After rough season, final duals provided Maryland wrestling with a glimmer of positivity

Jaron Smith celebrates a win over Northwestern's Lucas Davison at the Xfinity Center on Feb. 16, 2020. (Joe Ryan/The Diamondback)

Josh Ugalde walked onto the mat for his final home match on Senior Day, billowed by an 8-3 decision victory on Friday night against George Mason.

Maryland wrestling coach Alex Clemsen gave the redshirt senior the start over the weekend. On Saturday, he had a tough task ahead of him, with Rider’s Dean Sherry. Ugalde was within a takedown or back points of getting the win, but couldn’t find a way, losing a 7-4 decision.

The two embraced on the mat and Ugalde saluted the crowd before heading back to the bench. In a regular-season defined by disappointment, it was one of a number of feel-good moments from Saturday.

“We never focus on wins and losses and I think [Saturday] that really showed with our seniors,” Clemsen said. “If I’m gonna go down, I’m gonna go down swinging. That’s all you can ask.”

[Read more: Maryland wrestling closes regular season with 22-16 loss to Rider]

Six wrestlers recorded wins this weekend, including Jaron Smith who went 2-0. Granted, one of those victories came by forfeit.

Lucas Cordio and Brandon Cray landed pins, a welcome change of fortune for the two after struggling for most of the campaign.

Cordio, who started over 157-pounder Jahi Jones, took advantage of a fatigued Travis Layton midway through the third period of their bout. It was likely his last start of the season.

“After the first period, I saw his body language and his facial expressions,” Cordio said. “He was getting really tired really fast, so Coach was telling me ‘Keep your pace up. Do a little bit more every time.’… I really was just trying to get to a takedown, just keep scoring, but to get the pin was pretty great.”

The regular-season, by contrast, has been a disaster at times — Maryland scuppered to a 2-17 record, extending its streak of going winless in conference play to four seasons.

[Read more: Team point deduction looms large in Maryland wrestling’s 18-16 loss to George Mason]

“It hasn’t gone the best, but I think everybody put their all in,” 165-pounder Kyle Cochran said. “I mean, I don’t think that my season went the way I wanted it to completely. I don’t think anybody was super happy.”

Despite the less-than-stellar record, Clemsen believes the Terps have been on the right track. And there have been bright flashes — most notably on Jan. 26 against Indiana when the Terps were one bout away from securing an elusive Big Ten win.

“It was tough. I’m not used to coming up on the short end of the stick like we did,” Clemsen said. “I know that the kids I inherited are hungry for change and growth. I know we’ve had growth and I know we’ve seen the change and the evolution, but I would’ve liked to have seen that equal a few more wins.”

The margins were slim this weekend, as they have been on several occasions this year — against Indiana, Old Dominion and Kent State.

And the Terps put up strong displays against then-No. 10 Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Navy, keeping the score tight until their top-tier opposition’s talent shone through.

“I think if we would’ve gotten one of those early, a couple more chips would’ve fallen,” Clemsen said. “Dominoes can go either way. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.”

Now, Maryland’s stars turn their attention to the Big Ten championships. With places in the national championship on the line, Clemsen’s squad will be hoping that improved performances over the weekend serve as a foundation to build on during postseason play.

“We’re coming for Big Tens and nationals,” Cochran said. “Stay tuned.”

 

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