Howard County was once known as a region rich with talented lightweight wrestlers, and with six state placewinners at 132 pounds or less last year, it still is.
But as coaches have made a renewed effort to mine the football field for athletes, Howard County might have earned the moniker of Heavyweight County.
"Maybe these coaches are finally figuring out that wrestling makes you a better football player," said Marriotts Ridge coach Jason Conley.
In the last three years, Howard County has had five wrestlers weighing 189 or more win state titles, most recently River Hill's Cory Daniel (195) and Glenelg's Sean Twigg (285) last winter. Twigg also won in 2012, along with River Hill heavyweight Jason Johnson.
But even with the graduation of Twigg, Howard County will again be strong up top.
Last year, 11 underclassmen weighing 182 pounds or more qualified for the state tournament, including River Hill state finalist Logan Kirby (220) and county champion Brian Kirby (182), along with Twigg's younger brother Austin (195).
But depth throughout the line-up will determine which team takes the county title.
Glenelg and River Hill have combined to win the last seven dual meet titles, while Reservoir (2010) is the only team other than Glenelg and River Hill to win the county tournament in that stretch
Reservoir has a good spread of talent throughout its line-up, including the Kilcarr brothers — Mason (138), Troy (132) and Trent (126). Mason was a regional and state finalist last year, and could become Reservoir's first three-time county champion this winter.
"River Hill and Glenelg would be No. 1 and 2, but Reservoir is going to be a dark horse ... especially with the three Kilcarr brothers," said Mt. Hebron coach Todd DeCrispino, whose team should also be in the mix along with Oakland Mills and Wilde Lake. "It's going to be a really strong county this year."
Top wrestlers from last year who have transferred out of Howard County include Glenelg's Tim Null (South Carroll), Oakland Mills' Robby Happy (Sherwood) and Reservoir's Sam Rowell (Mount St. Joseph).
There are five new coaches this season, but most of them will be very familiar to local wrestling fans.
At Centennial, Dave Roogow steps into a volunteer role after coaching the varsity for six seasons. Cliff Kraisser, who has been an assistant while his sons Brian and Nathan starred for the Eagles, steps into the vacancy. Sophomore Austin Kraisser is a returning county champion and state finalist.
At Glenelg, Chris Rosas steps down after three very successful seasons. In his time as coach, Glenelg was 68-11 with two county tournament championships and a state dual meet title. Matt Bichner, a state champion for Glenelg in 2006, takes over as head coach, with Danny Bichner and Tim Chase, state champs in 2008, joining longtime coach Rob Bowman on the staff.
Former Glenelg wrestler Pat Kepp, who coached Hammond last year, moves to Howard to take over for former Glenelg wrestler Shea Conway. Krishna Dutt, a former county champion for Howard, also joins the Lions coaching staff. Bill Smith, who coached at Wilde Lake last year, takes over at Hammond. Smith coached Hammond from 1991 to 1998, winning two state championships and six county tournament titles.
Matt Bogusz, a recent University of Maryland graduate, takes over at Long Reach for Joseph Novotny. Bogusz wrestled for Parkland High School in Pennsylvania, winning the District 11 championship in 2007 before wrestling for the University of Maryland.
For a schedule of tournaments, scroll to the bottom.
*County champion; ^ JV county champion.