Maryland wrestling was in poor shape after the first session of the 2024 NCAA wrestling championships.

All five Terps had lost their first round matchups with multiple bouts that were decided by takedowns in the final seconds, putting all of them in the wrestlebacks with a chance to be eliminated in the opening day of action.

But Maryland responded in the next session, sending four representatives to the second day of action with impressive wins.

Braxton Brown, Ethen Miller, Jaxon Smith and Seth Nevills all won matches, with Nevills picking up two victories to lead the Terps. Maryland’s 8.5 team points were the program’s highest since 2019.

Jaxon Smith goes out early

After his performance at last year’s NCAA championships, where Jaxon Smith was a win away from All-American status, expectations were high for the redshirt sophomore.

Smith stumbled initially. Taking on Minnesota’s Garrett Joles, an opponent he had beaten by major decision at the Big Ten championships, Smith trailed 6-4 after two periods of action due to an early takedown from Joles and reversal off of a Smith takedown in the second.

[Seth Nevills considered quitting wrestling. Maryland helped him revive his career.]

Smith needed to rebound in the final period, but first he had to escape after starting from the bottom. Despite Smith’s best efforts, Joles held him down for the first minute and 15 seconds of the period, leaving him hunting for a takedown with only 45 seconds to work.

Smith tried to find a match-winning takedown, but the Golden Gopher was ready for him and sent him to the wrestlebacks.

Smith’s next match resembled more of his typical bouts throughout the season. Needing to win against Oklahoma’s Luke Surber, Smith found an early takedown for a 3-1 lead. He then showcased his impressive defense over the next two periods to get a 4-2 decision.

No. 5 Jacob Cardenas was Smith’s next opponent. After a scoreless first, Smith quickly found himself in a 4-0 hole. Cardenas escaped from the bottom position immediately, and then took Smith down late in the second, riding the remaining time out to prevent Smith from picking up an escape point.

In the third, Smith was unable to find a takedown and ended his season with a 4-2 loss.

Braxton Brown comes up short against familiar opponents

Taking on Ohio State’s Nic Bouzakis, an opponent who tech falled Brown in the season, Maryland’s 133 pounder demonstrated adjustments early. He took Bouzakis down immediately, picking up a minute of riding time. And when Bouzakis reversed, he escaped for a 4-2 lead after the opening period.

In the third, Brown escaped to capture a 5-4 lead, but Bouzakis had picked up enough riding time by then to have the extra point locked. The momentum of the match swung his way, and he capitalized, taking Brown down with 13 seconds left in the match to win an 8-5 decision and send him to the wrestlebacks.

Brown’s next bout was a mauling. VMI’s Dyson Dunham had no answers for Brown, who picked up takedowns and nearfall points at will on his way to a 15-0 tech fall victory.

[Three Maryland wrestlers secure NCAA tournament bids at Big Ten championships]

The win over Dunham put Brown up against Iowa’s Brody Teske, who beat Brown 4-1 at the Big Ten championships. Brown jumped out to a lead with a quick takedown, but the rest of the match was all Teske, who won 18-4 to end Brown’s season.

Seth Nevills impresses

As the second lowest seeded Terp, Nevills had a tough task ahead of him in the opening round: No. 3 Wyatt Hendrickson, a former All-American from Air Force.

After falling behind 5-0 in the first, Nevills began to threaten. He escaped and threw Hendrickson down to his back, holding him down for three near fall points along with the takedown. Hendrickson escaped, but the big move from Nevills gave him a 7-6 lead after a period.

Nevills escaped in the second from bottom to go up 8-6, but Hendrickson finally found an answer in the third. He escaped, then took Nevills down to recapture the lead and rode out the rest of the period for an 11-8 victory.

Nevills bounced back from the loss in commanding fashion. He handled Ohio’s Jordan Greer, winning 8-0 behind two takedowns and over three minutes of riding time. Nevills then pinned Oregon State’s Boone McDermott in the first with a huge throw to set up a rematch from the regular season and Big Ten championshi[s with Rutgers’ Yaraslau Slavikouski.

In a 1-1 deadlock through three periods, Slavikouski broke through. He found a takedown with just over one minute left in the match. Nevills escaped but couldn’t find a takedown, ending his tournament and season in what was ultimately an impressive NCAA Tournament debut.