A tremendous run ends in county

by Greg Swatek. 0 Comments

If you weren't paying very close attention, you might have missed the ending of one of the longest and most remarkable winning streaks in Frederick County sports.

The Urbana wrestling team had not lost a single match to a county opponent on the scoreboard under coach Ben Arneson. The run dates back to the 2006-07 season and includes a state duals championship last season in Class 4A-3A.

Nobody can predict when tremendous things like this are going to end. It always happens suddendly and those directly involved with it tend to need a few moments to process what just happened.

To be sure, Urbana had survived some close calls over the years and, much to its credit, probably pulled out a match or two it should have lost. And so, on Saturday against Oakdale, the Hawks finally arrived at the day they weren't going to be able to overcome all of the odds.

The Bears, hungry and still relatively inexperienced, have quickly and quietly assembled a team under coach Bill Swaney that is capable of pulling off a feat like this.

After falling behind by nine points early in the match, Oakdale reeled off six victories in seven matches to take a commanding lead. And even though they lost three of the final four bouts, the cushion the Bears built was still good enough for a stunning 36-34 win over Urbana.

"To know they're able to compete with a program like Urbana will provide (our wrestlers) the confidence to compete against anyone," said T.J. Salb, the former head coach at Tuscarora who joined Swaney's staff this season and serves as a co-coach. "And although they may not always win, they won't back down and they'll compete until the last whistle."

Oakdale wanted to be taken seriously as a wrestling program right from its inception three years ago. So, one of the first things Swaney did was establish a business-like culture. It's reflected even in the coaching attire. Instead of opting for the casual wear of most high school coaches, Swaney and his assistants mostly wear suits and ties. They feel it lends a big-time vibe to what they are trying to accomplish. And the hope is if the coaches are taking their job that seriously, the wrestlers will as well.

So far, the overall culture has worked for Oakdale. The Bears continue to make great strides and don't panic when they fall behind. During one of their wins this season, they overcame an 18-point deficit to beat Liberty, 54-21. That's part of the reason they kept their poise when Urbana jumped on top of them 12-3 after three matches.

The match that really tipped the outcome in the Bears' favor was Ryan Simonica's 3-2 victory over Nick Keller at heavyweight (285 pounds). That victory capped the crucial run of six of seven for Oakdale that staked the Bears to a 33-18 lead.

Simonica, a returning county champion, took control of the match right away with a two-point takedown. He and Keller, an improving heavyweight with some big wins to his name for Urbana, then traded one-point escapes before Simonica gave up a point for stalling to create the final margin.

As a member of Oakdale's first senior class, Simonica is counted on for his leadership, as well as his mat experience.

"This group of seniors has been through a lot together," Salb said. "So, they're a close knit group and they fight for each other."

Oakdale managed to beat Urbana despite receiving no points from one of its best and most experienced wrestlers, Anthoney Savage, who was beaten, 14-5, at 120 by Urbana's outstanding sophomore, Morgan Way.

When a team can still win even when one of its best is not at his best, that's a sure sign of growth.

"Coach Swaney deserves much of the credit as he's worked tirelessly the past 3 years to build a top quality program," Salb said. "This win is also a testament to the sacrifices made by the upper-classmen. Not to mention, it proves that if they persevere over adversity and believe in themselves, they're able to accomplish great things."

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