Pinning power. North Carroll had it; visiting Francis Scott Key did not.
That, and the emotional return from disciplinary suspension of 160-pound Seth Knights, leaves the 13th-ranked Panthers one of only two unbeaten Carroll County teams after last night's 38-25 victory.
North Carroll (8-0 overall, 5-0 league) dropped the first two bouts of the night and trailed 9-0 before reeling off wins in eight of the next 10 matchups to clinch the match with two bouts left. Sam Shreck's 61-second pin at 171 pounds ended things, mathematically, 38-16, as the Eagles dropped to 7-1, 3-1.
"The momentum shifted from them to us, and we kept it going," said Shreck, who pinned James Shuster with a headlock. "We're coming together and starting to believe in each other."
Shreck fed off a run highlighted by a 28-second fall by fifth-ranked Tyler MacLeod (135, 12-1 record), a 20-second pin by Knights in the third-place state finisher's first match of the year, and a 10-2 decision by third-ranked state runner-up Tim Hutchins (140, 13-1), the latter handing Shane Eyler only his second loss of the year. Leading just 2-0, Hutchins turned up the heat, nearly pinning Eyler, who was saved by the buzzer ending the second period.
"When I took him down at the end, the team realized we could step up and get extra points," Hutchins said of Eyler, whose only previous loss was in overtime against fifth-ranked Dean Roberts of John Carroll. "We didn't give up pins and we pinned where we could."
The Panthers' run also included an 11-0 rout by Alex Smearman (130), and a tough, 4-1 victory by Ryan Schroeder (152), a 6-2 decision by the Panthers' Josh Trainor (112) and a pin by teammate Robbie Bell (125), who overcame a 2-0 deficit against John Weishaar.
"I hit a switch, came out the back door and hit a cross-face cradle," said Bell, a junior. "My match was a key match and a big win."
Francis Scott Key got first-period pins from fourth-ranked state champ Tom Rush (215) and third-ranked Ralph Stambaugh (275), who are 14-1 and 12-0, respectively. The Eagles' other winners were fourth-ranked Reuben Gill (119) by major decision, and Joe Hansbrough (145), Luke Schuster (189) and Matt Callari (103), all by decision.
"On any given day, a team can be beaten," Rush said. "Everything just went right for them."