Hammond junior Vince Taweel was his wrestling team in microcosm last night against visiting Atholton.
Like the defending Class 2A-1A state dual meet champion Bears, whose lineup is considered weaker than last year's, Taweel, a slender, two-time defending state titlist, seemed vulnerable -- even favoring a sore ankle during his match with muscular senior Teddy Johnson.
But when the time came to pounce, experience took over: Taweel uncoiled from Johnson's grip on the ailing foot, wrapped him in a cradle pinning hold and finished Johnson off at 3:16 of their 140-pound bout.
Taweel's effort sparked victories in four of the last five matches by third-ranked Hammond in a season-opening 41-25 Howard County victory that improved the Bears' winning streak to 27 consecutive matches.
Devon Gillett (112), Zach Halper (130), Steve Sessa (189) and Jostin Harden (215) also had pins for Hammond, with major decisions from Jose Maldonado (145) and Jay Miller (160), and a decision by Adam Blake (171).
No. 15 Atholton (0-1) got pins from junior Ryan Conroy (152) and senior Mike Krason (275), a major decision from Rob Eloshway (103), and decisions from Kyle Werner (119), Jeff Zillmer (125) and Chuck Miller (135).
Miller's match had the Raiders within 24-19 and needing a pin to take a one-point lead. But that's when Taweel took the mat against Johnson, whose workout partner, Conroy, was the last county wrestler to defeat Taweel when they were freshmen.
"Teddy and I work on things all the time, and I thought we had gotten to the point where it would be closer than it was," said Conroy, a fourth-place finisher at last year's state tournament who is 1-1 against Taweel. "I definitely felt like it was a winnable match, and it was close until Vince got him."
Taweel had trouble, early, but he scored a takedown for 2-0 lead heading into the second period, where he finished off Johnson.
"I was in an [awkward] position, and I didn't want to come out too quickly and twist the ankle," Taweel said. "But I waited for him to slip up, and when he did, I was able to capitalize."
"We're not trying to be last year's team, we're trying to make our own reputation," said Sessa, who began the night with a pin in 28 seconds. "But if we keep busting our butts, we'll end up doing the same thing."
No. 1 Mount St. Joseph 59, Pallotti 45 -- Kevin Flecker had 17 points and three steals, and Dino Gregory added nine points and eight rebounds to help the host Gaels stay unbeaten (3-0).
No. 3 St. Frances 74, Aberdeen 44 -- Rashawn Alexander scored 24 points to lead the Panthers (1-0) past the visiting Eagles (0-1). Dishawn Bradshaw added 18 points for St. Frances.
Paul VI (Va.) 74, No. 4 McDonogh 52 -- DaJuan Summers had nine assists and scored a team-high 21 points and Brandon Herbert also chipped in 16 for the visiting Eagles as they fall to 1-2.
No. 5 Walbrook 64, Mervo 37 -- Rodney Spurill scored a game-high 16 points and had 14 rebounds to lead the visiting Warriors (1-0) past the Mustangs (0-1). Walbrook's Kevin Thompson had 12 points and 11 rebounds.
No. 6 Southwestern 88, Lewis 50 -- Jamaal Barney just missed a triple double as he registered 34 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists to lead the Sabers (1-0) past the host Falcons (0-1). Travis Deveraux had 14 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks for Southwestern.
No. 9 Annapolis 76, Overlea 63 -- Kevin Coats scored all 10 of his points in the fourth quarter as the Panthers (1-0) pulled away from the visiting Falcons (0-1).
No. 15 Lake Clifton 62, Southside 57 -- Terrence Jones scored 24 for the visiting Lakers (1-0).
Joppatowne 65, Harford Tech 54 -- Jeff Pettiway scored 20 of his 31 points in the second half to rally the host Mariners (1-0).
No. 7 Western 65, Poly 44 -- Zhondria Benn had 18 points and 12 rebounds, and freshman Akeema Richards added 12 points and nine rebounds to lead the Doves (1-0) past the host Engineers (0-1).
No. 15 Roland Park 64, St. John's-PH 48 -- Amanda Hessinger and Brittany Kalkstein combined for 35 points to lead the host Reds (3-0) past the visiting Vikings (0-3).