FAIRFAX, Va. — When 125-pounder Brandon Cray opened up a commanding 10-0 lead in the first period against George Mason’s Spencer Reed, it looked like the Maryland wrestling team had finally found its spark.
Cray continued his dominant performance into the second, nearly getting a pin, but ultimately settling for the technical fall.
Two weeks ago, Cray won the first bout of the Terps’ dual with Wisconsin, but the Badgers dominated the rest of the afternoon to cruise to a big win.
On Sunday, the Terps continued Cray’s momentum and finally got over the hump for their first win of the season, blowing out the Patriots, 26-12.
“We took advantage of our opportunity,” head coach Kerry McCoy said. “This is the first team that we’ve wrestled in a long time that isn’t nationally ranked or had a bunch of nationally ranked guys. It was good to be on the other side of it.”
133-pounder Orion Anderson picked up right where Cray left off and took down his opponent, Talha Farooq, at will. Like Cray, Anderson nearly scored a pinfall victory but cruised to a technical fall victory of his own.
With the first two matches ending with a combined score of 37- 6, Maryland (1-11, 0-8 Big Ten) opened up its largest team score lead of the season at 10-0 and never looked back.
“Brandon and Orion set us off right,” McCoy said. “Going out there and scoring a ton of points … it was good to see that happen.”
The battle at 149-pounds included two 2018 NCAA qualifiers, and Maryland’s Alfred Bannister and George Mason’s Tejon Anthony fought a close match. With the score tied at three late in the final period, Anthony’s late takedown attempt was foiled by Bannister and the pair headed to overtime.
Then, with just seconds remaining in overtime, Bannister finally found the mark and took down Anthony to secure a 5-3 victory.
Through the first four matches on the afternoon, not a single Terp had been taken down.
That changed in the 157-pound bout as George Mason’s Kolby Ho brought down Maryland’s Ryan Diehl midway through the first period. Diehl recovered but still trailed entering the third period.
After suffering a shoulder injury late, Diehl couldn’t find his offense and his 6-3 loss marked the first defeat on the afternoon for the team. McCoy said he isn’t concerned about Diehl’s 0-3 start to the season, but acknowledges the 2018 NCAA tournament qualifier needs to change his style because he is competing at a higher weight.
“He’s upset,” McCoy said. “He’s a very skilled wrestler but for so long he’s been able to rely on his sneaky moves but he’s got to throw that away and focus on his skills.”
After his team carried a 17-3 lead into intermission, Maryland’s 165-pounder Philip Spadafora was shut out by Colton Diblasi, 9-0, and Maryland’s momentum had disappeared.
174-pounder Josh Ugalde got it back, following up his win against No. 4 Michigan with a 4-2 triumph over George Mason’s Cornelius Schuster, and 184-pounder Kyle Jasenski won his bout, 6-4.
At 197 pounds, Niko Cappello couldn’t get his first dual win of the season, but even after his technical fall loss, the Terps had secured their first dual victory of the season, owning a 23-11 lead entering the final match of the afternoon, where No. 9-ranked heavyweight Youssif Hemida took on George Mason’s No. 15 Matt Voss.
Voss was Hemida’s fifth consecutive ranked opponent. After dropping four matches in a row to top-10 opponents, Hemida got back on track with a win over Voss. Hemida stuffed two takedown attempts in a fast-paced first period, and it was scoreless entering the second.
A Voss escape in the third period tied the score at 1-1, putting Hemida in need of the late takedown that eluded him against the likes of No. 1 Gable Steveson and No. 7 Sam Stoll.
Voss pulled the upset during a mad scramble with about 20 seconds left, but Hemida refused to give it up and forced overtime. Once in the extra period, Hemida finally found his offense, took Voss down and snapped his four-match losing streak.
Hemida is glad that his losing streak is over and is ready to once again prove why he is an All-American.
“I’ve been really frustrated and down on myself,” Hemida said. “Not getting a takedown in the last four matches. …. To win by takedown feels pretty good.”
Having narrowly avoided a winless dual season, Maryland can now breathe a sigh of relief and focus on their goals of postseason success.
“We still have room for improvement,” McCoy said. “That’s the biggest thing [we] can take away going into the postseason.”