Top-ranked Arundel was on display for the first time this season in the Meade Invitational Wrestling Tournament this weekend.
The Wildcats, last year's Class 3A-4A dual meet state champs, ** looked as impressive as advertised.
What separated them from the rest of an impressive field yesterday was a simple case of numbers. They sent seven wrestlers to the final round and finished with three champions to pull away from surprise runner-up Severna Park for a 196.5-167.5 victory. South Carroll finished third with 144 points.
All three of Arundel's individual titles came against opponents from South Carroll, which was in second place with five wrestlers still alive at the start of the championship round.
Pat Ortman was a 7-2 decision winner of Bryan Hamper at 119; Graham Harris decisioned Mike Muller, 6-2, at 145; and Rob Connolly earned a 13-5 major decision over Jason Hamper at 160. Each were repeat winners at Meade.
Just as happy after the long two-day tournament was Severna Park coach Ralph Toomey and his Falcons, whose best previous finish at Meade was fourth in 1995. Last season, they finished a distant sixth, but made up a lot of ground with the strong showing this year.
All three of their finalist -- Josh Grady (125), Matt Negrete (135) and heavyweight Ron Howard -- left champions last night.
"I'm so excited for the kids," Toomey said. "We were 3-for-3 in the finals -- you can't ask for anything more than that. I was proud of the kids who lost early and came back to win some matches. To finish second to Arundel is like winning the tournament."
Josh Diffendall (140) and Tom Cain (171) won titles for Northeast, while WT Aye (152) and Michawn Yuvienco (189) won crowns for North County.
Aye won for a second straight year -- going up against a familiar opponent in Meade's Joe Pandullo. He scored an 8-2 decision this season after defeating him, 8-5, last year.
"I wrestled [Pandullo] four times last year and he gave me a tough time every match," Aye said. "He wore more out other times, so this year I just let him come to me and make the mistakes."
Southern-AA junior Nick Alley, a state champ at 103 last year, had a tough time against Meade's Matt Pandullo at 112 before earning an 11-6 decision that wasn't decided until the closing seconds.
Alley, also battling a sprained ankle in the match, got an escape with 18 seconds left in the third period to go up 7-6 before getting Pandullo on his back for some more points prior to the last whistle.
"I knew it was going to be tough. I had to be focused and prepared for anything knowing how good a wrestler he is," Alley said. "Both of us wrestled real hard both offensively and defensively. I came in hard and caught him on his back."
Howard got a pleasant surprise from junior 130-pounder Brian Frank, who pinned Arundel's Pat Crouse late in the third period to win his first tournament championship.
"I never even made it to the semifinals in any tournaments last year" he said. "To get to the finals as an underdog and pull it out in the last seconds -- I'm real happy."
Franklin sophomore Stan Wagner came away with a 8-6 decision over South Carroll's Dan Patterson to win the 103-pound class. Wagner, who finished fifth in last year's tournament, got a takedown with a minute left in the third period to score the win.
Pub Date: 12/07/97