The Oakland Mills-Hammond battle for the top spot in the Howard County wrestling tournament for the past two years started the roots for a long-standing rivalry. But don't look for the hat trick.
Just ask Oakland Mills coach Steve Carnahan about his chances of upsetting defending champion No. 5 Hammond this weekend at Atholton.
"We probably would need Tonya Harding's bodyguard," he said. "Of the past three years, they will come in stronger than before."
The tournament is scheduled to begin today at 2 p.m. If the tournament is postponed today because of inclement weather, the entire varsity tournament will be tomorrow, starting tentatively at 8:30 a.m.
If tomorrow and Saturday's matches are canceled, then the varsity tournament will be rescheduled for Monday and Tuesday afternoons.
Hammond, which has finished undefeated in the county the past three years, let the Scorpions upset it for the 1992 title but won its first tournament title in school history last year. With six undefeated county wrestlers and the possible return of freshman Josh Zilmer (119 pounds), it is likely that Hammond could claim titles in nearly half of the 13 individual titles.
But Hammond coach Bill Smith is still cautious.
"I would hope by us going undefeated in the county that we would be considered the favorites," Smith said. "But the tournament is totally different from the dual-meet season, and we learned that two years ago. Except I think this year's team knows what it takes after winning it last year."
Golden Bears senior Chris Williams, who won the 152-pound county title two years ago, followed the same line of thinking of his coach when predicting the outcome of this year's tournament.
"I know this is my last year, and I definitely have something to prove," Williams said. "I know about the history of Hammond not being able to finish in the tournaments, but I think this team isn't going to let this happen."
Williams (23-3) has recorded a pin in every county match except against Wilde Lake's Richard Jackson (16-6, 6-1). Hammond's other undefeated county wrestlers include: Mike Chang (112, 22-3 overall), Brian Law (135, 19-5), Danny Proulx (140, 11-1), Jimmy Weston (189), who has either won by forfeit, technical fall or pin in county action, and defending county champion John Motley (130, 20-6).
The battle for second place should be closely contested between Oakland Mills and Howard.
"I like to think that we are a better team since then," Carnahan said. "I think it probably come down to bonus points with pins and tech falls."
Juri Freeman (23-1), the county champ at 112 a year ago, could wrestle at 103, 112 or 119. Wade Mitchell (130, 22-2) and Choung Nguyen (119/125, 17-3), both of whom went undefeated in the county, round out a strong lower-weights group.
The Lions counter with with junior Eric Paskin (145/152) and seniors Brian Elphage (125), Preston Murfin (140) and Seth Eldridge (160).
Carnahan hinted that the surprise of the meet could be Paul Crickard (145).
"He has been inconsistent throughout the year, but I expect some good things from him," Carnahan said. "He's been there before, which should help."
Although Wilde Lake went 1-6 in the dual-meet season, it possibly could climb into the middle of the field behind the likes of Jackson, junior heavyweight Carlo Gerstenfeld (20-4, 7-0) and senior 171-pounder Mike Green (11-2, 5-1).
"With Hammond, Oakland Mills and Howard fighting it out at the top, I think anything can happen," Wilde Lake coach Richard Jackson said. "If everyone starts gearing for each other, I think we could finish as high as third."