June 23, 2010
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Entering the 2009-10 season, the University of Maryland wrestling team had its sights set high after returning the core of the team that won the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship and finished 10th at the NCAA Championships the year before.
Maryland entered the season with a consensus top-10 ranking, with some publications putting the Terps at No. 6, the highest preseason ranking in program history.
The Terps faced a grueling schedule which included an early season test with No. 4 Cornell, along with trips to the Northeast Duals, Midlands Championships and the NWCA National Duals. It would be one of the tougher schedules in the country, but Maryland would ultimately respond by setting a school record with 19 dual meet wins.
Along the way, the Terrapin program rose to new heights, garnering unprecedented national and local attention thanks to their performances on and off the mat.
Maryland then dominated two home dual meets against Drexel and York, winning by a combined score of 92-6. That set up a crucial matchup with fourth-ranked Cornell, a program long viewed as one of the best on the east coast.
Trailing 17-9 with only two matches remaining, Hudson Taylor and Patrick Gilmore helped stage a stunning comeback. Taylor pinned his opponent - fifth-ranked Cam Simaz - to bring the team score to 17-15. Gilmore then pushed No. 12 Josh Arnone into overtime, where he recorded a takedown for a sudden victory and an 18-17 Maryland win.
The Terps rode that momentum to a second-place finish at the Body Bar Invitational and then won two of three matches at the Northeast Duals, defeating Northern Colorado and No. 12 Lehigh, while falling to No. 10 Central Michigan.
Maryland ran its record to 7-1 after blowout wins over conference foe North Carolina and Penn in early December, leaving the team confident heading into the Midlands Championships.
At the Midlands - where many of the best teams in the country compete - the Terps placed two wrestlers in the finals for the first time in program history. Alex Krom became the first Maryland wrestler to win at the Midlands and the Terps finished sixth as a team, the highest finish in school history.
One of the toughest stretches of the schedule continued a week and a half after the Midlands as Maryland traveled to Cedar Falls, Iowa, to compete in the National Duals. In their first ever appearance at the event, the Terps finished seventh after defeating Northern Iowa, Buffalo and No. 22 Wisconsin, while falling to No. 2 Iowa State and No. 8 Cornell.
A week later Maryland was back on the road, this time to Ashland, Ohio, for three tough matches in the Wendy's Duals. Wrestling all three matches in one day, the Terrapins responded with wins over Purdue, Ashland and No. 14 Kent State to run their record to 13-3.
With three starters out due to injury, Maryland dropped a heated match with rival Navy in Annapolis on Jan. 22, but then reeled off six straight wins to end the season. A victory over No. 24 Virginia in the season finale in Charlottesville gave the Terps the school record for wins in a season and sealed off a 4-0 run through ACC action.
The Terps fell painfully short of a third straight title at the ACC Championships, finishing second with 80.5 points to Virginia's 85. Maryland competed in the tourney without the services of former ACC Champ Mike Letts, who was lost for the season with a knee injury. Still, Bell, Krom and Taylor won individual titles and six Terps automatically qualified for the NCAA Championships. Bell became the program's second three-time ACC champ since 1988, while Taylor was named Most Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament.
At the NCAA Championships in Omaha, Neb., Taylor became the program's first ever three-time All-American with a fourth-place finish and Bell became the school's fifth two-time All-American with an eighth place finish. Maryland came away with its second consecutive top-20 team finish and its second consecutive year with multiple All-Americans. Two of the teams Maryland defeated in the regular season - Cornell and Wisconsin - finished second and fourth at the NCAA Championships, respectively.
Although the season was over, the individual accolades were not. Taylor was named ACC Wrestler of the Year for the second time in his illustrious career after finishing 42-4 on the season and setting the school's single-season record with 24 pinfalls. He would also later be named ACC Wrestling Scholar-Athlete of the Year and was awarded a post-graduate scholarship.
The Terrapins will have to begin a new chapter in 2010-11 with the departure of stalwarts such as Taylor, Bell, Krom, Knox and Mookie Golden. But with promising young talent waiting in the wings, Maryland appears ready to continue its steady rise among the nation's elite wrestling programs.