Maryland swept their four matches at the Terrapin Duals last season but they didn't face the likes of Pitt and Buffalo in previous years. This was a big step up in terms of early season competition.
Full disclosure: I arrived late because I was coming from another job and only caught the deciding match in the Pitt dual. I will give a quick blurb on the rest of the dual but I wasn't there to see it in person.
Maryland vs. Pitt
Pitt beat the Terps by a sizeable margin last season and returned three NCAA qualifiers. The Panthers jumped out to a 4-0 lead when LJ Bentley majored Jhared Simmons at 125. In a crazy match, Tyler Goodwin was up 17-8 going into the third period and held on for a ludicrous 24-23 decision win at 133. Alfred "Baby J" Bannister took on Mikey Racciato at 141 in his Maryland debut. Bannister red-shirted last season and Racciato was the ACC Champ at 149 pounds but dropped to 141 this season. Bannister was up 6-4 after two and got a big takedown in the third to get a 9-5 win against a very tough opponent.
Wade Hodges added a 4-1 decision at 149 and Lou Mascola chipped in with a 6-3 decision at 157 to give the Terps a 12-4 lead. Tyler Manion and Derek Evanovich both dropped decisions but Mark Collabucci won a 3-1 decision in his Maryland debut to make it 15-10 in favor of the Terps. One win in the final two matches would haved sealed the dual win for the Terps.
However, it was not to be. Garrett Wesneski lost by decision in his Maryland debut and the match came down to Dawson Peck at heavyweight. He was also making his Maryland debut. Peck took on Ryan Solomon of Pitt. Whoever won the match would also win the dual for his team. The stage was set when I arrived.
Solomon, a NCAA qualifier last season, had the riding time advantage going into the third period with the match tied 2-2. Solomon got an early escape to take a 3-2 lead and then took Peck down to extend the lead to three. Solomon locked up the riding time point to take a de facto four point lead.
Peck escaped and took Solomon down but was still down a point. He cut Solomon but wasted much of the remaining minute that was left on the clock. Peck only took a pair of half-hearted shot attempts and clearly looked gassed. Solomon ran out the clock to win the match and the dual for Pitt.
Pitt over Maryland, 16-15
Maryland vs. Buffalo
Jhared Simmons took on Kyle Atkins to start the dual. Even though the first period was a scoreless one, there was lots of action from Atkins and Simmons showed off some very nice shot defense. Simmons got hit for stalling and gave up a takedown in the final seconds of the second period. Atkins escaped early in the third to make it 3-1 but Simmons hit a blast double and put Atkins on his back. The two-point near fall gave Simmons the lead. Atkins escaped and calmly took Simmons back down to retake the lead, 6-5. Simmons was close to reversing Atkins but got ridden out.
Tyler Goodwin took Bryan Lantry to school in the first period at 133. After three minutes of action, Goodwin held a 12-2 lead and put him on his back multiple times. This was the first time that I got to see the new four-point near fall implemented. The new rule is that a four second count is worth four points, as opposed to a five second count being worth three points. Goodwin led 13-5 going to the third and had the riding time locked up. Goodwin picked up a takedown as time expired to secure a major decision for the Terps.
Bannister got a first period takedown against Jason Estevez but allowed an escape to take a 2-1 lead into the second frame. Bannister escaped quickly to push the lead back to two. Estevez escaped to start the third and it was now a 3-2 match. Estevez shot in late but Bannister easily held him off to get the decision win. The dual score was 7-3 in favor of the home team.
After a scoreless first period, Colt Cotten rode out Hodges but was dinged for a technical violation when grabbed Hodges' headgear. Cotten escaped to tie up the match and locked up the riding time point. Hodges failed to get in deep enough to threaten Cotton and fell 2-1. Cotten's win at 149 made the dual score 7-6.
In the 157 pound bout, Mascola picked up a takedown but Tim Schaefer escaped and returned the favor with a takedown of his own. Mascola escaped to tie the match at three apiece going into the second period. Mascola escaped early in the period and took Schaefer down. After a Schaefer escape, Mascola rinsed and repeated. Mascola led 10-5 going into the third and final period. Both wrestlers traded takedowns and escapes, and Mascola took the 13-9 decision win to put Maryland ahead by four.
