The saying in wrestling is that takedowns, especially the initial one in a bout, spell the difference between winning and losing a match 90 percent of the time.
Hammond's Russell Tebeleff (130), Lee Seidman (152) and Corey Wright (160) made that theory stand up yesterday as each of them took the takedown route on way to winning an individual title in the 34th annual Francis Scott Key Invitational.
Their victories helped to separate the 13th-ranked Bears (188.5 points) from runner-up and three-time Washington County champ North Hagerstown (172) for the overall title.
Finishing second for Hammond were Ethan Cohen (103), Sean Smith (H) and Jarrell Graham (140). Dan Snyder (135), Chad Graham (145) and Pat Wallace (189) were third, and Steve Sessa (171) finished fourth.
Tebeleff, who has a 15-2 record this season, scored four takedowns to win the best bout of the tournament, 10-9, over North Hagerstown's previously unbeaten Steve Fravel (11-1).
Seidman scored five takedowns in a one-sided, 13-7 victory over Joe Pollack of Walter Johnson. Wright built a 7-1 lead that included two takedowns before finishing Francis Scott Key's Brandon Lyons at 3:17 of their title bout.
Key's John Weishaar (103), Josh Kelleman (135), Mike Mayberry (171) and Dustin Wiles (189) all won titles.
"I've never won anything like this before," said Tebeleff, eyeing the Outstanding Wrestler trophy he earned after a vote by tournament coaches. "Hopefully, there's more to come."
Tebeleff, a county runner-up who was first in his region and third in the state tournament, nearly didn't get the trophy. He fell behind 5-0 early in his bout with Fravel, a county and region champ who had pinned eight of his opponents.
"I never thought I'd go to my back," said Tebeleff, who was taken down and trailed 5-1 entering the second period.
His comeback began in the second period, in which an escape and takedown trimmed the deficit to 5-4. Another takedown made it 6-6 entering the third period, and a third gave him his first lead at 8-7. With the match tied at 8, Tebeleff's fourth takedown offset a late escape by Fravel.
"I underestimated him in the first period, thought I'd take him down a lot easier. He was real strong on his double-leg shot," Tebeleff said.
"From what I'd seen, they [North Hagerstown] get tired in matches. So on our feet, I just kept re-shooting, going after him, chain-wrestling. He only sprawled on the first couple of shots; after that, he wasn't defending them anymore."
Seidman was a surprise finalist, entering the tournament with a 3-11 record. The senior scored a 7-4 victory in the first round over top-seeded Dustin McDonough of North Hagerstown, who entered the tournament with a 9-1 record.
Weischaar scored a 14-6 victory over Cohen. Kelleman had a surprisingly easy time with his 12-2 rout of Walter Johnson's Phil Coroneous, who entered their bout with an 11-1 record.
"I knew he had a good record, but I figured he's a lanky guy, and those guys, my style usually works good with," said Kelleman, a junior.
"I was able to get in deep on shots, especially on the duck-under. Once that happened, I knew I was going to win."
Mayberry (8-1) scored 12 near-fall points before finishing his man in 3:21, and Wiles, who is 6-0, won by injury default over Andrew Kosiba (6-2) of Long Reach. For Edgewood, heavyweight Javance Payne improved to 11-1 with his ninth pin.