Competing against some of Maryland's best wrestling teams — and more from Pennsylvania, Delaware and Virginia — Loyola Blakefield finished third at the Cavalier Duals, despite being without five starters.
The No. 5 Dons, who finished 4-2 in the two-day meet, beat No. 15 Archbishop Spalding, the tournament host, 34-26, and Oakdale, a tough Class 1A-2A team from Frederick County, 45-27, to win their pool, but fell to two of the state's best teams in the placement rounds.
"I was proud of our guys' effort," said Loyola Blakefield associate head coach Chris Jones. "Our backup guys got to do a little bit better to fill and pick up, but it's all right."
The Dons lost to meet-champion Good Counsel, ranked fifth by the Maryland State Wrestling Association, and Middletown, which beat No. 4 Oakland Mills this season.
There was, however, a bright spot during the match against Good Counsel, as senior Jake Nordhausen earned a takedown in the final seconds to beat the Falcon's Nick Miller. The two are expected to compete for the Maryland Independent State tournament crown at 220 pounds.
"What it does is let's our guys know we got more work to do, and it's only going to get tougher from here," Jones said. "Our end-of-the-season run is always tough with [the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association tournament] and National Preps, so this competition always refocuses our guys and gets them ready to get better for our stretch run."
Despite losing in a close dual to Loyola Friday night, Spalding bounced back to beat some stiff competition and finish 4-2.
The Cavaliers beat Arundel, 34-33, in a match that was tied and was decided by criteria (Cavaliers won more individual matches in the dual), and saved possibly their best for last in a dominating, 52-20, win over No. 11 Glenelg.
Their second loss was to Salesianum (Del.), 36-30, in a dual that was decided by the final bout.
"We got a very young team. There are four kids in the varsity lineup that have never wrestled before. So where we're new in experience, that's where we're getting beat on," Spalding coach Mike Laidley said. "My kids that have been wrestling, in the two matches that we lost we won on the mat, which, as a coach of a young team, you strive for. The young guys are going to take their licks until they learn the sport."
One of the most experienced wrestlers for the Cavaliers, 220-pound senior Jacob Parker, beat Nordhausen to tie their rivalry at two wins each.
Parker broke a 1-1 tie with about a minute to go with a takedown, and held on for a 3-2 win. His other victory over Nordhausen, a triple-overtime win, came at the Cavalier Duals in 2013.
"Ever since then, we actually became pretty good buddies," Parker said. "I hate to be cocky, but I really feel like I came out and dominated that match. ... I really feel like I controlled the match, and that's what I have to do in the future."
Glenelg finished 3-3, including a win over Salesianum, but coach Matt Bichner thinks his team could have performed better, especially against Spalding, where he feels his team was burnt out.
"Not exactly where we wanted to be, but it was a tough tournament and there were a lot of good teams, so I was happy to just get six good matches in," Bichner said.
Senior Mike Budock (160 pounds) earned his long-awaited 100th win in the loss to Spalding.
Arundel also finished 3-3, including a win over the Gladiatiors.