It almost seems appropriate that the high school wrestling season will end in Carroll County this weekend, with the state finals starting tonight at Western Maryland College.
All season, the North Carroll Panthers and Francis Scott Key Eagles -- two of the top Class 2A-1A schools -- have battled for county and regional supremacy.
About the only thing certain about this weekend is that Dick Bauerlein, North Carroll's 18-year coach, will be inducted into the Maryland State Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Just about everything else is up in the air, and six teams have a legitimate shot at the Class 2A-1A title -- including North Carroll and Key.
No other team can match the 11 qualifiers (three region champs) that No. 5 and Region I champ Francis Scott Key brings to the mat. The Panthers, runner-up to Key in Region I, qualified eight wrestlers with four region champs.
Region III champ Northeast (Anne Arundel County) has nine qualifiers -- including a state-high six champions, and Region II champ Owings Mills brings eight wrestlers and four champs.
North East (Cecil County) and Smithsburg also can't be counted out. North East is the Region IV winner and brings 10 wrestlers and five champs, and Smithsburg has seven qualifiers.
"When you get this far along you need a little luck," said Bauerlein.
"We had a couple of good breaks [with seedings] and a few bad breaks, but that's expected. With Northeast, Owings Mills, Smithsburg, Key and North Carroll, there's five good schools who all have a chance."
The Panthers are led by three undefeated wrestlers: Doug Dell (103), returning state champ Jeremy Myers (112) and Chris Boog (171). Boog got a tough draw with returning state champ Grant Johnson (Owings Mills) in his bracket.
Key is led by region champs Steve Lessard (119), Randy Owings (130) and Ed Null (160). Null clinched the region title last week with a pin of North Carroll's Shawn Utz.
"We're going to have to win some tough early matches from our third and four seeds," said Key coach Bill Hyson. "We've always approached it at an individual standpoint, but I think the kids understand what we can accomplish as a team.
"One thing I like about this team coming out of the region is that we have a harder edge with the tough competition we've faced throughout the season. We've seen North Carroll a bunch of times and some other quality teams and I think we're starting to believe in ourselves in those kinds of situations."
A big first-round matchup for Key will be at heavyweight, where Mark Smith will take on Oakland Mills' Justin Wellington. The two split two matches in the regular season.
Liberty will have two wrestlers competing in Class 2A-1A. Mike Durgin's third-place finish at regionals qualified him, and Pat Quinn advanced at 189 with a fourth-place finish.
Six wrestlers -- three from Westminster and three from South Carroll -- will compete in the Class 4A-3A championship.
The Westminster representatives are Matt Warner (103), Brad Schisler (135) and Neal Brennan (145). South Carroll sends Jeff Irvine (119), Matt Crill (152) and Leo Fryrear (189).
Wrestling on TV
CV3 in Carroll County will televise the finals of tomorrow's state Class 2A-1A wrestling championships at Western Maryland College for broadcast later this month. Bryan McLean and Sam Brutout will handle the play-by-play, as North Carroll and Francis Scott Key make a run at the state championships.
The finals of the meet will be televised on a tape-delay basis. The air dates are Tuesday, March 23, 8:15 p.m.; Thursday, March 25, 8:15 p.m.; and Saturday, March 27, 8:15 a.m.