Owings Mills’ Daniel Olorundare locked an arm around the head of Sparrows Point’s Shawn Wolford and time seemed to stop. The 220-pounder who bumped up to heavyweight was drenched in sweat, but his shining moment was seconds away.
An Owings Mills loss would have meant losing to Sparrows Point — again — but winning it would mean ending an 85-regular-season winning streak for the Pointers.
Olorundare chose the latter. The referee’s hand pounded the floor; the Eagles bench erupted in cheers.
“I feel like crying right now,” Olorundare said. “It just feels so great. Last year, we lost to them. To win this year, it’s just really something.”
After taking an early lead and securing four pins, No. 11 Owings Mills dealt a mighty No. 6 Sparrows Point squad their first loss of the season, 37-28.
“Hats off to Owings Mills,” Sparrows Point coach Mike Whisner said. “They’re a tough team. We knew that going in... and they were better than us today.”
Not everything was about a showy fall to Owings Mills coach Ryan Mackin. He wanted his Eagles (22-4) to be greedy to get the edge.
“Some of them were going to see some of the toughest matches all season,” he said of Sparrows Point. “I didn’t think our guys were. That was the difference.”
Owings Mills tried to earn that extra advantage early as Damen Tiller (106) careened towards a major decision by the third period. Pointers grappler Mike Lewis was able to escape that threat, driving Tiller to the edge of the mat and earning enough to force a decision, 15-8, in the Eagles’ favor.
“I made mistakes, too. With Damen, I think he should have had bonus,” Mackin said. “I think I made him a little too anxious, looking for big moves other than small points.”
Alex DuFour was a little more fortunate in the 113-pound match. The defending state champion rattled off points against Gage Carr, wrangling him into situations a few times that hinted at a potential pin. Though Carr successfully avoided handing over six points to his opponent, DuFour finished the with a 14-3 major decision, bumping Owings Mills up to a 7-0 lead.
Of course, what worked for Owings Mills could just as well work for Sparrows Point. Wayne Brooks (120) and Matt “Chewy” Fouts (126) both verged so closely on pins that the referee was on the ground, tossing his fingers for some considerable time. It would have thrown Sparrows Point into the lead but the Eagles were able to avoid the falls and the Pointers settled for a decision and a major decision, respectively.
Nonetheless, the visitors’ lead was wiped out and the match was tied, 7-7.
Sparrows Point coach Mike Whisner knew from the very beginning that every point was going to be the difference between 31-0 and 30-1.
Pins were the more preferable option.
“Kind of surprised and disappointed at the same time,” Whisner said. “I thought that we did some sixes and I thought they got some sixes as well.”
There were close calls. Pointers senior Danny Davis battled back from a losing major decision situation to grapple Dre’yon Eure (138) into a surefire pin situation as the clock ticked down. The referee’s hand counted; the home crowd swelled to cacophony. But time expired — maybe just a second away from Davis’ earned fall — and Eure instead padded the Eagles’ score with an 18-14 win and bested his rival, who’d beaten Eure last year.
To Mackin, the middleweights were always going to be the true litmus test, the chance for Owings Mills to either wither or soar.
Another reigning state champion, Phil Smith (145), made that decision pretty quickly. The Eagle recorded the first pin of the night in 52 seconds, and though Sparrows Point struck back, notching a pin of their own thanks to Michael Fouts (152), Smith had initiated a trend that wasn’t slowing down.
Machiavelli Amaya (160) and Roell Ngounou (170) drilled their opponents into the mat for falls. Ngounou, who placed third at last year’s state tournament, barely spent any time on the mat at all, rising a winner in just 21 seconds.
Owings Mills had jutted out to a serious advantage, 31-13 — the Pointers could not survive another big loss, let alone another pin.
Jake Rallo (182) battled his way to a 6-5 decision — and Drew Gorsuch and Lexx Carr added pins of their own to bring the score within striking distance, 31-28.
Owings Mills needed someone to step up. What they got what was someone who, in his brief career with the Eagles, wanted to step up more than anything else.
“We had a talk during the season about putting the team first, what have you done for the team?” Mackin said. “Something I found in a coaches book, probably.”
Olorundare, a second-year wrestler, said he hadn’t done enough. He “put in the hard work” and changed that, earning the pin in the third periods that raised his teammates to triumph.
There will be a rematch around the bend at the county tournament, both coaches know, after both squads try to defend their regional duals titles. Mackin thinks it’ll come down to the two of them once again for league supremacy.
“It’s the fun time now,” he said. “I need to get better as a coach; they need to get better as wrestlers. We need to peak at the right time.”