Howard coach Dan Carr said his team has had its dual meet with Long Reach circled on the calendar for more than a year.
The Lions felt their 40-34 loss to the Lightning in last year’s regular season finale was “definitely one of the matches we should’ve won,” Carr said, especially considering they had a 10-point lead before Long Reach won five straight bouts and pulled away. A one-point loss to the Lightning two years ago also added fuel to the fire.
Howard finally got its chance for revenge Saturday morning and didn’t waste it. Trailing by four with four matches remaining, Zach Deboy’s pin at 182 pounds sparked a dominating finish, as the visiting Lions won each of the last four bouts by fall to run away with a 49-29 victory.
“This is our rivalry; we’re not killers like a Glenelg or River Hill or anybody like that, so this is our rivalry,” Carr said. “So to win in this fashion is definitely awesome.”
Howard (3-8 Howard County, 6-16 overall) trailed Long Reach 29-25 when Deboy took the mat, and he nearly pinned his opponent, Aman Ahmed, in the opening period. But as the match wore longer and both grapplers tired out, Deboy gave his team the necessary boost by launching Ahmed with a headlock and getting the fall in 5 minutes, 40 seconds.
“We actually told him not to go for that. We just wanted him to keep snapping him down and keep scoring,” Carr said. “I’m fine that he hit it and got the pin but that’s not usually something we would tell him to do, but I’ll take it. We’ll take it where we can.”
Amani Mmari (195) all but sealed Howard’s victory in the next bout. He pinned Jason Silva in 1:28 to give the Lions a 37-29 advantage, and Buddy Penguin (220) and Ritchy Pierre (285) padded the score with pins of their own.
Carr said he expected the dual to come down to the wire but was pleasantly surprised when Deboy and Mmari secured falls.
“We basically told both those kids to just not get pinned and we would have a shot at winning, but for both of them to go out there and pin, that was awesome,” he added.
The Lightning (2-9, 3-10) led the majority of the early going. Joseph Reilly (106) exacted some personal revenge by pinning Trey Mitchell, who stuck Reilly in 40 seconds in last year’s match, in 1:54, but a major decision from Lions’ Kenny Ling (113) and a technical fall from Arjun Kundu (120) gave them a brief 9-6 lead.
Long Reach won three of the next four matches, however, to build its biggest lead of the day. Garrett Cioffi (126) pinned John Collins, Sam Levine (132) notched five takedowns in a 17-2 technical fall of Maxxim Keller, and Joshua Liu-Trieu (145) answered a quick pin by Howard’s Ryan Keeley (138) his own swift pin to put the Lightning ahead, 23-15, at the halfway point.
The final seven bouts tilted heavily in the Lions’ favor. Shayan Kassiri (152), a county finalist a year ago, cruised to an 11-2 major decision against Ien Saffer, and a forfeit to Chris Hallums (160) erased Long Reach’s lead. A pin from Lino Gomez (170) gave the Lightning their last advantage of the day, 29-25.
“[The 182-pound] match was the pivotal match but the kids wrestled their hearts out and that’s important,” said Long Reach coach Jeff Taylor. “That’s what we’re trying to get. Don’t go out there and just give up when it gets tough. ... We came up on the wrong end of a couple matches and that’s what did us in.”
It’s the second straight victory for Howard, which beat Milford Mill on Thursday, as it will turn its focus to the county tournament. Carr said he’s more optimistic heading into the postseason after the wins and likes the chances of several of his grapplers, most notably Kassiri and Pierre.
“I actually like how they keep leaving Ritchy out of the [state] rankings, which I am totally fine with because he just keeps pinning people,” Carr said. “... I’m hoping we can get to regions and he keeps sliding under the radar and make his way to the podium at states. And Shayan, he’s wrestling very crisp and not making many mistakes. ... I’m excited for him to make a run at the state tournament as well.”
For Long Reach, which had plenty of support from its home fans during the matinee, it’s all about continued growth from all aspects of the program, Taylor said.
“They know wrestling exists now at Long Reach,” he said. “Good or bad — Howard is a tough team and they’re growing as well — but we are starting to get a fan base and they showed up today and it was wonderful. We’re going to keep preaching ... but we need to get some wrestlers. Some of those feeder programs like the Vipers and Blue Claw, we need to get them in here, and we need to get some football players or other athletes in here and start them young.
“If we can start growing that talent I think we’re going to do well.”
Howard (3-8, 6-16) — 49, Long Reach (2-9, 3-10) — 29
106: Joseph Reilly (LR) pinned Trey Mitchell (Ho), 1:54 [0-6]
113: Kenny Ling (Ho) major dec. Xavier Maccherone (LR), 13-2 [4-6]
120: Arjun Kundu (Ho) tech fall Kwabla Boateng (LR), 16-1 [9-6]
126: Garrett Cioffi (LR) pinned John Collins (Ho), 3:36 [9-12]
132: Sam Levine (LR) tech fall Maxxim Keller (Ho), 17-2 [9-17]
138: Ryan Keeley (Ho) pinned Canyon Dawson (LR), 0:57 [15-17]
145: Joshua Liu-Trieu (LR) pinned Chris Lee (Ho), 0:55 [15-23]
152: Shayan Kassiri (Ho) major dec. Ien Saffer (LR), 11-2 [19-23]
160: Chris Hallums (Ho) fft. [25-23]
170: Lino Gomez (LR) pinned Gavin Romberger (Ho), 1:25 [25-29]
182: Zach Deboy (Ho) pinned Aman Ahmed (LR), 5:40 [31-29]
195: Amani Mmari (Ho) pinned Jason Silva (LR), 1:28 [37-29]
220: Buddy Penguin (Ho) pinned Miles Fletcher (LR), 4:56 [43-29]
285: Ritchy Pierre (Ho) pinned Sean Hicks (LR), 0:43 [49-29]