A return to conference competition left the Blue Devils still searching for a conference win.
Duke traveled to College Park, Md., to face a Maryland team competing in its fourth straight ACC matchup. The Terrapins dominated the Blue Devils 37-7, notching three falls en route to their 59th series win against Duke.
“We’ve just got to wrestle a little smarter,” head coach Glen Lanham said. “The effort is there, we just have to get a little smarter, and I think if we do that we can come out much better in a lot of matches.”
Beginning with the 157-pound matchup, Duke (6-11, 0-4 in the ACC) jumped out to an early lead. Redshirt junior Immanuel Kerr-Brown won by decision to remain undefeated in conference and give his team the 3-0 edge. Wrestling at 165 pounds, redshirt sophomore Marcus Cain dominated Josh Snook of Maryland (6-8, 2-3) to make the score 7-0 and give Duke its final points of the night.
“I felt like Immanuel Kerr-Brown and Marcus Cain started things off well, I just wish we could have had that continue,” Lanham said. “I think when they won those matches, we felt comfortable.”
The evening featured No. 1 Jimmy Sheptock in a matchup against Jacob Kasper at 184 pounds. Sheptock pinned Kasper for a bonus-point victory within the first period, and his fellow Terrapins gained two more falls during the course of the night at 133 pounds against redshirt freshman Evan Botwin and 174 pounds with redshirt sophomore Trey Adamson.
“We felt comfortable with Trey Adamson going in, and then he got pinned,” Lanham said. “Going in, you have a match that we felt like we could win. But to get pinned, not only to lose, but to get pinned, now you’ve set up 184 with a top-ranked wrester in the country against a true freshman. That’s kind of a tough situation.”
Another notable matchup came at 197 pounds between reigning ACC Wrestler of the Week No. 19 Conner Hartmann and No. 8 Christian Boley from Maryland. Boley came away with wins last season when the two last met in the ACC and NCAA Championships. Despite a scoreless first period, Hartmann suffered a takedown with 19 seconds left to lose the decision 3-2.
“It was a good matchup…. Obviously Conner is in shape, he’s a lot better. I feel like he has to get after our offense a little earlier,” Lanham said. “I think if we can do that, we can get out on top.”
Duke sustained two close losses in the final bouts to seal their fate. Freshman Xaviel Ramos, returning from a one-match suspension, took on Shyhiem Brown at 141 pounds and maintained a 2-2 score through two periods but fell 5-3 to extend Maryland’s lead to 27 points.
With the team score at 34-7, freshman Connor Bass returned from a knee injury sustained last weekend at Drexel to compete in the 149-pound slot. After two close periods, Terrapin Frank Goodwin notched a 5-0 run to bring the score to 7-1. With the individual and team matches seemingly over, Bass wrestled back four points but ran out of time, suffering an 8-5 loss to end the night for Duke.
“I felt like [Bass] let his opponent dictate the pace of the match, and then when it was time to come back he fell a little short,” Lanham said. “We have to get better—we have to wrestle smarter in the situations we’re getting and put it all together."
Looking ahead, Duke will remain in conference play to face rival North Carolina in Chapel Hill Tuesday. The Tar Heels have lost six straight meets and match Duke’s conference record, meaning one of the two teams will leave Tuesday night with its first conference win.
“I feel like coming in they’re probably going to be feeling pretty confident,” Lanham said. “I’m hoping our guys rise to the chance. I feel like every match is a chance for improving… We’ve got to start winning the close matches—that’s what the change is going to have to be.”