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AROUND THE AREA

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Anne Arundel County

Stacked with county champs and state qualifiers, defending Class 4A-3A state titlist Chesapeake comes in as the decisive county favorite and should make another run at states.

The Smith twins - Steve (140 pounds) and Shawn (145) - give Severna Park the best shot at matching the Cougars.

An interesting mix of experience and young talent at Old Mill begins with senior heavyweight William Bell, the Patriots' only returning county champ, and junior Doug West (125).

Arundel has a new coach in Billy Royer; Southern has a senior-laden group that could surprise; and Northeast should be a strong tournament team with some individual standouts.

Baltimore City

Patterson will attempt to win its seventh straight city championship under a new coach, Shawn Edinger. The Clippers return city champions Thomas Smith (189 pounds) and Dominic Bullock (112), state qualifiers who led Patterson to league dual and tournament crowns.

A football running back on a team for which Edinger was an assistant, Smith said, "He's a good coach. Our wrestlers like him."

The Clippers have dominated in the past, but the race could be much closer this season with improved teams at Poly and Mervo. Poly coach Wavie Gibson likes Matthew Oakley, a talented higher-weight wrestler who won a junior-league state title two years ago.

Baltimore County

Several contenders could make the race for the county tournament crown - as well as those for the Class 4A-3A and 2A-1A dual titles - one of the most contested in years.

Owings Mills is the defending county and 2A-1A North regional champion as well as the defending 2A-1A state dual meet champion. But the Eagles won't find the going easy.

Owings Mills should be challenged in the county 2A-1A league by Eastern Tech and Hereford.

In 4A-3A, the chase for the crown runs similarly. Dulaney finished strongly in each of the county and 4A-3A regional and state meets. The Lions will vie with improved squads from Perry Hall and Kenwood for the dual meet crown.

Carroll County

Defending tournament champion North Carroll has a new coach as longtime assistant David Dodson takes over for Bryan Wetzel, who's now a vice principal at the school.

Dodson's team lost Class 3A state champion Fran Jackson (152 pounds), but the Panthers still have plenty of talent, such as state qualifiers Seth Knights (140), Randy Shrek (145) and Rob Pearre (160).

They'll have to battle defending county regular-season champion Westminster, South Carroll and the quickly rising Francis Scott Key. Westminster again has plenty of good wrestlers, and South Carroll returns several starters from its 12-2 team of a year ago, including Tom Wheeler (130) and Andrew Winfield (160).

Harford County

Harford Tech coach Gary Siler was the beneficiary of a couple of gifts during the offseason.

Not only did one of Archbishop Curley's top returning wrestlers choose to stay in the county, but he chose the defending league champion Cobras as his new team. In addition, one of the area's more talented junior-leaguers - a two-time state champion - also has joined a Cobras program that lost only three of 13 dual matches last fall.

Their talents will be added to those of a couple of returning individual county champions.

Nevertheless, teams from Aberdeen, Bel Air, Fallston, Joppatowne and North Harford are littered with enough talent that they should not be overlooked.

Howard County

If River Hill performs to its ability, no one should catch last season's county runners-up.

The Hawks return 10 starters, including three county champions - Ryan and Nick Shevland and Jesse Fawcett - from a team that went 16-4.

Hammond and Centennial should offer the Hawks a challenge, however.

Featuring regional champion Dan Snyder, Hammond returns seven starters from a regional dual-meet championship team. Centennial, with its deepest team in more than a decade, returns five starters, including first-team All-County wrestlers Mark and David Nakasone.

Wilde Lake and Glenelg are other teams that could prove competitive.

Private schools

Mount St. Joseph lost four dual meets last season, but area teams will be hard-pressed to overcome the Gaels either in the duals or tournament formats this season.

A couple of standout wrestlers return for Mount St. Joseph, and an additional quality competitor transferred in from a Carroll County public school. The resulting squad is a favorite to dethrone Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference dual meet and tournament champ Archbishop Curley.

While Curley lost several quality wrestlers to graduation, MIAA contenders McDonogh and Boys' Latin return a few key veterans and -- like the Gaels -- also will benefit from junior-league graduates.

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