As far as Rex Miller was concerned, this was the Chesapeake wrestling team the second-year coach expected to see.
Seven out of a possible eight Cougars who reached the finals of the 43rd Annual Anne Arundel County tournament collected individual crowns last night at Old Mill to propel eighth-ranked Chesapeake to its first tournament championship in more than 20 years.
The Cougars swept the first six weight classes and only one member placed lower than sixth to amass 243.5 points, making amends for losing county and regional dual-meet titles earlier this season.
"As the season goes on, you have to take the good with the bad," Miller said. "The bad came at the wrong time. We had to make up for it."
Two-time state champion Matt Eveleth, who became only the fourth wrestler to win a county crown four times, said the team was driven to prove itself.
"Every single one of us knew that this would be the outcome," said the 125-pound senior, who recorded an 11-3 major decision over Annapolis sophomore Ben Graham. "I think this shows how good of a team we know we are and what we can do."
The Cougars earned titles from freshman Shane Fraser (103); sophomore Corey Bowers (112); junior Steve Yaruta (119); sophomore Jim Woodland (130); sophomore Chris Grove (135); and senior Jason Shehane (189).
Woodland provided the most nail-biting win when he broke free from Annapolis sophomore Andrew Smith with less than 10 seconds left in their match to register an escape and a 10-9 decision.
"I heard my dad yell to get out and get the point," said Woodland, who wrestled despite pulled ligaments in both shoulders. "I just kept fighting."
Bowers and Yaruta both avenged regular-season losses to a pair of familiar faces.
Bowers outpointed Old Mill sophomore Doug West, 7-1, in a rematch of last season's 103-pound final, which Bowers also won.
Yaruta claimed his second championship in three years by edging Old Mill junior Josh Baynham, 3-1.
The No. 7 Patriots, winners of 12 tournament crowns, finished second with 203.5 points, but only one of their five finalists - junior heavyweight William Bell - grabbed a crown.
No. 6 Annapolis placed third (174) and boasted two titlists in senior Joe Mihoces (152) and senior Paul Macknis (171).
For Mihoces, his 6-5 decision against Old Mill senior Dominick Grossi ended a personal five-match losing streak to the returning county champion.
"I just wanted to be the champ," said Mihoces, who rebounded from a 4-2 third-period deficit with two back points from a cradle and a takedown. "I knew [the cradle] would take him mentally out of the match."
Severna Park, the 2001 tournament champion, finished fourth (125.5) as junior Rob Turnblacer collected back-to-back crowns with a first-period pin of Chesapeake junior Chad LaPlanche at 160.
Southern senior Matt Barrett, a No. 4 seed, completed his Cinderella-like run through the 145-pound division by squeaking past South River senior Billy Belka, 5-4.
"I've been working hard all season for this," said Barrett, who lose twice to Belka earlier this season. "Now those losses are obsolete. In the end, it's nice being a champion."
Barrett's effort helped the Bulldogs placed fifth (118.5).
Arundel finished sixth (106.5) as senior Ryan Lowder upended top-seeded and Annapolis senior Bill Vollono, 7-3, at 140.