In the third period of a scoreless match, McDonogh 140-pound wrestler Ricky Tippett knew the time to strike was swiftly approaching.
"I sensed he was frustrated, wearing down, losing his game plan," Tippett said of his opponent, Jake Bohn of Mount St. Joseph. "Once you doubt yourself, it's over."
When Bohn lost his balance and loosened a hold, Tippett capitalized. The senior quickly forced the freshman to his back for the fall - his 15th of the year - raising to 51 a winning streak against Maryland opponents that spans nearly three seasons.
"Ricky's consistent and confident, no matter who he wrestles. He knows how to get the job done," said McDonogh coach Pete Welch, who last saw Tippett lose to a Maryland wrestler as a freshman. "He usually keeps his matches tight, but it's always a matter of time before he hits something big and wins it."
Ranked No. 1 in The Sun, Tippett puts his streak on the line again today as he goes after his third straight Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association tournament title at Mount St. Joseph.
Tippett enters the two-day event with an overall 28-3 record and 15 pins on the year (137-20, 65 pins for his career). He also comes in with a reputation for exploiting an adversary's smallest mistake for maximum results.
"I've been up against him a few times, and he's so slick, there's no doubt in my mind he'll win MIAAs again," said Boys' Latin 145-pounder Brian Saval, who has lost to Tippett eight times. "I've been [ahead on points] on him a few times, but he always knows what to do in every position. If it's luck, then he creates it himself. He makes things go his way."
In addition to the one against Bohn, Tippett has overcome at least two other perilous moments.
He neutralized the big move in a 5-3 win over Centennial's Evan Bulger, a wrestler with an awkward style and a penchant for headlocks and throws.
In a recent 3-1 overtime victory against state runner-up Brad Dreyer, he forced backward a plodding defensive specialist, eventually spinning behind for the bout-winning takedown.
"As soon as you lock up with a guy, you get a feel for what they do. I try to wrestle smart, push the tempo, get them to wrestle my match," said Tippett.
"You go for the pin if it's there, but usually, I work to get my points," Tippett said. "I have a few secrets - back-pocket moves for special occasions."
Part of a fierce practice rotation that includes junior Cam Watkins (135), freshman Luke Rebertus (145) and sophomore Bryn Holmes (152), Tippett leads by example.
"He's a leader who more than does his part in the [wrestling] room," said Watkins.