The Wilde Lake wrestling team had a special reason for wanting to win Thursday night's league opener at Atholton.
For the previous sixyears, Atholton coach Ron McMillan had been Wilde Lake's junior varsity coach. And the Wildecats didn't want McMillan showing up veteran Wilde Lake varsity coach Rich Jackson.
Jackson can rest easy. The Wildecats chewed up a much-improved but still-developing Raiders team, 35-26.
"We love Coach McMillan, but we really wanted to win this for Coach Jackson," said Jay Turner, one of only two seniors on the starting team.
Wilde Lake accomplished the runaway victory despite six-point forfeits in its 190-pound and heavyweight classes, giving the Raiders 12 of their 26 points.
Wilde Lake racked up four pins, three decisions and one tie on the way to improving its record to 3-4-1. The 'Cats also served notice thatthey will be a factor in the county dual-meet and tournament championship races.
Turner, who is 15-2, predictably pinned his 146-poundopponent, Gary Hobbs, in three minutes, 56 seconds. It was Turner's ninth pin. He also has two technical falls.
"I thought I was better on my feet and could put him on his back," Turner said.
But three of Wilde Lake's pins ranked as big surprises and led to the lopsided victory.
Before the match, Atholton's McMillan predicted it would be decided by three to five points. Afterward, he said his team should have won all three of the matches that turned into surprise pins for Wilde Lake. Wilde Lake freshman Antoine Harris pinned Kevin Connolly at 113 pounds in just 48 seconds for one shocker.
Wildecat sophomore Tony Crawford pinned Ryan Witte at 131 pounds in 2:59 for the second shocker.
And Wildecat sophomore Robert McGrain pinned ChrisJenkins in 1:43 at 141 pounds.
If it sounds like Wilde Lake is young, it is. The team starts four sophomores and three freshmen. All four sophomores and two of the freshmen won.
Sophomore Nathan Casella won for Wilde Lake at 161 pounds with an 8-5 decision over Brad Tyler. But this match rated as a pleasant surprise in Atholton's favor.Jackson expected a pin from Casella, who won 21 matches last year.
"I was proud of the way Tyler wrestled," McMillan said.
Sophomore Nick Yoon also recorded a Wilde Lake win at 120 pounds with a 4-2 decision against David Hill.
Wilde Lake freshman Chris Turner decisioned Atholton senior Greg O'Shea, 5-2 in a match that went down to the wire. O'Shea trailed 3-2 with 13 seconds left when he made an aggressive cradle move that backfired into a reversal for Turner.
Individual winners for Atholton included Jason Sturm at 104, John Presleyat 153 and Jeff Davis at 172.
Sturm, who dropped from 112 to 104 for the first time this year, decisioned freshman Fernell Howell, 4-0. Presley earned a pin in 3:12 over George Thompson with an impressive effort. He led 9-1 at the time of the pin.
And Davis scored a big upset over Tony Farace, 10-9, in one of the night's two most exciting matches.
Davis, who has Atholton's best record at 7-2, led 9-6 after two periods despite surrendering one penalty point for stalling. With 10 seconds left in the match, Farace tied it at 9 with a takedown. But Davis escaped with eight seconds remaining to win.
"Aggressiveness won it for me," Davis said. "I've never been aggressive, but just decided if my team wasn't going to win then at least I could."
Another exciting match was the 136-pound event between Atholton'sTony Zancan and Wilde Lake's Bob Farace. It ended in a 10-10 tie when Farace was given an escape with one second left after Zancan scoreda two-point reversal with three seconds left.
The escape was a controversial call and appeared to come after the scoreboard clock showed no time remaining. It was a tough break in a crucial match for Atholton.
Zancan also appeared to have Farace pinned twice, once in the first period and once in the second period, but the official ruledotherwise. Farace led 7-5 after the first period and 9-8 after the second.
"I thought I won it," Zancan said.
McMillan also thoughtthe final call should have gone Zancan's way. "I was happy with Tony's effort because Bobby (Farace) is a quality wrestler who has been to the states twice."
Atholton's dual-meet record dropped to 3-2.
Wilde Lake's record is a losing one but has come against extremely tough competition. The 'Cats gained momentum going into Thursday's match when they tied a strong Westminster team Tuesday.
"Until that Westminster match we hadn't really wrestled as a team," Turner said. "We were just individuals who wanted to win state titles. I won't be surprised at any team we beat from now on."