Shortly after Old Mill junior Antoine Cooksey came away with the 160-pound championship -- providing the No. 2 Patriots with their fifth and final county champion -- an impressed spectator shook his head and said, "Boy, Old Mill came to wrestle this weekend."
Simple words, but none better to describe the bold statement Old Mill made in capturing the 40th Anne Arundel County championship last night at Broadneck.
With their five champs, one runner-up and two third-place finishers, the Patriots easily separated themselves from the rest of the 12-team field, winning by a 209-137 1/2 margin over second-place Arundel. It's the 11th county championship for the Patriots, their second straight and first under new coach Vern Hines.
"Did we make a point?" asked Hines, knowing the answer was a big "yes."
"We've been practicing very hard and building up to this," he said. "Next is the regional tournament and our job there is to put us in the best possible position to win a state championship. I'm real proud of the kids. It was a complete team effort."
Fittingly setting the tone in the final round for the Patriots was senior 125-pounder Chris Combs, who became only the third wrestler in Anne Arundel to win four county titles after his methodical 11-4 decision over Severna Park's Dan Horne.
Marty and Mike Kusick, both 1995 Northeast grads, were the first two to accomplish the feat.
"It feels real good. Anne Arundel County has always been a strong wrestling county, so to do this is a big honor," said Combs, who begins his quest for a third state title starting next weekend at regionals.
Following Combs atop the podium for the Patriots was Eric Hill (135), James Fleming (140), DaveHicks -- who came away with a 3-0 decision over Arundel's top-seeded Greg Klingler at 145 -- and Cooksey.
And while the Patriots left no suspense as far as the team title was concerned, plenty of highlights remained in the finals.
Arundel heavyweight Jeff Blachly avenged last year's championship decision loss to Northeast's James Taylor with a 12-7 decision.
Injuring a knee early in the match, Blachly was able to stay two points in front of Taylor most of the way before getting three back points off a cradle early in the third period to take an 11-5 lead and hold on from there. Blachly has won two solid decisions over Taylor this season after the latter took three out of four last season.
"I tried to tough it out and go as long as I could. It really started hurting after the second period. Coach [Buddy Hepfer] told me I had one more period left. I'll be all right," said Blachly, who improved to 28-2 on the season.
Chesapeake freshman Matt Eveleth scored a second-period pin over North County's Brian Coe at 103, but his older brother, Jeff, fell just short in a 5-3 decision loss to Southern's Nick Alley.
Alley, a two-time county champ and a state champ as a sophomore, took control in the second period with a front headlock that turned into four points and a 5-0 lead. Alley (26-3) has now handed Eveleth (24-2) both his losses this season.
"I don't really have his number," said Alley. "We've had some good matches and I've been lucky to come out [on top]."
Meade's Matt Pandullo claimed the 119-pound class with a 9-5 decision over Old Mill's Adam DeCosmo. Arundel's Pat Ortman won his second county title with an 11-7 decision over Broadneck sophomore Brad Willard.
The host Bruins were the surprise team of the tournament, taking third place with 126 point after finishing 11th last season. Their JV team also took second behind Old Mill yesterday.
Numbers have been the key all season long for the Bruins, starting with the 57 wrestlers that came out after just 18 last season.
"It's gratifying seeing the kids go from so far behind to now," said Bruins first-year coach Fred Yelton. "It comes down to their hard work, their determination and its a testament to their character. We provide the structure and atmosphere, the rest is the kids -- they learn a lot from each other."
Also winning county championships were Annapolis' Andrew Hemminger (152), Arundel Matt Neidig (171) and Northeast's Tom Cain at 189.
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Two athletes (one boy and one girl) will be selected each week and featured in Wednesday's editions. Athletes nominated must be available the next Monday to have their pictures taken. Only coaches can nominate Athletes of the Week.
Pub Date: 2/21/99