Maryland wrestling advances past Fresno State in Virginia Duals, 22-18

197-pounder Jaron Smith works against Navy's Jacob Koser, eventually winning in a 13-9 decision on Dec. 6, 2019. (Julia Nikhinson/The Diamondback)

For the first time since March 2018, Maryland wrestling had three ranked wrestlers in its starting lineup, with Philip Spadafora, Jahi Jones and Jaron Smith were each ranked by FloWrestling this week.

Jones and Smith were new editions, having gone 2-0 in their last two duals, so the Terps had an additional target on their backs as the Virginia Duals crept closer.

That target didn’t phase the Terps — one of four unseeded teams in the eight-team tournament — coming out strong against No. 3 seed Fresno State to defeat the Bulldogs, 22-18.

[Read more: Maryland wrestling showed signs of progress in loss to No. 10 Pittsburgh]

Unlike previous duals, Maryland had success with its lightweights, starting out with 125-pounder Brandon Cray.

The redshirt junior was winless in duals coming into Friday, but his fortunes changed as he won a massive 9-0 major decision over Destin Summers to get the Terps out to a 4-0 lead.

Then, 133-pounder King Sandoval followed and it took him little to no time to make his mark in the dual. After a loss by the narrowest of margins against Pitt, nearly landing a pin within the first minute or so of the first period, Sandoval got his pin Friday, just 2:01 into his bout against Gary Joint, putting Maryland up big early.

The major decision and pin were important as Fresno State would win the next two bouts, a 7-1 decision for DJ Lloren over Hunter Baxter in the 141-pound class and a 6-1 decision for Greg Gaxiola over Michael Doetsch in the battle between the 149-pounders.

[Read more: No. 10 Pittsburgh pulls out dual win over Maryland wrestling, 27-10]

Despite having split the first four bouts, Maryland led 10-6. And that advantage would grow as the dual continued. The Terps rattled off two more wins in a row, starting with Jones, who had another close bout.

Jones led just 3-1 after the second period of his 157-pound matchup with Beau Colombini, and despite Colombini closing the gap to 3-2, Jones stayed tough and won the narrow 3-2 decision.

165-pounder Kyle Cochran followed him, and like Jones, he pulled out a close bout with Ricky Padilla, having led just 4-2 after two periods. However, he stretched out his edge, eventually taking it in a 9-4 decision to put the Terps up 16-6 in the match.

Despite the hefty advantage midway through the dual, the Bulldogs came back with two straight wins, starting with Brandon Martino’s 7-5 upset of No. 20 Philip Spadafora in the 174-pound class. Spadafora led 4-3 going into the third period, but Martino out-scored him 4-1 in the final frame to take it.

Fresno State cut the deficit to 16-12 after 184-pounder Hunter Cruz pulled out a 4-1 decision over Kyle Jasenski. While the Bulldogs cut into Maryland’s lead, they only took their bouts in decisions, putting up three points on the board at a time.

That meant regardless of the heavyweight bout, Maryland’s Jaron Smith needed just a decision to secure the victory for the Terps in the first meet of the Virginia Duals tournament.

Smith struggled to separate early against 197-pounder Ryan Reyes, but what was expected to be close turned out to end in the worst of ways as Reyes was forced to default through injury in the second period, giving Smith the win and securing Maryland a dual victory, going up 22-12.

Heavyweight Parker Robinson ended the dual for the Terps, falling behind 4-1 early to Josh Hokit, eventually getting pinned with just over 90 seconds left in their bout. The matchup was already done, though, and Maryland advanced in the Virginia Duals, slated to meet No. 2-seed Rider on Saturday.

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