For No. 2-ranked Old Mill, the Anne Arundel County Wrestling Tournament starting today at Broadneck High could come down to simple math.
"Our seven big guns seeded first or second need to make the final," said coach Vern Hines. "We need our kids to wrestle to their seedings, every kid carrying his own load."
If that happens, Old Mill would come away with its 11th county crown, but the Patriots know all too well it's never that easy.
Last winter's county tournament, which included 390 bouts, came down to the final bout's final minute, and the Patriots took the title by four points.
Today, the Patriots return to the mat for the first time since their disheartening 26-24 loss to Arundel in last week's Class 3A-4A East dual-meet region final.
Appearing to have the region clinched, leading 26-20 and owning the tie-breaker on the number of bouts won going into the heavyweights, Old Mill lost to the No. 3 Wildcats when heavyweight Dave Kim was disqualified for apparently biting Arundel's Jeff Blachly, creating an eight-point swing.
The Patriots were stunned.
"We bottomed out for a day or two. It was devastating for the kids," said Hines. "Our ultimate goal was to repeat as dual-meet state champions.
"But we've pulled together as a team, and that's what we're relying on. We have a good team, and if we can rebound starting with counties, we're going to be real competitive at region and states."
The 40th annual county tournament will start at 4 p.m. today, pick up at 10 a.m. tomorrow, with finals scheduled for about 5 p.m.
The Patriots have four top-seeded wrestlers, led by two-time state champ Chris Combs, who will look to become the first Old Mill wrestler to win four county crowns at 125 pounds.
Arundel has three top seeds with Blachly -- 25-2 -- leading the way.
What separates the two teams is depth. The Patriots come back with three second seeds. But the Wildcats will be without three starters, two academically ineligible and another hurt.
"Old Mill is going to run away with it," said Arundel coach Buddy Hepfer.
Plenty of intrigue should remain. In the first two weight classes, one name dominates the top seeds -- Eveleth.
Matt, a 103-pound freshman at Chesapeake, comes in at 22-2, and his older brother, Jeff, a junior 112-pounder, holds the top spot in the tournament's most demanding weight class with a 22-1 mark.
"Getting to the final is not going to be easy. But if Jeff and Nick both get there, it should be a real good match," said Chesapeake coach Tom Slichter. "Jeff is going to have to be better on his feet. Last time, he showed a little too much respect, and Nick turned a takedown into a five-point move . That was it."
Five others return as county champs, joining Taylor, Combs and Alley.
Old Mill sophomore Adam DeCosmo is the third seed behind Meade's Matt Pandullo, and Annapolis' Dan Hemminger at 119. Teammate Dave Hicks, the Patriots' 145-pounder, is seeded second behind Arundel's Greg Klingler.
Annapolis' Andrew Hemminger is the top seed at 152. Northeast will try to dominate the upper weights again, with Tom Cain the top seed at 189 joining heavyweight teammate Taylor.
"The county is solid. There are third and fourth seeds with 19 and 20 wins throughout," said Hines.
Pub Date: 2/19/99