Old Mill, Northeast look to sweep Patriots all set to collect record fifth straight title


Two years ago, Old Mill became the first 4A-3A wrestling team to win three outright state titles, and Southern's first-year coach Tyrone Neal led his Bulldogs to a 2A-1A state runner-up finish to Owings Mills.

Last year, the Patriots won an unprecedented fourth.

And this year, the county could sweep both state titles, with the No. 3 Patriots (12-1) looking for their fifth title and No. 6 Northeast (12-1) going for its first crown since becoming the county's first state champion in 1976.

A victory by both teams would make Anne Arundel County the first to take both titles in the same year.

The 4A-3A state title has remained in the county since Old Mill was a runner-up to champion Broadneck in 1988. And there's a good chance it won't leave because the Patriots qualified 10 wrestlers for the state tournament, more than any other 4A-3A team.

Old Mill earned its ninth Region IV crown with six champs last weekend.

"We know which of our opponents could possibly be in each weight class, and we talked about it [Monday]," said Old Mill coach Mike Hampe.

Region III champ Northeast's nine qualifiers is less than Region IV winner Cecil County's North East (10, five champs), and No. 5 Francis Scott Key (11, three champs), which dethroned No. 3 North Carroll in 2A-1A Region I.

"Obviously, the greater the numbers, the better the chances of getting someone through," said Northeast coach Al Kohlhafer.

Northeast's six champs are a state high on the 2A-1A level, with the Kusick twins, Marty (103) and Mike (112), Steve Smiddy (130), Matt Jewer (135), and Jason (145) and Al Grunder (160) earning top seeds. Ron (140, fourth) and Bill Katzenberger (152, second), and Jeremy Funk (171, fourth) also earned state bids.

"Sending a lot of kids to the finals of the counties, but having only two winners was a lot of motivation for the kids to do better," said Kohlhafer. "They realize we didn't capitalize on an opportunity. But they came through in the regionals."

North Carroll, like fourth-ranked, two-time defending state champ Owings Mills, a two-time Region II champ, has qualified eight wrestlers with four champs.

A key for the Eagles could be the Kusicks' knocking off North Carroll's unbeaten wrestlers Doug Dell (103) and defending state champ, Jeremy Myers (112), whom they won't meet until the finals. Marty was third at 103 after losing last year's semifinal bout, 7-4, to Myers, and Mike was a 112-pound runner-up.

Al Grunder could face Francis Scott Key's fifth-ranked Ed Null in the final, but must avenge a 9-3 semifinal loss to defending state champ, Jesse Channell (Hereford) first. Smiddy could face Key's No. 2-ranked Randy Owings in the final.

Owings Mills used three state champs and a fourth-place finisher to edge Smithsburg, 91.5-85.5, for last year's crown. Returning champs, Gregg Kessler (135) and Grant Johnson (171) are favored to three-peat. Owings Mills' county and regional champ Ed Overton (189) could also reach the final.

Smithsburg (seven qualifiers) was third in Region I with three champs and a runner-up, including two-time state champ Chris Kretsinger (189), and runner-up Doug Batey (140).

No. 7 Hammond, the Region III runner-up to Northeast, could be a spoiler with only two runners-up, five third places and a fourth. North East and Region IV runner-up, Rising Sun (seven wrestlers, four champs) can do the same.

Last year, Old Mill had seven place winners, including its lone champ, Marc Procaccini (160), who returns to defend his crown. Procaccini's victory, a runner-up, two third-place finishers and three fourths were enough to edge Charles County's Region III champ, McDonough, 116-99.5, last year.

Top-seeded, repeat qualifiers for Old Mill include Jason Bryant (103), who was fourth last year, Kevin Seavey (130), Rick Oleszczuk (135) and Todd Hultgren (152).

Ken Seavey (140), another top seed, is joined by Paul Hultgren (119, third), Mike Hines (145, third), Dave Basta (125, fourth) and heavyweight Bob Shaffer (fourth).

"We'll try to get the most amount of guys through [the first round]," said Hampe. "Last year, Kevin was seeded fourth and knocked off two No. 1 seeds."

McDonough was dethroned this year by Lackey, the three-time Southern Maryland Athletic Conference dual-meet champ, for this year's SMAC tournament and regional crowns. Lackey brings the second highest number of 4A-3A wrestlers, with three champs, a runner-up and four in third place.

Individually, McDonough had four regional champions, including state runners-up Damon Newsome (145) and Chris Hawkins (152). Chris Brown (171), fourth in last year's state meet, and Todd Margolis (130) are also top seeds. McDonough lost SMAC champ, Tim Cummins (125), who didn't make weight for the region.

Co-No. 7 Randallstown was fourth in last year's team standings. It won its second straight Region I title with four champions, two runners-up and a third place, including defending state champ, Johnny Montgomery (145), and two-time region champ, Kent Morrison (160).

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