Maryland wrestling is used to being behind. For the past 63 conference matches, the Terps have found themselves in a hole they cannot climb out of, an ugly losing skid that’s spanned coach Alex Clemsen’s tenure in College Park. Early on against Purdue, it looked to be more of the same.
Maryland entered intermission down nine in the team score, and the prospects of snapping its lengthy losing skid once again looked bleak for Clemsen’s squad.
But Maryland refused to be put down in the final five bouts of the match. The Terps (9-7, 1-6 Big Ten) won three of the next four, with two come-from-behind wins and a pin. It set up a winner take all bout with eight year veteran Jaron Smith — the lone member remaining on the Maryland team that won its last conference match in 2016 — on his senior day.
The senior scrapped with Hayden Copass, not giving up an inch. Smith pulled it out with a decision win, earning Maryland a 19-18 victory over Purdue for the Terps’ first Big Ten victory since 2016, igniting the Xfinity Pavilion crowd.
“No more about the Big Ten this, Big Ten that, we just beat good teams, that’s what we do.” Clemsen said.
John Martin Best starts the comeback
In a pivotal bout at 165-pounds with the Terps down 15-4, Maryland needed a victory in order to have a shot at a victory. In a thrilling back and forth encounter, John Martin Best got it done.
After a takedown on Best from Cooper Noehre, Best needed something to end the period on the right foot. Instead of going for the escape, Best went for a reversal and succeeded. The big turn evened the bout at 2-2 after the first period.
With the scoring dying down, both wrestlers traded escapes in the ensuing two periods. With the score tied 3-3, the bout would be decided by an extra period.
“You can kind of tell when one guy’s ahead of another guy, and I would say until about late in that third period, the other boy was ahead of us,” Clemsen said. “John kept fighting off and fighting off and fighting off to stay in the match.”
In overtime, Best had complete control. However, he couldn’t seem to score the bout-winning takedown. After multiple takedown attempts stifled by Noehre, the pair went into two tiebreaker rounds.
Best started on top in the first round, and gave up an escape 10 seconds into the 30 second period. Down 4-3 going to the last round, Solis needed to escape in less than 10 seconds to tie the bout again.
Instead, Best went for the win.
With Noehre riding him, Best scored his second reversal of the bout to take a lead. Best would hold on throughout the second tiebreaker round, earning a big decision victory.
“He gritted one out,” Clemsen said. “Without that one, [the win] doesn’t happen.”
Solis earns big victory
The 174-pound bout couldn’t have started worse than it did for Dominic Solis against Brody Baumann.
Solis gave up two takedowns and only managed one escape as Baumann soared to an early 4-1 lead after the first period.
“I’ve been in this situation before,” Solis said. “So it’s just, like, trusting my coaches. I always look over to my corner and they’re like, ‘a lot of match time left. So just figure it out.’”
But after a slow second period, Solis turned it on for the final two minutes.
After a Solis escape to open the period, Baumann was called for his second stall call of the bout. The second call awarded Solis a point, bringing him within one at 4-3 with the seconds dwindling down. Solis had just under 30 seconds to score a bout-winning takedown.
And with 15 seconds remaining, Solis did just that.
Solis flipped Baumann for the bout-sealing takedown, inching the Terps closer toward an improbable come-from-behind victory.
“One thing about me is my gas tank, I can go a long time,” Solis said. “If I’m tired, I know the other guy is twice as tired.”
Moments later, after a Jaxon Smith win by fall that trimmed the Boilermakers’ edge to just two points, Jaron Smith sealed the deal. He splayed his arms to the side as he jogged to his team’s bench with the Terps’ first win since 2016 in hand.
“I’m not technically the closer,” Jaron Smith said. “We couldn’t finish that match without Jaxon, we couldn’t finish that match without Dom.”