Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008

Cavaliers take care of Knights early

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bill ryan⁄the gazette
South Carroll’s Tyler Mullen watches the clock during the final moments of his match against Middletown’s Brandon Johnson.
It was a matter of perspective as to if the 171-pound match in the South Carroll wrestling team’s 54-19 win over visiting Middletown mattered on Monday.

Looking just at the scoreboard, the Cavaliers already had seven pins before the penultimate match of the night, long since locking away the win.

But when the Knights’ Brandon Johnson lined up against Tyler Mullen, it was a title bout worth the price of admission, while the team festivities were merely an undercard to two top wrestlers seeing each other for the first time ever.

Johnson is a quick, talented wrestler, while Mullen had an edge in brute strength. Still, it was Johnson that had Mullen up in the air in the first minute, nearly finishing a takedown before going out of bounds.

It was after a neutral reset that Mullen went on full offense, dropping Johnson with a takedown and scoring a 3-point near fall with a cradle.

‘‘I thought I was going to pin him there, to be honest. It would be great to get a pin against this kid, it would have sent a message,” Mullen said. ‘‘But he came back. I wasn’t really sure how it was going to affect him. Some wrestlers just mentally break after you do something like that. He kept pushing, and he started to break me at the end there.”

Even when Mullen was inches away from a pin, Johnson was almost able to score a reversal. Mullen was saved by the bell, and spent the next four minutes protecting his lead at all costs.

‘‘It’s hard whenever you don’t have guys pushing you, it’s hard when you do get one that actually does go the full three periods,” Mullen said.

Mullen took a 5-3 win, giving up points for a takedown and a stalling call. It was his 130th career win, tying the record at South Carroll, set by Dan Patterson in 2001.

‘‘I’d known about it for about a week,” Mullen said. ‘‘Someone told me about it last week. It wasn’t something that I knew about coming into the year. It wasn’t one of my goals.”

Instead, one of Mullen’s goals is a state championship. He has two second-place finishes in the big tournament. Both he and Johnson are set to compete at 171 pounds this year.

Middletown head coach Jim Schartner noted that Johnson, a junior, is certified to wrestle at 160 this year, but the Knights fully intended to go right at Mullen.

‘‘He’s certified to wrestle at 162, but at this point we think his healthiest weight class is at 171,” Schartner said. ‘‘It would have happened on our end. Brandon was going out at ’71. We would not have shifted away.”

It was Johnson’s first loss of the season. Mullen has lost two matches.

The Knights (15-8) grabbed a share of the Monocacy Valley Athletic League’s Piedmont Conference title with wins over Walkersville and Smithsburg.

‘‘We’re in a stretch right now where we’re wrestling some of the best competition on our schedule,” Schartner said. ‘‘We’re seeing how we’re doing against some of the best teams in the area and the state, and now we can see what we need to work on.”

After slipping behind 18-0, the Knights battled back with a pin from Chad Strube at 112, a 5-1 decision from Tyler Strube at 125, and a 14-1 major decision from Ronnie Long at 130.

But the Cavaliers were able to rack up too many pins.

Devon Tober started the run at 215, followed by heavyweight Sam Wright. Cam Hobin picked one up at 119, and then there were four straight pins with Frank Cole (140), Branden Klahre (145), Dan Hanagan (152) and Zac Stavish (160).

It was a needed win for South Carroll, which lost on Friday to Southern-Garrett.

‘‘We definitely did not wrestle up to our regular standards. Everybody was just not on their A-game,” Hobin said of the Friday match. ‘‘People that lost should have won their matches, and people that won should have lost. We were off.”