Jeff Gardner had waited a year to avenge his two losses to Chesapeake's Jake Couch. Last night, the Harford Tech junior's patience paid off.
Down by three points early in the first period, Gardner rallied to win seven of the next eight in an 8-5 decision over the two-time Anne Arundel County champion in a 171-pound match.
Gardner's victory came during a six-bout sweep in a 55-24, season-opening rout of the 10th-ranked Cougars.
State runner-up Josh Taylor (160 pounds), Perry Hall transfer Matt Kahl (152), Frank Linkous (140), Jonathan Woods (145), Matt Zaun (189) and Chris Moxey (275) all had pins for the No. 2 Cobras, who have won five of the past six Harford County titles.
State runner-up Mike Long (125) scored a 14-2 major decision as the Cobras took only 55 minutes to defeat Chesapeake for the second straight year. Harford Tech's Mark Taylor (103) and Matt Oates (112) received forfeits.
Gardner trailed 4-1 early, but he tied the match 4-4 entering the second period on an escape and a takedown. Gardner led 5-4 entering the third period after riding out Couch through the second, and led 8-4 after an escape and a takedown.
"I wasn't focused, and he caught me off guard in the beginning, but I got more focused and aggressive as the match went on," said Gardner. "I thought about this all week. He beat me by two points the first time, and one point the second time. I felt that I could get the payback tonight. It was a big deal to me and a big deal to my team."
County and region champ Josh O'Keefe (119), state runner-up Shane Fraser (135), Pat McLanigan (215) and freshman Zach O'Keefe (130) all had falls for the Cougars, but the Cobras had more pinning power.
Besides Gardner, the biggest surprise was Linkous, a junior who bumped up a weight class to flatten Matt Willis, a fourth-place county place-winner, in 48 seconds.
"I started with a half nelson and pinned him with a cradle," said Linkous, who began last season on the junior varsity. "I just heard that he was ranked second Anne Arundel County, so I was pretty nervous."
Chesapeake led 12-0 after pins by freshman Zach O'Keefe and Fraser. But the Cobras took the lead for good, 24-12, on consecutive pins by Linkous, Woods, Kahl and Josh Taylor. Kahl put the Cobras ahead to stay 18-12.
"I was pretty surprised by what happened [in Willis' match.] He just got caught," said Josh O'Keefe. "We're not in the shape that we need to be in right now, but we'll get there."