Trailing the No. 4 Winters Mill Falcons by 11 team-points with four bouts to go, the No. 8 South Carroll Cavaliers were still very much in their Thursday night Carroll County wrestling battle.

But the Winters Mill heavyweights were too much, posting three first-period falls in succession from 195 through 285 en route to a 46-24 wrestling win.

“I am really tickled.  This is a huge rivalry for us,” Winters Mill coach John Lowe explained.  “They have nipped us twice in the county regular-season the past two years, and we really wanted to get this one back and get it don’t.

“[South Carroll coach] Bryan [Hamper] wrestled for me years ago at McDaniel College, so we have been friendly butting heads, but we are both very competitive.”

In Winters Mill’s sprint to the finish, Ryan Hightower (195 pounds), Brandon Burndley (220) and Jake Utz (285) all worked first period falls to extend a 23-18 lead to 41-18, seeing 106-pounder Flavio Valdez work a three-minute tech fall, 15-0, for the team’s 46th point.

“We knew we needed some big pins at the end,” Utz said of the upper-weights.  “Our big guys got it done, which is what we needed if we wanted to hold the regions at home.”

With a tight race in the Class 1A/2A West, Winters Mill is staring down fellow undefeated Middletown, and both the coach and team knew Thursday’s win would have to come with some separation in order to ensure the post-season duals were kept in the Falcons’ gym.

“The guys not only wanted to get this win, but we are trying really hard to get home-mat advantage in the post season,” Lowe said.  “Middletown is undefeated, and if we were both to finish it out, we would have to win be a certain amount to get that.  The goal was 18 points tonight, and I know it sounds cocky, but you have to set goals.”

The Falcons surpassed their goal of an 18-point win, topping the Cavaliers by 22 points, seeing helpful pins from Taylor Logue (130) and Wes Cook (138), a tech fall by 145-pound Cody Sharkey, and decisions by Gunner and Chase Cullison at 132 and 160, respectively.

Both Cullisons were able to knock-off South Carroll studs in key wins to keep separation from the Cavaliers: Gunner in a 5-4 comeback over Collin Plumley, and Chase in a 4-1 decision over Jake Pooton.

In Gunner’s win, the lengthy wrestler trailed his opponent by two points with less than 30 seconds to wrestle, but locked a cradle with 17 seconds remaining to earn three near-fall points and the win.  Chase, working a second period Peterson for a 2-0 reversal, earned a takedown in the neutrally started third period, chosen by Pooton, to secure his 4-1 win.

cullison“I just knew I needed to do something; I was down by two,” Gunner said, replaying the final seconds of his match.  “I had to do something so win, so I went for a cradle, got it, locked it up and it worked.”

South Carroll ended the night with five individual wins, including falls by Sean Connelly (126), Alec Stavish (152) and Michael Mullen (113), adding back-to-back decisions by Willie Reiter and Steven Schmitz at 170 and 182, respectively.

Reiter’s decision came over Winters Mill’s well known Marshal Chang, where a three-point tilt at the second period buzzer led to a 6-0 score with 30 seconds left, seeing Chang earn three more points to the 6-3 final.

“Whenever you go into a dual-meet matchup like this one, where you know it is going to be close, you need to get bonus points out of your best wrestlers,” Hamper said.  “They did a great job a negating us and keeping us to regular decisions.  When their best guys got bonus and we didn’t, that’s where you end up minus 20 points at the end.

“We showed that we are right there with the best of them.  We are going to see these guys three more times; we are going to see them at counties, regions and states, so knowing mentally where we are at, I think we are in a good spot.  We just have to peak at the right time.”

In the night’s heavyweight battle, South Carroll’s Brandon Ludwig was taken out by medical personnel after landing on his left elbow in the match’s opening takedown.

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No. 4 Winters Mills Falcons 46, No. 8 South Carroll Cavaliers 24