This time it looks as if the cards finally are stacked in favor of North Carroll and coach Dick Bauerlein.
The relentless 19-year chase for a state title by Bauerlein finally might end Feb. 19 at Westminster High.
That is the date for the inaugural state high school dual-meet championships, and there might not be a better dual-match team than North Carroll in the state at any level.
Bauerlein has been pushing for this dual-match format for several years, saying it better determines who is the best team as opposed to the state tournament, which puts the emphasis on individuals.
Under Bauerlein, North Carroll has finished second in the states three times and has been in the top six for 10 straight seasons. Whatever can go wrong has gone wrong to prevent Bauerlein and the Panthers from taking that final step to a state title.
The state association finally has agreed to conduct both dual-match and tournament championships this season, with the tournament to follow the dual-match competition. Several other states already have gone to both championship formats.
Bauerlein is at his best in a dual match, switching his wrestlers around to extract the most possible points. He replays every dual match for hours at home on his sofa, figuring out what he could have done better.
He loves to move wrestlers up and down in weight classifications or will even sit a wrestler if he is going against an opponent who is too strong for him.
"The kids know I make the calls in a dual match," said Bauerlein. "In the tournament, I let them wrestle wherever they want to."
So now that Bauerlein has the format he has been seeking, what is his forecast for the Panthers in the state dual-match championships?
"I like our chances," he said. "I think we're solid all the way up the lineup. We'll give a good representation of ourselves."
He has six top wrestlers back from last season who most likely will roll up pins and victories in rapid fashion. All six are ranked at least sixth or better in the preseason state rankings.
Chris Boog, a senior who was a first-team All-Carroll County choice last season, is ranked No. 1 in the state at 189.
Three more Panthers wrestlers have impressive credentials. They are seniorDoug Dell, sophomore Tommy Kiler and junior Corey Rill.
Dell won 30 straight matches last season before losing to Marty Kusick of Northeast in the state 1A-2A 103-pound championship bout. Dell will wrestle at either 112 or 119 pounds this season and is ranked third in the state at 112.
Kiler was 28-2 as a freshman at 125 pounds and has moved up this season to either 135 or 140. He is ranked fourth in the state at 140. Kiler and Dell were first-team All-Carroll County selections last season.
Rill, a second-team choice in the county, had a 19-6 record at 135. This season he moves down to 130, a move that should help him put together an even better record.
The two other North Carroll headliners are junior Eric Hott and senior Saidrick Lewis.
Hott was 27-5 last season at 145 pounds and remains at that weight class, and Lewis was 22-9 at 152, where he will wrestle again in his final season. Hott was a first-team All-County selection and Lewis was a second-teamer.
Some of the top newcomers are freshmen Tim Parry and Terry Donahue, who will share the 103-pound class. Football standout Bill Beltz, a junior, will wrestle at 189 pounds or heavyweight.
Beltz replaces senior Rick White, who is appealing a state school board decision that has forced him to attend Franklin High in Baltimore County.
White's home burned down 18 months ago and is being rebuilt. White is living with his grandparents in Reisterstown until the house is finished, prompting the board to rule that he should go to Franklin.
Bauerlein said: "The White family is still paying taxes in Carroll County and Rick should be allowed to go to North Carroll. They have a loan to finish the home. They do have an attorney and are pursuing the case to allow Rick to attend North Carroll this season."