Kal Miller detached himself from his opponent, stood up, put both arms out to embrace the crowd in his home state and pounded his chest as the whistle sounded and he prepared for the referee to raise his hand.
Miller had just taken home first place at the Tiger Style Invite for the second straight year, beating Missouri’s No. 13 Josh Edmond in a highly-contested bout.
The wrestlers were even through three periods and the first overtime, but Miller was able to hold Edmond down longer during the two 30-second tiebreakers to get a 2-1 decision win in the championship match.
Miller was one of three wrestlers to compete in the finals for the Terps (1-0), who saw 14 wrestlers place in the top eight of their respective weight classes. Maryland wrestling finished fourth out of six schools at the event, with a team score of 114.5.
True freshmen impress at 141
The Terps have a top-25 wrestler in the country with Miller, which means fans won’t get to see a lot of Maryland’s true freshmen behind him at 141 pounds. But on Saturday, all three true freshmen got to compete at 141 alongside Miller, and all three impressed.
Clayton Gabrielson, Dario Lemus and Michael Pizzuto picked up wins, with Pizzuto and Lemus making it to the semifinals. Gabrielson won his first match with a dominant 12-0 decision before losing to Edmond in the quarterfinals — his tournament ended with a loss in the seventh place match.
Pizzuto won back-to-back decisions before running into Edmond in the semifinals, where he lost by technical fall. A medical forfeit from his opponent in the consolation semifinals would send him to the third place match.
Lemus won his first match with a 7-3 decision, sending him to a semifinal matchup with fellow Terp in Miller. Lemus medically forfeited and ended up in the consolation semifinals against Cal Poly’s Abe Hinrichsen. The bout was close through two periods, but Lemus’s pace wore Hinrichsen down by the third, where he picked up multiple takedowns to get a majority decision victory.
In the third place match, Lemus faced Pizzuto in a battle of true freshman Terps. Lemus was on the offensive the entire match, dictating the pace and backing Pizzuto up. He would end up taking a 7-2 decision victory and claiming third place in an impressive showing for each of Maryland’s wrestlers at the weight class.
Seth Nevills has high-scoring day at heavyweight
No. 24 Seth Nevills scored the second most team points for the Terps out of any Maryland wrestler on Saturday.
The graduate student’s path to the finals was the definition of dominance. Nevills only allowed one point against his first two opponents, Cal Poly’s Cole Jackson and Missouri’s Cole Gripka. He found takedowns and near-fall points at will, winning both matches by tech fall in the third period.
In his semifinal bout against Little Rock’s Josiah Hill, Nevills met a little more resistance. He built a 7-0 lead early and, after Hill mounted a comeback, escaped and pinned his opponent on his back for a fall victory.
In the finals, Nevills ran into Missouri’s Zach Elam, the sixth-ranked heavyweight in the nation. Elam was in control throughout the match, containing Nevills’ offense while finding takedowns of his own. Nevills never got anything going, with his only point coming from an escape in the third period in an 8-1 decision loss.
Jaxon Smith finishes second at 197
Redshirt sophomore Jaxon Smith came into the Tiger Style Invite looking to build on his performance from last year, where he finished second after a close decision loss in the finals.
In Smith’s first match of the day, a bout with Nick Nosler in the semifinals, he got an early takedown before locking his hands under Nosler and flipping him onto his back. He adjusted his position on Nosler mid-flip to pin him down with a position resembling an arm triangle, keeping Nosler’s back to the mat and allowing Smith to maneuver and put all of his weight on Nosler.
Nosler couldn’t escape, giving Smith the fall victory in only 32 seconds and sending him to the finals.
There, Smith faced Little Rock’s No. 18 Stephen Little. Little seemed to have answers for everything Smith threw at him, stopping all his takedown attempts and winning the hand fighting battle. Little obtained takedowns in both the first and second periods to build a 6-3 lead and held Smith off in the final period to take a 7-3 decision while handing Smith his first loss of the year.