If early indications are correct, the Howard-at-Hammond dual meet Feb. 7 could be the showdown for this year's county wrestling title.
No. 15 Howard (194 points) dominated Saturday's 18-team Chopticon tournament, with champions in Seth Eldrige (171), Eric Paskin (145) and Frank Tortella (189), runners-up in Hyon Kang (119) and Chris Poling (135), and third-place efforts out of Travis Stubblefield (125), Brian Elphage (130) and Tyson Daves (heavyweight).
Though it finished as the runner-up to Lackey of Charles County in the Douglass tournament, No. 7 Hammond, the two-time county dual-meet champ, was equally impressive against a slightly tougher 17-team field.
The Bears' champs were No. 6 Chris Williams (152) and freshman sensation Josh Zilmer (119), with runner-up Amit Kapoor (103), third-place finishers Mike Chang (112), Brian Law (140) and Billy Midkiff (171), and fourth-place efforts from John Motley (130) and Jimmy Weston (189).
Hammond's county runner-up Danny Proulx, the regular at 140, is still nursing a stress fracture, said coach Bill Smith.
"Otherwise, we might have won it,"Smith said.
Howard was clearly the best team in the St. Mary's County affair, with Eldrige and Tortella pinning all four of their opponents, and Paskin getting a fall, a technical fall and two one-point decisions. Paskin won his title bout, 1-0, on an escape in the final seconds.
Oakland Mills (126 points) was fifth at Chopticon, Glenelg was 11th and Atholton 12th.
The Scorpions' sole winner was county champ Wade Mitchell (130), but Juri Freeman (112) and Chong Nguyen (125) each finished second, and Jason Berlin (103) and Matt Sutton (135) third. Oakland Mills' Paul Crickard (145) was fourth.
Glenelg freshman Jeremy Lignelli (135), a Cadet National Team member during the summer, beat Sutton, 8-2, and Poling, 11-4, en route to his title. His teammate, Jeff Feaga (112), was fourth.
Atholton's place winners all finished fourth -- Rick Trott (160), David Tangredi (119) and Matt Radik (171).
Hammond's effort included Williams' 5-0 upset victory over then No. 5 Brian Christine of Gonzaga. Williams also had a 20-5 technical fall, a pin of a fourth-place regional placer, and a fall over South River's regional runner-up Steve Spies.
Zilmer, who had three decisions and a pin, was called "state-championship material" by Lackey coach Glenn Jones, whose Chargers visit Hammond tomorrow night in a key match.
"Considering we didn't have all of our starters, I'm very pleased ,, with how we did," said Smith, last year's Baltimore Sun Coach of the Year for Howard County.
L Lackey and Hammond are in the same region -- Class 2A South.
Centennial at Annapolis
Though his team finished only 12th out of 13 teams in the Annapolis tournament over the weekend, coach Todd DiCrispino got excellent efforts out of Jason Nagle (125) and Joon Kim (189).
One of Nagle's two losses were by 7-1 to Southern's No. 2 Tyrone Neal Jr., the eventual champion and last year's 1A-2A state runner-up. His other loss came by 10-6 against Francis Scott Key's Carroll County runner-up Steve Lessard, who beat Neal in overtime a year ago.
Kim, a sophomore, rebounded from a first-round loss by pinning two opponents, including the tournament's No. 2 seed, before losing to Dwyane Woodward, the top-seeded wrestler from DeMatha. In fact, both Kim's losses were by pin against the muscular Woodward.
Mount St. Joseph (241 points) overwhelmed the field at Annapolis, thanks to a large contribution from Howard County residents.
Champions Danny DeVivo (171) and David Inkman (130), as well as runners-up Seth St. Vincent and Russell Fecteau (125) are from the county.
DeVivo overcame a 5-4 first-period deficit against McDonough's Chris Brown en route to a 23-6 technical-fall decision. His effort, which included four takedowns and 12 backpoints, helped him knock Brown from the No. 1 ranking at 171 pounds.
Inkman and DeVivo each won their second straight tournaments, having captured the season-opening Maryland Invitationals at Curley a week earlier. St. Vincent was a Maryland Invitational champion also, with Fecteau taking third place.