Glenelg wrestling utilizes team-first mindset in 40-28 win over Oakland Mills

Glenelg wrestling is a young group compared to season’s past.

The youthful roster has grinded through a tough schedule featuring challenging public and private school opponents. Through that journey, coach Matt Bichner encouraged his wrestlers to remain confident in their hard work and preparation. Tough matches mean growth.

One area in which that growth can be seen is bonus points, an area the Gladiators focus on during their two-hour practices. It paid off Thursday as the Gladiators beat Oakland Mills, 40-28, in a dual featuring two of Howard County’s top teams.

“We always say, ‘If you get a guy on [his] back you’ve got to finish it because every point matters,'” Bichner said. “On the other hand, if you’re close to getting pinned, you’ve got to fight harder and do it for your teammates. It’s really kind of clicked the last week or so. I think maybe that snow break helped us just kind of reset. They’ve been working hard and I’m just excited to see what we can do these next few weeks as we get into duals and the end of the year.”

Oakland Mills took an early advantage with pins by Michael Cowen (113) and Matthew Cowen (120). However, Glenelg quickly struck back. Sophomore Jonathan Sexton (126) battled the Scorpions’ Orlando Castelan-Cortez for two periods, building momentum late in the second before ultimately earning the pin in the third.

“In the third period it comes down to conditioning,” Sexton said. “I know when a guy breaks. I see that, I push the pace and I get it done.”

Sexton’s victory sparked the Gladiators to four straight bout victories in a row. Dwane Morgan Jr. (132) and Isaac Choi (138) each won by pin, while Collin Szczepanski (144) was victorious by major decision, pushing the Gladiators to a 28-12 lead.

The teams exchanged the ensuing two matches, which brought up Glenelg junior captain Gavin Harder (165). Harder is a fairly new wrestler but has emerged as a key leader for the Gladiators in his third season. His bout with the Scorpions’ Braydon Fisher was tightly contested. But Harder’s takedown in the waning seconds of the second period built some separation.

However, he wasn’t satisfied, mindful of the Gladiators’ focus on bonus points. In the third, Harder finished off Glenelg’s fourth and final pin of the night. Calm during the match, Harder emphatically lifted his arm in excitement after a win that pushed the Gladiators lead to 37-15.

“That third-period pin it’s always just a great feeling,” Harder said. “I go out there the first two periods and give it all that I have. Then that third period, I’m just thinking, ‘It’s now or never. Got to leave it all out there and get done what I can to give my team the best shot to win this.’ Getting those extra points in the end of a tight dual is always helpful. One or two points can be the difference between a win or a loss. Getting those points is important when you can.”

Bichner added: “Gavin is the model of what we’re trying to preach here. He’s a third-year wrestler who works extremely hard and keeps battling, doesn’t give up. In matches that are close, I always feel confident that he’s going to come on top because he doesn’t quit and wears kids down. That was a good win for Gavin.”

Looking to comeback, Oakland Mills turned to the strength of its lineup. Joe Clark (175), Lavante Kama (190) and Brighton Barker (215) each delivered wins that brought the Scorpions back within 37-28.

Yet, that stretch wasn’t enough. Glenelg closed out the dual victory with Peter Danko’s 4-2 decision in the heavyweight bout, a spot he wrestled up to compete in.