Although last weekend's county wrestling tournament produced the same old story -- another Oakland Mills victory -- the Scorpions marked their 12th county championship in 15 years with an incredible twist.
First, the familiar story. Oakland Mills cruised to a 57.5-point victory over Hammond by outclassing its competition. The Scorpions wonsix individual titles, sent nine wrestlers to the finals, and placed11 of its 13 no lower than third. The Scorpions amassed 233.5 points, only eight points shy of the county-record 241.5 points they scoredlast year.
"I don't think anyone was really surprised," said Howard coach Fred Bullock, whose Lions finished fourth with 150 points, behind second-place Hammond (176) and Wilde Lake (171.5). Atholton wound up fifthwith 112 points and was followed by Glenelg (103), Mount Hebron (77.5) and Centennial (74.5).
Oakland Mills dominated where it was most expected, as top-seeded Danny Bickell (112), Joe Salinas (140) and Monte Spencer (heavyweight) won titles.
But it was Bickell who stole the show with a courageous performance that moved his coach, his teammates and the spectators who packed Atholton High School's gym.
Wrestling with a dislocated, heavily taped left elbow that rendered his arm useless, Bickell edged Hammond's Chris Williams, 3-0 in the semifinals. Ten hours later, he won the title with a stirring 7-2 decision over second-seeded Paul Badawi of Centennial.
"I did it for my team as much as I did it for myself and Coach Ricker," said Bickell, who won the tournament's Outstanding Wrestler Award and finished the season with a 26-2 record and a perfect 9-0 record against the county. He will not wrestle in this weekend's Class 4A-3A Region IV tournament at Meade High School in Anne Arundel County.
"That's too dangerous," said Bickell, who dislocated the elbow in practice two daysbefore the tournament. He expects it to heal in four to six weeks. "Wrestling against that kind of competition with one arm would be impossible."
Bickell's seemingly impossible performance Saturday brought Oakland Mills coach Dan Ricker and the Scorpions to tears -- not to mention Bickell, who was in considerable pain during and after eachmatch. After Bickell beat Badawi, the crowd roared its approval while Ricker ran to to the center of the mat, hugged Bickell, then carried him to the edge of the mat, where he was surrounded by the rest of his team.
Bickell's inspirational value to the Scorpions can't be discounted. His 3-0 decision over Williams in the semifinals was arguably the tournament's turning point.
"I know there's no one in this county who would do what he (Bickell) did," said Hammond coach BillSmith. "I've already used this three times in speeches to my kids, but the thing we lack is what Oakland Mills has -- the ability to fight off anything that gets in the way of your goal. Danny is the kind of kid I dream about having on my team. His effort won't soon be forgotten. I still get chills thinking about it."
Oakland Mills led with 76 points going into the semifinals, but Atholton, Hammond and Wilde Lake were each within six. But following Bickell's semifinal victory, the complexion of the tournament changed, as eight more Scorpions earned trips to the finals. At the end of the semifinals, the Scorpions had 199 points, 42 more than Wilde Lake and 43 more than Hammond. The rout was on.
"What Danny did was the most motivating thing of the tournament," said 130-pounder Mike Maughan, who, as the sixth seed, took advantage of top-seeded Alexis Gough's first-round disqualification and won the title over Hammond's Jerroyd Goode, 12-8. "We all felt if he could go out there and win with one arm, there was no reason we couldn't do it with two."
Third-seeded Kalev Freeman (119) avenged an earlier loss to Hammond's Chris Mercurio with a 13-2 whipping in the semifinals, before winning the title with a 3-2 decision over Glenelg's top-seeded Andy Arnsmeyer. Adam Seidman (125), another third seed, handed Mount Hebron's Shane Igoe his first loss against the county in the finals, 8-6. Salinas and Spencer won all of their matches by fall. In addition, Brian Dunbar (135) and Marcus Myles (152) -- each fourth seeds -- finished second.
Wilde Lake produced threeindividual champions. Hammond and Howard each won two titles.
ForHammond, James Burrell (145) edged Wilde Lake's Jay Turner in overtime, 7-5, on a controversial takedown. Ricky Matthews (152) completed a superb tournament by pinning Myles one minute into the title match.He defeated all three of his opponents on first-period pins.
Howard, stung by the first-round disqualification of Gough for unnecessary roughness, rebounded behind champions George Proctor (103) and Dominique Pierre-Toussaint (189). Wilde Lake saw the Casella brothers take titles, as Nathan won the 160-pound title and Ben won at 171. BobbyFarace took the 135-pound title with a 7-6 decision over Dunbar.