Like grim reapers, the darkly clad members of the Archbishop Spalding wrestling team emerged from a far corner of their gymnasium.
They circled the mat for the start of yesterday's Maryland Scholastic Association C Conference match with visiting Severn, with the tallest of the hooded figures, unbeaten Osric Prioleau, advancing to the center of the mat and screaming, "Are you ready?"
"Yeah!" the other Cavalier wrestlers replied in unison, in a scene that prompted one of Spalding's statisticians to say, "We're going to kick some serious butt."
The Cavaliers did, winning, 48-28, andpushing their record to 6-2 overall (4-1 in the conference). The victory total is the best in school history.
"We're really happy withthe season we're having," said sixth-year coach Jim Nemeth, whose Cavaliers were third in the conference with a 5-4 record last year. "This school has never seen anything like it from the wrestling program."
They narrowly lost Friday's match, 29-24, to defending conference champion Carver -- a team that vanquished the Admirals, 45-24, earlier this season.
"That was a heart-breaker because we were one match away, but winning today was a good one for us," Nemeth said.
His Cavaliers actually trailed, 28-18, after the first eight matches and faced a 4-3 deficit in the contested bouts.
But the Admirals yielded four straight forfeits to fall behind, 42-28. Heavyweight Ralph Ellis (7-4) picked up his fourth pin of the year, over Severn's John Collins, for the winning margin.
"We usually give up two forfeits anyway, but we gave up two more because of broken team disciplinary rules," said eighth-year coach Bob Brogenrief, whose Admirals (1-4, 1-3) were dethroned by Carver as MSA C Conference champions during lastyear's 0-8 season.
His Admirals' only victory this season came over Patterson, 36-33.
"We knew we'd need a bigger lead coming out of the lower weights, but we didn't do the job there," said Brogenrief.
Severn took a brief 6-0 lead, as Chris Michaelson (103) overcamea 2-0 lead with his first-period pin. But the Cavaliers' Jason Hardman (112), now 13-6, evened the score with his ninth pin of the year.
Hardman's teammate, Chris Snead (119), followed with a mild upset over Severn's Dave Astle. Astle entered the bout with a 3-1 record, including two pins, and seemed on his way to another win, building an 8-1 lead, before being pinned with one second left in the second period.
"For the last two years, he had beat me, so I really wanted this one," said Snead, a junior. "I wasn't even thinking about losing."
Severn swept the next two bouts for a 16-12 lead, as Mike Brown (125) scored a first period pin and Sanjay Manickam (130) improved to 3-1-1 with his 17-6 decision.
The Cavaliers' Ryan Neenan scored a 19-second pin before Severn went ahead for the last time on a forfeitand a second-period pin by Mark Robinson (145).
"I'm glad my forfeit helped us win today, but I really wanted to wrestle somebody," said Prioleau, a senior with a 4-0 record. "I spent two days cutting weight for this one. I just wanted one last shot against them."
103-Chris Michaelson (S) p. Mike Reisner, 1:35.
112-Jason Hardman (AS)p. Chris Thompson, 3:23.
119-Chris Snead (AS) p. Dave Astle, 3:59.
125-Mike Brown (S) p. Mike Meinhardt, 1:00.
130-Sanjay Manickam (S) d. Dan Musiker, 17-6.
135-Ryan Neenan (AS) p. Scott Lowe, 0:19.
140-Jason Scott (S) by forfeit.
145-Mark Robinson (S) p. Jack Bailey, 3:13.
152-Carlos Santoni (AS) by forfeit.
160-Mike Tekippe (AS) by forfeit.
171-Osric Prioleau (AS) by forfeit.
189-Taek Kim (AS) by forfeit.
Hvy-Ralph Ellis (AS) p. John Collins, 1:40.