If anything, this weekend's county wrestling tournament at Atholton High School promises not to be the runaway affair that marked last February's event.
Oakland Mills, the perennial king of the tournament, sent a county-record nine wrestlers to the finals and scored a county-record 239.5 points to win in blowout fashion.
Although the Scorpions don't look as dominating as last year's group, some things never change. Oakland Mills is coming off another undefeated dual-meet season against the county and remains the clear favorite to win its 12th county tournament in the last 15 years.
Oakland Mills leads the meet with four top-seeded wrestlers -- Danny Bickell (112 pounds), Joe Salinas (140), Dustin Blackwell (171) and Monti Spencer (275). And the Scorpions have a league-leading 10 wrestlerswho have drawn the fourth seed or higher.
The Scorpions figure towin but should have plenty of company this weekend, mainly in the form of Hammond, Atholton, Wilde Lake and Howard.
Hammond, which finished second to the Scorpions with a 5-2 dual-meet record in the county, has one top-seeded wrestler in Pat Brennan (189).
Howard, Wilde Lake and Atholton finished in a three-way tie for third place with4-3 records, and each team has two top seeds -- 103-pounder George Proctor and 130-pounder Alexis Gough from Howard, Jay Turner (145) andNathan Casella (160) from Wilde Lake, and Tony Zancan (135) and JohnPresley (152) from Atholton.
Of the three, Wilde Lake shows the most depth on paper with eight wrestlers seeded first to third.
Inaddition, Mount Hebron and Glenelg, which lack the depth to contend for a tournament title, each have a top seed in Hebron's Shane Igoe (125) and Glenelg's Andy Arnsmyer (119). Centennial is the lone team without a top seed, although the Eagles have five wrestlers seeded from second to fourth.
"Oakland Mills by an eyelash" is the way first-year Atholton coach Ron McMillan sees the meet.
"For some reason,in the past, teams just as good as Oakland Mills have folded when they see black (and orange of the Scorpions) in front of them," McMillan adds. "If that doesn't happen this weekend, there should be four other teams in the chase. There's not much difference between Oakland Mills, Hammond, Wilde Lake, Howard and us.
"I think it's going to be a fun tournament. I just hope it's no blowout so everybody stays motivated."
Here's a rundown of each weight bracket:
* 103 -- Thetop-seeded Proctor (13-2) was undefeated in the county before losingto Atholton's Jason Sturm last week in the dual-meet finale. Sturm, who improved from a 3-7 start to go 5-2 in the county, is the second seed. These two should meet in a good title match.
* 112 -- Bickell (24-2), last year's runner-up at 112, is undefeated against the county and is dropping down from 119, where he won all six of his countymatches. Although he's wrestled just once at 112 in the county, Bickell should advance easily to the finals, where either Wilde Lake's third-seeded Antoine Harris (6-1, 10-9) or Centennial's second-seeded Paul Badawi (6-0) will stand in his way. This one looks like Bickell'sto lose.
* 119 -- Arnsmyer (5-1, 10-3) beat second-seeded Chris Mercurio easily, 18-0, earlier this year, but four of Mercurio's six county victories were by pin. And don't forget about third-seed Kalev Freeman, last year's 103-pound county champ who is 5-2 at 119 and capable of springing an upset. His semifinal match with Mercurio should be a dandy.
* 125 -- Igoe (7-0, 19-3) looks unbeatable, although third-seeded Adam Seidman makes the weight class interesting. Seidman (6-1, 24-3) is dropping from 130 for the first time. If he beats Glenelg's Joe Neville (5-2, 13-5) in the semis, he could score an upset.
* 130 -- If Gough (5-0-1 at 130, 20-1-1) had not transferred fromOakland Mills to Howard, the Scorpions might be looking at another blowout. Gough figures to face fourth-seeded Ken Tortolani (2-2-2 in county at 130) of Centennial in the semis. Tortolani wrested him to adraw earlier. Hebron's Jason Woolcott (5-2, 12-7) is the second seed. Wilde Lake's Tony Crawford (3-3-1, 8-9-1) is seeded third.
* 135-- Zancan and second-seeded Bobby Farace are each 5-1-1 in the county, as they battled to a 10-10 tie last month. Zancan, 18-6-1 overall,has an edge in experience.
* 140 -- Third-seeded Robert McGrain (4-3, 8-6-1) has improved significantly in the last month, but this one should come down to Salinas (6-1, 19-8) and second-seeded John Finney (5-2, 13-5) of Howard. Finney has pinned all five of his county victims, and his match with Salinas ended in a 14-12 Salinas victory.
* 145 -- Although Turner (6-0, 20-2) is the best of the class, Hammond's third-seeded James Burrell (5-1, 20-4) could change that. Burrell's only county loss was by default to Turner last week. Atholton's Gary Hobbs (5-2, 14-9) is the second seed. Centennial's Mike Madden (5-2, 8-2) is a strong fourth seed.
* 152 -- Hammond's third-seededRicky Matthews (6-0, 19-5) moves up from 145 and looks awfully good in a weight class of questionable depth. Matthews must beat Howard's second-seeded Adam Eldridge (5-2, 16-5) to get to the finals. In the other bracket, top-seeded Presley and fourth-seeded Marcus Myles fromOakland Mills are each 5-2 in the county. Myles is one of the tourament's sleepers.
* 160 -- Casella (6-1, 15-6) will be tough to beat. In the other bracket, second-seeded Jeff Henderson (5-2, 8-11) of Oakland Mills must get past third-seeded Shamus Gillen (5-2, 16-3) of Centennial. Gillen has a real shot at the finals.
* 171 -- Blackwell (6-0-1, 19-7-1) should get to the finals easily enough, but one ofthe top matches of the meet could be in the other bracket, where Centennial's Bill Augustin (5-0-1, 15-2-2) and Wilde Lake's Ben Casella (6-0, 12-2) -- the second and third seeds -- figure to clash in the semis. Casella is 2-0 at 171 pounds. Augustin is 3-0-1.
* 189 -- Probably the most wide-open, least experienced class. Brennan (5-1, 16-11) is the top seed, but either second-seeded Andy Lewis (4-3, 13-8) of Atholton, third-seeded Dominique Pierre-Tassant (5-2, 17-5) of Howard or fourth-seeded Justin Wethington (4-2, 8-8) could win it.
* 275 -- The easiest class to call. Spencer (7-0, 24-1) won't be challenged.