ANNAPOLIS — Trailing 15-4 against Navy, the momentum suddenly began to shift in Maryland wrestling’s favor.
The Terps rattled off three straight victories, seemingly pulling them within two points with one final bout able to offer a match-winner. But an unsportsmanlike conduct call against the Maryland bench, specifically coach Alex Clemsen, took away a point from the Terps, forcing heavyweight Parker Robinson into needing a major decision to complete the comeback.
John Birchmeier pinned the redshirt freshman, though, ending a comeback bid and sealing Maryland’s 21-12 defeat against Navy on Friday.
“We were a little more cognizant of Jaron [Smith] with his injury history, trying to protect him,” Clemsen said of the call. “I felt like there were a few decisions where he wasn’t as protected as he should’ve been. I’d been in [the referee’s] ear quite a bit and set the tone and then when the [assistant coaches] stepped over the line, he was ready to hit us. We’ll talk about it as a staff and we’ll learn from it.”
It was a tough start to the match for Maryland (1-2), losing four of its first five bouts. But Clemsen’s squad avoided any major decisions to keep the dual from getting out of hand.
Terps 125-pounder Brandon Cray trailed 1-0 against Logan Treaster, but the Midshipmen opener shut out the redshirt junior, taking the first bout in a 5-0 decision. Following Cray, 133-pounder King Sandoval fell behind 3-2 against Casey Cobb, and once again, Navy established late control with a 5-2 win.
Maryland still searched for a win as 141-pounder Hunter Baxter took the mat, but a Cody Trybus takedown in the first period put Baxter in a hole he couldn’t get out of. Trybus desperately tried to secure a major decision in the third period, yet came up just short, winning 8-1.
Through three bouts, Maryland fell into a 9-0 match hole. Michael Doetsch at the 149-pound class turned this around for the Terps, however. The redshirt junior landed a takedown on Morgan Fuenffinger early in the first period to give Maryland some life. He kept pressure on the Navy sophomore, recording nearly four minutes and 30 seconds of riding time as he cruised to a 9-1 major decision.
“Coach wanted me to attack, have an aggressive mindset. Try to get some energy going to energize the team a little,” Doetsch said. “When I was able to get that takedown, I felt really comfortable on top. I was able to sink in the leg and just ride.”
After Doetsch’s victory, the Terps dropped two straight bouts, including one against a top-10 opponent.
No. 9 Tanner Skidgel faced off with 165-pounder Kyle Cochran, and Cochran held his own early, keeping the score 0-0 after the first period. Skidgel would make inroads, though, going up 4-0 after the second period on his way to a 6-2 decision.
Maryland’s win streak started with 174-pounder No. 20 Philip Spadafora, who was held scoreless through the first period but finished strong with a 6-1 decision over Dean Caravela. Kyle Jasenski continued the run in the 184-pound class, defeating Hunter Johns in a 7-4 decision.
“I think it just gave the team a boost of energy and it made the team realize that we can still be in this match, we can still win this match,” Spadafora said. “It just got the ball rolling for us.”
The Terps earned their final win of the dual in the 197-pound class, when Jaron Smith looked to have a pin against Jacob Koser in the first period of their bout. Koser escaped, but Smith still took a commanding 8-1 lead with four back points added on.
Koser kept chipping away with takedowns and the lead shrunk to 12-8 after the second. Smith wouldn’t allow it to get any closer, however, winning with a 13-9 decision.
The winning streak gave Maryland an opportunity late, but Robinson’s pin in the second period of the heavyweight bout dashed those chances. Maryland’s schedule doesn’t get easier, as the Terps travel to face Rutgers on Saturday night, their first Big Ten matchup.
“We gotta bring better fight and energy from the start,” Clemsen said. “I’m pumped that we get to wrestle tomorrow. I’m excited for our kids to get an opportunity to get the taste right out of their mouths and go to work and fix some things.”