Terrapins take out Eagles 31-12
Leete, Maida and Fitzpatrick have strong performances despite team loss
The American University wrestling team (1-12) fell to the University of Maryland (7-12) Feb. 19 at Bender Arena.
The night got off to a good start for the Eagles. AU freshman Max Leete faced Redshirt sophomore Zach Spence at 125 lbs, and Leete wasted no time taking control of the bout. Leete brought Spence to the mat with a double overhook takedown 16 seconds into the bout to go up 2-0.
Leete quickly racked up four near-fall points to give himself a comfortable 6-0 lead to work with, and the Massachusetts native continued his dominance in the second period.
The freshman went up 7-0 only 10 seconds into the period after escaping from the bottom position and then secured another takedown moments later. While the AU bench called for Leete to be patient in the first period, the freshman did not hesitate to end the bout. Leete cinched in a headlock to get the pin, giving AU a 6-0 lead.
Fellow freshman Jack Maida followed Leete’s victory with a close-fought battle against UMD’s King Sandoval at 133 lbs. Sandoval asserted his regal presence with an early takedown to go up 2-0.
Undeterred, Maida took his time bettering his position and escaped to bring the score to 2-1 going into the second period.
Maida started the second period in the top position and tried to return the Terp to the mat but could not get him to the ground. Sandoval’s determination to maintain his reign secured him an escape 11 seconds into the period.
Down 3-1 in the final period, Maida began the third in the bottom position. Maida worked his way out of Sandoval’s grip and escaped with 1:40 left in the duel turning the bout into a one-point affair. And then Maida struck.
Four seconds after escaping, Maida surprised Sandoval with an arm drag takedown to take a 4-3 lead with just over a 1:30 minute left in the duel. Sandoval had no answer for the usurper’s dominant position, and Maida slowly chipped away at Sandoval’s riding time advantage.
Sandoval tried to escape his exile and retake his throne, but Maida stifled the Terp to win and give AU a 9-0 lead.
Maida, who after his win turned to the Maryland bench and pointed at the AU logo on his chest, said he wasn’t surprised how the early match started, and he played the beginning of the bout “safe.”
“I watched some film on the kid, and I knew the few moves he would go for,” Maida said. “Once I got the leg in, I knew I was gonna be able to ride him out. I was a little nervous when we had to reset, but I got my boots in again and that was it.”
AU head coach Jason Borrelli said that the key to Leete and Maida’s success was their “mental confidence of upperclassmen.”
“They’re gritty, they’re stingy, they’re offensive,” Borrelli said. “They understand the positions they’re good in, and they try to get to them and wrestle from them. That’s really hard for young kids sometimes to do and that’s helped them tremendously.”
Despite the early success, Maryland quickly got back into the duel. The Terps won the next three bouts to go up 18-9. UMD led for the remainder of the meet, but AU senior Tim Fitzpatrick secured AU’s third win of the night against Dominic Solis at 174 lbs despite being cut above the left eyebrow late in the first period.
The Eagles lost their last three bouts of the night, including a technical fall at the hands of #13 ranked 184 lb Kyle Cochran and pin by #26 ranked 197 lb Jaron Smith, but the heavyweight duel was controversial.
AU sophomore Isaac Righter faced Zach Schrader, and the tense, physical bout was christened with an AU fan yelling “Come on Isaac! Show him the Righter way to do it!” Both men shot for takedowns in the opening period, but neither was successful, at one point Righter nearly shoved Schrader out of bounds, stuffing one of the Terp’s takedowns.
The score remained 0-0 after the second period of action; however, Schrader’s forehead was cut with about two minutes to go in the period. The referees finally saw the gash on Schrader’s head with 10 seconds left in the period.
The third period was the most dramatic of the night. Righter started the round on the bottom and escaped to go up 1-0. Schrader tried to complete a takedown, but Righter blocked it and ended up on top. Righter could have cruised to victory in a top position, but the bout was halted when Schrader accused Righter of fish hooking.
The UMD bench threw the challenge block, and the officials determined Righter had and awarded Schrader a point to tie the bout.
The bout was still tied at the end of the third period, and sudden-death overtime was required. Schrader ultimately won the bout with a takedown, but not before his headgear was torn and had to be replaced. Victorious and angry, Schrader celebrated the win by getting in Righter’s face, trash-talking the sophomore and seemingly pushing the Eagle in the face, which got the Terp a post-match unsportsmanlike conduct call.
The post-duel debacle is not Righter’s first bout this season to be marred in controversy nor is it his first bout where the opponent received a post-bout unsportsmanlike conduct call.
Borrelli said after the meet that the UMD coaches targeted Righter, who is a Maryland native because they were familiar with him from his high school days. Borrelli, who couldn’t see the fish hooking penalty when it occurred, also said Righter’s aggressive style and tactics have cost him multiple times this season.
“We’ve talked to him about it, he wants to improve, and he has made a lot of adjustments to his wrestling style and he is very receptive to coaching,” Borrelli said. “The problem is the opposing coaches just start looking for that, and they get in the official’s head. Something that might normally get let go gets called unsportsmanlike because they’re more keen to be watching it.”
The Eagles’ next action will be in the EIWA Championships March 5 in Ithaca, NY.