Confronting an opponent he described as having "man strength" in his legs, Wilde Lake 160-pound wrestler Rob McGrain made a savvy move.
McGrain's escape with 10 seconds left against Howard's Seth Eldridge gave him a 10-9 win in what proved to be the meet's most pivotal match. The victory pulled the Wildcats within eight points and put them within striking distance in a wild 35-28
Howard County dual-meet victory at home.
McGrain escaped before being taken down by Eldridge, who is at his best on the floor.
"I felt if I could get an escape, I'd be OK," McGrain said. "After getting out, I thought I could hold my own on my feet."
After McGrain's victory, Wilde Lake's Mike Green (171) and Nate Casella (189), the Maryland State Wrestling Association's sixth-ranked wrestlers in their weights, recorded back-to-back pins with "corkscrews."
Against Frank Tortella, Green improved to 20-2 with his 11th pin of the season at 2:31. Casella (19-2) pinned Brad Stubbs at 3:04.
With the Wildecats ahead 32-28, Howard heavyweight Ed Weeks needed a technical fall or pin to provide a Lions win. He got neither, as Carlo Gerstenfeld's third-period escape accounted for a 4-3 win -- and somewhat of an upset.
"As long as [Gerstenfeld] lost by points, we would have won the match," Wilde Lake coach Richard Jackson said. "But he wanted to win. He gutted it out and wrestled well."
With the Wildecats (10-3, 5-2 in the county) coming off routs of Centennial and Atholton, Jackson was fearful of an emotional letdown. His greatest concern became reality, however, as Howard (11-4, 4-3) jumped to a 23-10 edge.
Back-to-back pins by Lions freshmen Thomas Dameron (112) and Chris Polling (119) gave Howard a 12-4 lead. Dameron cradled Josh Ho at 4:18, and, down 16-5, Polling came through with a clutch half-nelson against Nick Yoon at 5:59.
A technical decision by Howard's Josh Tzucker (135) created a 23-10 score. But the Wildecats' Tony Crawford (140) and Sylvester Briggs-Hall responded with a regular decision and major decision, respectively, for a 23-17 match.
At 152, Howard's John Wiland's 18-2 technical fall over Richard Jackson, the coach's son, stretched the lead to 28-17 and set the stage for the McGrain-Eldridge showdown.