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Good 'til the last drop

Middletown grabs victory from Smithsburg in final bout

Middletown grabs victory from Smithsburg in final bout

January 25, 2008|By CHRIS CARTER / Staff Correspondent

SMITHSBURG - Holding a lead going into the last bout is usually a good place to be for a wrestling team.

But when the margin is slim and the final opponent is a returning Maryland state runner-up, that position tends to be a bit more tenuous.

Smithsburg took a 36-33 lead after 13 bouts Thursday night before Middletown junior Brandon Johnson - ranked third in the latest state rankings at 171 pounds - pinned Jeb Slick to give the Knights a 39-36 win.

"That was a good situation for us," said Middletown coach Jim Schartner. "To have the match to come down to Brandon Johnson to decide it, that's a good scenario."

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Slick did all he could to try to avoid the pin - at the very least suffer only a defeat by decision to force a 36-36 tie - but Johnson overpowered him and scored the fall in 1:36.

"You just tell him to go out and do the best he possibly can," said Smithsburg coach Joe Dietrich. "Try to stay off your back, like (Middletown) did in a lot of their matches."

That's just what Knights 135-pounder Ronnie Long did after suffering an early takedown at the hands of James Reilley. Down 2-0, Long seemed content to let Reilley ride out the lead, though the Leopards senior tried several times to turn Long and score back points.

"He wouldn't move," Reilley said after leaving the mat. "I thought we would need six (points)."

As it turned out, he was right. The teams split the 14 bouts evenly with the difference coming in pinfalls - Middletown (15-7) scored five of the nine pins in the match. Another swing in the Knights' favor came in the 140-pound bout between Tony Frano and Smithsburg's Nieko Akers. Akers scored a second-period escape and held a 1-0 edge, but Frano scored the winning takedown with 20 seconds left for a 2-1 win.

"That kid did what he had to do," Dietrich said. "When you lose by three points, any of the matches can make a difference."

Frano's win broke a tie and put Middletown ahead 27-24 with four bouts remaining - the lead changed after each of the remaining bouts. Brandon Knight dominated Josh Neuhusan at 145 before scoring a pin in 3:24 and Alex Akers flipped Kevin Lewis for a first-period pin at 160 to give the Leopards (5-3) a 36-33 lead.

Tyler Scott (189) and Dave Ridenour (215) opened with first-period pins and, after a loss at heavyweight, Monica Hovermale took a forfeit at 103 to give the Leopards an 18-6 lead.

Smithsburg's Nick Dilandro scored a 5-0 decision over Nathan Tice at 119, a win which was sandwiched by first-period pins by Middletown's standout Strube brothers. Chad Strube, a state honorable mention at 112, posted the fastest fall of the evening against Logan Merrbaugh in 38 seconds, while Tyler Strube, ranked fourth at 125, moved up a class and pinned Travis Leeney in 1:34 at 130.

By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

Smithsburg's Alex Akers, top, controls Middletown's Kevin Lewis in the 160-pound bout Thursday night. Akers pinned Lewis in the first period to give the Leopards a 36-33 lead going into the final bout of the match.

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