Along with a few other schools, Oakland Mills figures to be chasing Hammond at a distance for the Howard County championship.
It's unusual for Oakland Mills, which has dominated county wrestling for most of the past 17 years -- winning 13 of 17 county tournaments -- to concede before the season begins.
But the Bears, county dual-meet and tournament champs last season, appear to be too strong. And the Scorpions fared poorly in their first tri-meet this season, losing 60-12 to Lackey and 42-33 to Calvert.
Oakland Mills (6-6 overall, 6-1 in the county last season) has six returning varsity wrestlers and a good nucleus from the junior varsity, but it lacks the depth that once made it the most feared county squad.
"The big part will be avoiding illness and injuries because the days of depth are gone and losing one or two wrestlers can make a big difference," coach Steve Carnahan said.
Oakland Mills has 42 wrestlers. The top returnee is senior Yuri Freeman at 112 pounds. He went 23-9 last season, won the county 103-pound championship and finished third in the region.
"He's a three-dimensional wrestler," Carnahan said. "He holds his own -- top, bottom or from a neutral position."
Close behind him in quality is junior Wade Mitchell at 130 pounds. Mitchell finished 21-9 last season and was a county champ. He's jumping three weight classes.
Matt Sutton is an intense, athletic junior who will wrestle at 135 pounds. He was 11-12 last season.
Choung Nguyen is an aggressive junior 125-pounder whose strength is takedowns. He was 9-17 last year. "He came on strong at the end of last season," Carnahan said.
Casey Moffit, a 140-pound sophomore, went 0-10 last season but is the team's best natural athlete. His strength and agility should lead to great improvement.
Paul Crickard is a 145-pound senior who was 11-16 last season.
Among the newcomers, sophomore Jason Berlin shows promise at 103 pounds. He was 12-5 for the JV. He's athletic and strong and ran cross country this fall.
Sophomore Justin Robbins (119 pounds) had a 9-6 JV record, and his quickness makes him dangerous.
Carnahan describes 152-pound junior Josh Crickard as unorthodox and unpredictable, but Crickard posted a 13-3 JV mark last season.
Scott Sheldon played JV football and the sophomore 171-pounder has a lot of potential. He was 10-3 for the JV last season.
Tony Howard, a former basketball player, is a first-year junior at 189 pounds. He's tall and lean and his determination and leverage should help him progress quickly.
Heavyweight Glenn LaForce is a 220-pound freshman.
The 160-pound class is a tossup between senior David Plasse and sophomore Sam Phillips.