Meade coach Sam Pandullo wore a huge smile moments before his visiting Mustangs took the wrestling mat against the Arundel Wildcats in yesterday's dual meet.
But his smile was replaced by a frown after Arundel's 160-pounder Phil Stratton pinned William Harvey with 28 seconds remaining in their bout.
Stratton's pin gave the Wildcats an overall 27-13 lead in the match. That meant the Mustangs needed at least two pins and a decision to win.
But that didn't happen. Arundel (2-3 overall, 1-2 county) won two of the last three bouts for a 37-19 victory over the Mustangs (1-2, 1-1).
"I didn't think we could win this dual meet," Arundel coach Buddy Hepfer said. "We're down this year, and I just thought Meade had a better dual-meet team."
The inexperienced Wildcats had won a narrow decision over the Mustangs, 198-190, in the Arundel Holiday Tournament just four days earlier, but Hepfer said that victory also was a surprise.
"And they can keep surprising me. That's fine with me," he said. "We hadn't practiced since Thursday before the tournament, so I wasn't sure how well we'd wrestle. But they wrestled really well."
In the last three bouts of the night, victories by Arundel's Greg Booth (189) and heavyweight Pat Beach neutralized a third-period pin by Meade's Pat Williams (171) and secured the win.
Both Williams, a tournament champion at 160, and Booth, a champion at 171, moved up in weight. Booth's 9-1 decision kept him undefeated after 11 matches, and Beach's first-period pin -- his seventh pin of the season -- did the same for him.
The Wildcats were short three starting wrestlers for the match. The tournament victory and lack of practice (due to the holidays) had cost them.
Brian Richards (189), a champion in the Arundel tournament with a 9-1 record, could not wrestle because he had not recovered from a sprained right ankle he received then. Two other starters -- 140-pounder Greg Hepfer (second in tournament) and 152-pounder Ed Briese -- did not make weight.
Pandullo had hoped those factors along with a few lineup changes might key a victory for his Mustangs. But he said afterward that Harvey's bout was just one of a few that backfired in a match that he had hoped would give the Mustangs their first victory over 135 up to 140 and replaced him with veteran Mike Walker at 140. Cruz was coming off a third-place finish in the Arundel tournament.
But Dave McFarland (second at Arundel) beat Cruz, 9-3, and Walker dropped a 2-0 decision to Eric Peterson. Meade trailed, 15-6, at that point.
The two teams traded forfeits at 145 and 152 to make the score 21-13 before Stratton's bout.
The muscular Harvey dropped a weight class after a runner-up finish last weekend. He lost a hard-fought 8-3 decision to Booth at 171. Stratton, however, was the biggest surprise for Hepfer. After a disappointing sixth-place finish last weekend, he used his superior speed and balance to end a wild match with a third-period pin.
"He was big and strong, and I didn't expect to pin him. I expected the match to be won by a decision," said Stratton, who was ahead, 17-11, when he planted Harvey. "It was a tough match, and my arms fell asleep halfway through. But Coach talked me through it. I just didn't quit." Over Arundel in over a decade.
"We thought we could win at 130 and we did, but we thought we had a chance at 140 and we lost there," Pandullo said. "We thought we'd get at least three at 160, but nothing happened. We choked."
Arundel led, 3-0, when 103-pound freshman Phil Meenan improved to 8-3 with his 5-1 decision over Meade's Richard Pachocca. The bout was a rematch of the tournament final, in which Meenan won a 6-1 decision for the title.
Meade's Bill Fisher (112), a champion over the weekend, then blanked Chad Bawell, who was fourth, 8-0, to give the Mustangs their only lead, 4-3.
Arundel went ahead, 9-4, on back-to-back decisions from Noah Murdock (119) and Dave Livingston (125). Murdock's 8-2 victory over Matt Rayman was a rematch of a tournament bout Murdock won, 9-0.
Meade's Mike Dodd (130), a champion last weekend, moved up a weight class to win by decision over Rick Gladwell, 4-0, to bring the Mustangs to within 9-7.
Pandullo moved Jess Cruz from 135 up to 140 and replaced him with veteran Mike Walker at 140. Cruz was coming off a third-place finish in the Arundel tournament.
NOTE: Last paragraph was not completed in the paper