While No. 8 Old Mill and No. 5 Chesapeake have been sharing Anne Arundel County's wrestling spotlight for most of the season, Arundel has been effectively using its time to quietly improve.
But there was nothing hush about the No. 10 Wildcats' performance last night at Old Mill.
Getting clutch pins at the lower weights and winning more than their share of the tight matches, the Wildcats came away with a well-deserved 33-31 win in Millersville, handing the Patriots their first loss.
Arundel improved to 15-3 overall and 7-2 in county dual matches, while the Patriots - coming off Friday's big 37-27 win over Chesapeake - fell to 10-1 and 9-1 in the county.
After pins from Devon Gillett (103), Ben Dincher (112) and Andrew Stiffler (125) helped provide the Wildcats with a 24-0 lead (they also got a forfeit win from Justin Bowser), the visitors got key decisions from 152-pounder Josh Hayghe and 171-pounder Greg George to give 189-pounder Brad Pendock a chance to clinch the match with a 30-19 lead going in.
He didn't disappoint, methodically besting Old Mill senior Aaron Waddell for an 8-2 decision that appropriately summed up the Wildcats' team effort.
"We came out ready and I just stuck to what I knew. I did my basic doubles, kept out of his ties and wrestled my match," Pendock said. "We knew we could win, we knew we were the team that could beat Old Mill in the county and we came out to do it. We knew what we had to do and came out the aggressors."
Said Arundel coach Bill Royer: "The kids have been working hard - we've won our last 10 matches in a row - so they're starting to feel good about themselves. The kids came through down low and some guys carried us up top winning some tight matches."
With the Wildcats leading 24-16 at 152, Hayghe came away with an 8-5 decision over Ed Roderick in a bout that was tied at 4 going into the third period. A little later, it was George's turn to take control late, getting a deciding reversal with 1:23 left in the third period and then holding off Adam Chisholm, 5-4.
"We're very confident," said George. "We're just starting to turn it on now, our season is starting to peak and we're just getting ready for county, region and states and plan to take them all," said George.
The Patriots got pins from Doug West at 135 and Nick Harvey at 215, and a last-second takedown by 140-pounder Chris Volker for a 7-6 decision against Brian Stiffler, but it wasn't enough. Old Mill coach Jim Grim, who anticipated a tough go against Arundel following his team's win over Chesapeake, was quick to credit the Wildcats.
"They took it to us," Grim said. "They outwrestled us, plain and simple. It wasn't as much what we didn't do, but more what they did do. I'm proud of my kids, they never gave up, there was a lot of hard-fought matches out there. ... We're going to see them again and I can't wait."