Maryland wrestling’s Josh Ugalde laid on his back with his hands on his face after Minnesota’s Chris Pfarr completed his first pin of the season.
The Terps had a chance at an upset victory to earn their first Big Ten win of the season. 141-pound Ryan Diehl upset No. 14 Tommy Thorn and 149-pound Alfred Bannister followed with a major decision win. But with the Terps trailing by seven, 26-19, prior to heavyweight Youssif Hemida’s bout with Rylee Streifel, the meet was already decided.
Maryland (4-11, 0-9 Big Ten) couldn’t make up its deficit to the No. 19 Golden Gophers (7-6, 4-4), losing 26-22, despite earning four wins and a forfeit. It sealed the Terps’ fate for a second-consecutive winless Big Ten campaign in a conference where the Terps have picked up one dual meet win in 36 attempts.
“We didn’t expect to give up a pin there,” coach Kerry McCoy said of Ugalde’s bout. “When you go into a situation and you look at the score and say, ‘You know, I know I have to go out there and I have to win to give the team a chance,’ … it’s those situations that you’ve got to be able to rise to the occasion and I think maybe Josh let the pressure situation get to him a little bit.”
McCoy said earlier in the week he felt his upper-weight wrestlers matched well with Minnesota. Efforts from lighter weight wrestlers closed the gap in class, but the Terps couldn’t go ahead despite wins from Hemida and 197-pounder David-Brian Whisler in the final two bouts.
While Maryland assistant coaches rushed from the bench to congratulate Diehl on his upset pin over Thorn, McCoy remained seated. Diehl had been in trouble, chest to the ground with Thorn on his back, yet quickly reversed and pinned Thorn for Maryland’s first victory Sunday against Minnesota.
McCoy didn’t show much elation as his squad, which has been a Big Ten bottom-feeder since joining the powerhouse conference in 2014, leveled the score 10-10 via wins from Diehl and Bannister. But a loss from 157-pound Kyle Cochran put Maryland behind 16-10 halfway through the meet.
“Don’t let your highs get too high and [don’t] let your lows get too low,” McCoy said. “You get caught up in the one match and you know we’ve got six, seven more matches to go. But I was really excited for [Diehl] — he’s been struggling the last couple weeks and he’s starting to get in the right direction.”
To open the dual meet, 125-pounder Brandon Cray earned an early two-point takedown, battling aggressive No. 6-ranked Ethan Lizak, Minnesota’s top-ranked wrestler. But after a timeout, Lizak dominated Cray, earning a technical fall and an 18-2 victory early in the third round.
Minnesota’s No. 12-ranked 133-pounder Mitch McKee defeated Jhared Simmons, 15-0, before Diehl’s first-period fall brought energy to Xfinity Pavilion.
Bannister and Diehl’s wins were critical to Maryland’s attempt to earn its lone conference victory, but Maryland still faced an uphill climb. Losses by Brendan Burnham and Ugalde put Maryland down 26-10 and, Diehl said, left the squad trying to hype up its remaining wrestlers.
“We tell [Ugalde] it’s still our team, the next guy after them will get points,” Diehl said. “It’s in the past now, nothing you can do about it. … We’ve just got to get our confidence back up, get that momentum riding, and those next guys come in.”
Following Ugalde’s surprise defeat, Maryland closed the match with a forfeit win and Brian-Whisler and Hemida’s decision wins. The points accumulated weren’t enough to avoid a second consecutive close loss, following their 25-18 loss to then-No. 15 Illinois on Jan. 28.
“It’s rough, because we’re splitting those matches but we’re still losing,” Bannister said. “It’s kind of hard to stomach that.”