North Carroll, ranked as the top team in the Maryland State Wrestling Association's preseason poll, meets its stiffest test thus far when it travels to the McDonogh Invitational this weekend at McDonogh School in Owings Mills, Baltimore County.

Also in the eight-team field is Gilman School of Baltimore, tied for sixth in the initial state poll.

The McDonogh event shifts the wrestling spotlight away from Anne Arundel County, where it has been the past two weekends. Two weeks ago, No. 2 Mount St. Joseph of Baltimore finished ahead of No. 3 Old Mill in the latter's own tournament, while the two traded places at last weekend's Cougar Invitational at Chesapeake High in Anne Arundel.

The North Carroll-Gilman meeting should be especially interesting in the 125- and 152-pound weight classes.

Barring upsets or lineup shuffling, North Carroll's Dave Foster, No. 1 at 152, should meet Gilman's David Gilner, ranked sixth in the state, in the finals. In the 125-pound draw, No. 3 Justin Deibel of North Carroll figures to meet No. 5 John Kime of Gilman in the championship.

Action starts Friday, with the quarterfinals at 4 p.m. and semifinals slated for 8. The fifth-place matches start at 2 p.m. Saturday, with the finals scheduled to start at approximately 3:30.

In other sports this weekend: * The North Carroll girls basketball team could atone for its slower-than-expected start with a win over Mount Hebron, one of the top-ranked teams in the metro area, Friday night in Hampstead. The junior varsity game starts at 5:30 p.m., with the varsity game slated to follow around 7.

The Panthers were 2-2 after whipping North Harford, 60-39, Thursday and heading into last night's game with Francis Scott Key (after press time).

North Harford had been ranked No. 12 by The (Baltimore) Evening Sun.

North Carroll earlier had lost to Monocacy Valley Athletic League power Walkersville and to Glenelg, a team with an outside chance of winning the Howard County title. But the win over North Harford may give the Panthers a confidence boost against perhaps the toughest squad on the North Carroll schedule.

Mount Hebron started the season ranked No. 2 in the area by The Sun and third by The Evening Sun. The Vikings' loss was a 60-26 rout at the hands of Downington, Pa., but Mount Hebron did beat The Sun's No. 5, Seton-Keough of Baltimore.

The Vikings are led by three all-Metro guard candidates. Senior Cescili Drake is a defensive standout who already has committed to play college ball at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, while sophomore Erica McCauley averaged nearly 13 points in the team's first three game this year.

McCauley's older sister, Christy, a senior, also starts, and the team has two returning varsity forwards from last year's 23-1 and state Class 2A championship team.

North Carroll's sluggish start is a disappointment for a team that returns two starters and four other players from a 14-9 team and whose newcomers move up from a 20-0 junior varsity.

North Carroll is led offensively by senior forward Lisa Garland, averaging 16 points per game, and junior guard Kim Piccone, hitting for about six per contest.

In another weekend girls game, Poly visits South Carroll Friday, with the jayvee at 5:30 p.m. and the varsity at 7.

* South Carroll's boys also have their hands full Friday night, when they visit Poly in Baltimore, with the jayvee game at 6:30 and the varsity game about 8.

Poly has started out with a 3-1 record and is ranked sixth by The Evening Sun. South Carroll was 2-1 heading into last night's game against Atholton of Howard County.

The Engineers are led by senior forward Tony Jenkins, who averaged 18.9 points per game last year, and returning starters Antwain Smith and Ryan England.

Other Friday boys games (with records through Sunday) include North Carroll (3-1) at Catoctin (0-3), with the jayvee game at 6 p.m. and the varsity at 7:30; and Westminster (1-2) at Centennial (1-2), with a 3:30 p.m. varsity start and the jayvees at 5:30.

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