After a season of parity among county wrestling teams, as many as four squads could make a serious push for the championship at the Carroll County tournament on Saturday at Liberty.
While No. 15 Westminster (12-2 overall, 4-0 county) will enter as the slight favorite, No. 12 North Carroll (14-4, 2-2) and South Carroll (12-2, 3-1), also considered for this week's Sun Top 15, should challenge. At least one county coach, however, believes the performance of Monocacy Valley Athletic League champion Francis Scott Key (8-5, 1-3) could be the deciding factor.
"We're counting on Francis Scott Key to help us out a little bit," Westminster coach Henry Mohlhenrich said. "I think they're very capable of throwing a monkey wrench into a lot of people's plans. It's going to be real close. All of the teams, with the exception of Liberty, have their four or five wrestlers who could win it."
The tournament has seen its share of tight finishes in recent years. In 1999, Westminster won the title by half a point. The Owls won by a similar margin in 1995, clinching the crown when Liberty's 189-pounder defeated a Key wrestler.
Last month, Westminster scored two come-from-behind victories in the final seconds to upend North Carroll, 35-29. A week later, North Carroll appeared to defeat South Carroll, 39-24, but later forfeited for using two JV wrestlers in both varsity and JV matches, a violation of state rules.
"If it was just North Carroll and us, I think we're very capable of beating them again," Mohlenrich said. "But in any tournament like this, you've got to worry about who from one of the other teams is going to knock off one of our good guys. Anything can happen."
The tournament starts at 11 a.m. The semifinals are scheduled for 2:30 p.m., with the finals at 5 p.m.
Panthers second in region
Competing without Aislinn Sowash, one of the county's premier sprinters and high jumpers, North Carroll still came within an eyelash of winning its fourth straight regional title in girls indoor track Monday.
Led by Katie Riley's victories in the 55-meter dash and hurdles, the Panthers accumulated 84 team points but fell three shy of champion Towson in the 16-team Class 3A-2A Central region meet at Hagerstown Community College.
South Carroll was fifth, and Liberty finished seventh.
Sowash, who won the county high jump and finished second to Riley in both the county 55 and hurdles, had left school earlier in the day with an illness.
Even without her, however, the Hampstead squad, coming off victories at both the county and Central Maryland Conference meets, placed in the top three in eight of 13 events, also getting victories from Lindsay Winter (pole vault) and runner-up finishes from Caitlin Hilbert (high jump), Donna Weglien (pole vault) and their 800-relay team.
In boys competition, Baltimore county's Owings Mills and Randallstown finished 1-2, with Liberty third, South Carroll fourth and North Carroll ninth.
The Lions scored big points in the 55 hurdles, with Aaron Riner and Brandon Bard taking first and second, respectively, and the pole vault, with Nick Rigby and Dan Wagner taking first and third.
Francis Scott Key participated in its regional last Friday, with the boys taking sixth and the girls seventh in the Class 2A-1A West meet. Matt Kutcher was the Eagles' lone winner, clearing 6 feet 2 to take the high jump.
The state championship meet is scheduled for Monday at the Prince George's Sports & Learning Complex in Landover.
The county's two top boys basketball teams will butt heads again tomorrow night, when Westminster travels to No. 14 South Carroll. South Carroll (16-4 overall, 5-0 in the county) can clinch its second straight county title with a win.
In the teams' game last month, the Owls built an early 13-point lead before the Cavaliers, led by 6-9 center Josh Boone, surged back to win, 68-63.