No. 28 Jaron Smith entered the mat with the weight of his Maryland teammates on his shoulders in a winner-take-all heavyweight bout.
Up against Jake Slinger, Smith was in complete control throughout the entire bout. An early takedown in the first in addition to another takedown and escape in the second put Smith up 5-0 after two. He coasted through the third period to grab a 6-1 decision win.
Maryland wrestling was off to its best start in eight seasons, and it needed a complete performance from the entire lineup to pull off an upset over No. 17 Pittsburgh, 18-16.
“Those are the exact scenarios that I imagined I’d be able to fulfill when I was given the opportunity to come back,” Smith said.
The Terps notched their first ranked win since Feb. 17, 2013, when Maryland took down No. 20 Wyoming.
No. 26 Braxton Brown started hot for the Terps. He found himself in a hole early after getting reversed and taken down in the first period. But the second period was all Brown’s as he was able to reverse Colton Camacho onto his back, pinning both of his shoulders to the mat to give Maryland an emphatic start in Pennsylvania.
“I said, ‘a pin at 25 would help us,’” coach Alex Clemsen said. “I think our kid on top is special and dangerous.”
Up 6-0 in the match after the 125-pound bout, Jackson Cockrell and No. 33 Kal Miller weren’t able to replicate Brown’s result.
[New weight class has helped Michael North produce for Maryland wrestling]
Cockrell, up against No. 8 Mickey Phillippi in the 133-weight class, could never get going. He could only muster a escape point as Phillippi scored a key takedown in the third period to take a 5-1 decision.
Up against the top ranked wrestler in the 141-pound weight class Cole Matthews, Miller could only score an escape point in the second. Going into the third tied 1-1, Matthews slammed Miller to the mat to get a deciding takedown and take the bout by a 5-1 decision.
With the Panthers tying the team score at 6-6 after three bouts, the Terps needed an answer to keep them in the match. Ethen Miller provided the spark.
The redshirt freshman had control throughout the entire bout at 149 pounds. An early takedown gave him a 2-1 advantage after one, and he capitalized on a single leg takedown in the second period to push his lead to 5-1. He collected two more takedowns to ride out to a 9-4 decision win.
The Terps knew that in order to pull off the upset they needed to battle until the very end, and that’s what Michael North and No. 32 Dominic Solis did.
Trailing 6-1 after the first period, North came out firing in the second. He took No. 11 Dazjon Casto down onto his stomach and got on top of him to collect valuable riding time while Casto was called for stall warning after stall warning.
[Maryland wrestling’s Ethen and Kal Miller competed on home soil at Missouri invite]
Two of those warnings on Casto gave North two points, and the riding time point pushed the 157-pound bout into sudden victory. North quickly notched the clinching takedown to win by a 10-8 decision.
“I could tell he was getting gassed,” North said. “And that’s where we outwork them.”
With the Terps up 12-10 after Lucas Cordio fell by a 12-4 major decision against No. 14 Holden Heller, the next bout at 174-pounds between Solis and Luca Augustine would be crucial as the match neared its end.
Solis scored an escape in the second and took a 1-0 lead into the third period. After letting Augustine escape, a sudden victory period once again went to the Terps in dramatic fashion.
Solis scored a huge takedown in the extra period to take the bout by a 3-1 decision, stretching the Terps’ lead to 15-10.
With the overall score at 15-13 following Chase Mielnik dropping his bout by a 10-4 decision, it was up to Maryland’s closers to finish the upset.
No. 13 Jaxon Smith had a chance to push Pittsburgh to the brink. But No. 9 Nino Bonaccorsi dominated throughout the bout, taking the 197-pound matchup by a 8-2 decision.
But Jaron Smith was able to win the decisive final bout of the matchup, lifting the Terps to their first win against a ranked team in over nine years.
“This young group has competed at a really high level their whole life,” Clemsen said. “I thought it was really that, you know, for a young group to put it all together on one night was great.”