Tyler Rill took Brendan Burnham down in the first but conceded an escape. Burnham gave up another escape in the second period and trailed 3-1. With 19 seconds left, Burnham trailed 3-2. He got in on a shot with about nine seconds left but Rill stuffed his head and stalled out the clock. Buffalo had trimmed the lead to one.
Manion, the team's regular 165 pound starter, wrestled up a weight against the Bulls. Muhammad McBryde took Manion down at the end of the first period and escaped to stake himself to a 3-0 lead. Manion was able to pick up a point but McBryde added the riding time point and claimed the 4-1 decision for Buffalo. The Bulls would not relinquish the lead.
Collabucci, the transfer from West Virginia, got a first period takedown and added 57 seconds of riding time but lost control of the position and gave up an escape in the final seconds. Joe Ariola tied it up with an escape and took Collabucci down to take a 4-2 lead. Ariola was hit for stalling and Collabucci escaped on the restart. Ariola came up with a single late in the third period and Collabucci went for a throw but lost his balance and fell. Ariola quickly covered him for the takedown and time expired seconds later.
At 197, James Benjamin took a 2-1 lead into the second period before a mistake by Wesneski broke the match open. Wesneski was on top in the second period and was riding legs but rode too high. Benjamin got into a tripod position and shook Wesneski off. Wesneski fell off and Benjamin pounced on top to get the two point reversal and a three-point near fall.
Benjamin's major decision made the team score 19-10 and sealed the dual win for Buffalo.
After a scoreless first period, Peck escaped in the second and took Jake Gunning down in the third. He rode him out and got the 3-0 decision win in the final match of the dual.
Buffalo over Maryland, 19-13
Maryland vs. Davidson
This dual was over pretty quickly. After Simmons and Goodwin picked up decisions at 125 and 133, Billy Rappo pinned Billy McClelland. Davidson forfeited at 149 but got on the board at 157 after Tony Polumbo decisioned Patrick Gerish. The dual score was 18-3. After the Terps added another six, Derek Evanovich got a decision to blow it wide open. The score was now 27-3 and it didn't get any better for the Wildcats. Collabucci won by decision at 184, Sean Twigg got a pin at 197 and Peck got a major decision in the final match of the day.
Maryland over Davidson, 40-3
Maryland looked like a more talented team than the one they sent out last season. Some kids got tired late in matches and it showed. Not only did it show, but it also cost them some matches and possibly a dual or two.
Head coach Kerry McCoy put Brendan Burnham at 165 and bumped Manion to 174 for the Buffalo match because Josh Snook, the team's starter at 174 pounds last season, wasn't available. Both wrestlers lost close decisions and Hodges and Burnham both lost by one point. The little things make a difference in the individual matches and that trickles down to the overall dual score. "We've got a long season to iron out the technical things...I can say arguably we've had the best early season preparation that we've had since I've been here as far as the work that the guys have put in.," McCoy said after the match, "What we have to do is get that work to translate into competition...It's a work in progress."
Despite the close final scores, McCoy was disappointed in the effort he saw from his team throughout the day. "Today was a not expected day. I think our guys were a little bit hesitant. Didn't really have a bunch of fight in 'em...We gotta get better...It doesn't feel real good right now but we'll make it better for sure."
Overall, Maryland looked ok. They were good but not good enough. Pitt is a very good wrestling team. Buffalo is decent too. Maryland is clearly going to struggle against the best in the Big Ten but from what I saw today, this team is poised to make a jump past some of the bottom-tier Big Ten teams.
Is this team ready to take on the big boys of the Big Ten? Absolutely not. However, by the time the season is over, barring health issues, there will probably be more than three Terps headed to the NCAA Championships. This team is better than it was last year and they are looking to make a statement this season. How big and how loud will that statement be? Only time will tell. That my friends is the bottom line.