Maryland wrestling’s performance at this year’s Tiger Style Invite was eerily similar to last year’s.
Kal Miller finished first in his weight class, Jaxon Smith placed second and one other Terp finished in the top two of their weight class. That was Michael North last season. This year, it was Seth Nevills.
Now, as Maryland returns to College Park to take on No. 15 Pitt Monday, the Terps will look to pull off an upset similar to their win over the ranked Panthers last season.
The Terps appear to be better prepared for matchups like this one compared to previous years. Maryland has received more bonus points from its starters in wins. That added depth, which wasn’t there in seasons past, will be critical in duals with the tougher matchups on the Terps’ schedule.
“I think overall, just the level of our program’s much higher than it’s ever been,” coach Alex Clemsen said in October. “That’s a testament to how hard the kids work and how fast this young group has acclimated.”
Kal and Ethen Miller, Smith, Braxton Brown and King Sandoval have all shown an ability to pick up extra points against wrestlers in their weight classes, but some of the Terps’ unheralded wrestlers showed Saturday that they’re also capable of contributing bonus points for Maryland.
At 174 pounds, Dominic Solis could add to that depth as he looks to bounce back from a down 2022 season. Solis, who was an NCAA qualifier two seasons ago, finished with an 11-14 record last year. He’s wrestled more offensively this year to get back to that — his two major decision wins at the Tiger Style Invite are one shy of the total number of major decision wins he had all of last year.
Heavyweight Jaron Smith finished 14-13 in duals last season but rarely picked up bonus points. Of his 27 bouts, he only added them in five matches.
Nevills, Smith’s replacement this season, has shown an ability to come up with bonus points by wearing on opponents throughout matches, which has led to takedowns and nearfall points. On Saturday, Nevills picked up two wins by technical fall — as many as Smith had all of last year.
Chase Mielnik is looking to help the Terps produce at 184 — a position they struggled at last season. He finished last season with a 4-16 record, but has displayed improvement this year with a 2-3 record through five matches. Mielnik’s win by fall at the Tiger Style Invite gave him the same number of fall victories through five matches as he had through 20 last season.
“Chase Mielnik’s put a lot of work in this summer and this fall, and we’re seeing a better version of him on a consistent basis,” Clemsen said in October. “Hats off to Chase, [who] looked like a kid that we’ve seen in our room quite a bit lately.”
Redshirt sophomore John Martin Best, Maryland’s typical starter at 165, was injured at the Tiger Style Invite while defending a takedown against Little Rock’s Bilal Bailey. Best held his knee while down on the mat for an extended period of time, and he was eventually helped off.
Gaven Bell, a fellow redshirt sophomore, could be the one to replace Best if he misses extended time. Bell showed an ability to pick up bonus points Saturday, with his two wins coming by majority decision and technical fall and a fourth place finish in his weight class.