Severna Park junior wrestler Mike Smythe arrived at the high school gym a few hours early Friday to concentrate on one of the season's biggest matches. At that point in the day, he had no way of knowing he would be responsible for ending Old Mill's 74-match, regular-season dual-meet winning streak.
"We were losing by four, and I was the last match -- it came down to me," said Smythe, who competes in the 112-pound division. "I had to get a major decision, a technical fall or a pin. It was really tough. It took everything I had to go out there and do my best."
Smythe's best was good enough for an 18-4 major decision against Old Mill freshman Tim LoBuglio, leading the Falcons to a 40-40 tie with undefeated Old Mill. He also recorded a pin against Broadneck, leading the Falcons to a 47-15 win in the tri-meet.
It was the second time in Smythe's career that his final match determined a meet outcome. Last year, he had to avoid being pinned by a Broadneck opponent to ensure a Severna Park win.
This season, his victories against Old Mill and Broadneck helped the Falcons enter this week with an 8-4-1 overall record. The county wraps up the regular season Friday with the biggest match to date: undefeated Old Mill vs. Chesapeake, the defending state champion. For the Falcons, the toughest part of the county schedule is over, and their victory against Old Mill was a confidence-booster for Wednesday's 4A/3A East Region Team Dual Meet Championships.
"I think our hard work is finally starting to pay off," said junior Nick Eisenbeiser, who also recorded a pin against the Patriots. "Old Mill underestimated us a little too much. It only helped us tie with them. Right now it's pretty exciting. After the Old Mill match, a lot of people are starting to pay attention to us and are seeing us as a threat."
The last county team to defeat Old Mill was Arundel, in 1997. The Falcons haven't defeated the Patriots since 1979 and last tied with Old Mill in 1981.
"We looked at it more as a victory for our program," said Severna Park Coach Paul Joyce. "We still have a very young team. I think people have kind of underestimated us, but we wrestled Mount St. Joe [of Baltimore] and [Howard County's] River Hill, and our tough schedule payed off in a big match."
Much of Severna Park's success this year can be attributed to the group Joyce calls his "Fabulous Five": senior Walker Babington (171), Eisenbeiser (125), twins Shawn (145) and Steve (103) Smith and Brian Payer (heavyweight). The Smith brothers, Babington and Payer -- all co-captains -- have combined for 280 career victories. Against Old Mill, their success continued.
The twins, Babington and sophomore Doug Barron (160) all recorded pins against Old Mill. Barron struggled through the beginning of the season but reached a peak Friday with pins against both teams. All of his six wins this year are pins.
"I was in a slump for a little bit," Barron said. "I got my act together, started working harder in practice and it came out at the tri-meet. It gives me quite a boost of confidence."
Still, the toughest part of the season lies ahead. Severna Park lost to a surprising Arundel team (11-5) earlier and will face the Wildcats again in the postseason, as well as Old Mill, Chesapeake and Broadneck.
"You just try to get the kids to be as good as they can be at the end of the year," Joyce said. "Some of our kids were doing well in December, and they're struggling now. We're trying to get them on track."