgeon (140) and Seppi Sergio (171) were the starting points for the Cougars against Arundel, which got an impressive 4-3 win from Andrew Stiffler over previously undefeated Shane Fraser in the featured 130-pound bout.
Last night started the Cougars' toughest stretch of the regular season, with the highly touted Mount St. Joseph tournament next over the weekend at Goucher College, followed by a dual match next week against No. 3 Harford Tech.
Taking care of neighborhood business didn't come easy in Gambrills.
"I told the guys this was going to be a tough match and we're not going to be able to just walk in their gym thinking we're Chesapeake and expect to win. Billy always has his kids ready," Miller said.
The match started with Sergio's technical fall over Wayne Edmiston, and the Cougars dominated the upper weights -- including getting six points via a Wildcats forfeit at heavyweight -- to build a 23-6 lead.
At 103, Chesapeake junior Josh O'Keefe continued the trend with a 12-8 decision over Devon Gillett.
With the Cougars comfortably leading at 31-15, Stiffler and Fraser went at it for the second time this season, with more showdowns expected. Getting a last-second reversal, Stiffler earned the one-point decision to avenge an 8-0 major decision in the pair's first meeting at the Arundel Holiday tournament.
"The difference was me wrestling better on the bottom," said Stiffler, who is now 8-2 for the season. "It was getting near the end and I knew I had to do something and knew I couldn't lose."
After Brian Stiffler scored a major-decision win over Matt Willis at 135 to get the Wildcats within 31-22, Sturgeon took care of business to clinch the match for the Cougars with a 16-1 technical fall over Dylan Parker.
"I knew it was going to be tough -- you know Arundel is always in shape and wrestles tough," said Bowers, who dominated Seth Fenton by a 20-4 count in the technical fall. "We worked on everything we had to in order to get ready and then came here and didn't do it. I think some of the guys may have took it lightly."
For the Wildcats, who also got a pin from 145-pounder Jon Scaringe after a major-decision win from Josh Hayghe at 152, the tight match proved to Royer progress is being made.
"The kids wrestled tough and we're starting to come around. We're working hard, Our goal is [focused on] the county tournament and we're on the right track," he said.