Owings Mills coach Guy Pritzker plays down this weekend's significance even as his No. 2 Eagles have a chance to make him just the second coach to lead five title-winning teams with a victory in the 2A-1A state tournament today and tomorrow at McDaniel College.
"I'm not worrying about points or pins," said the 21st-year coach, whose 16 individual state champions are the most by an active coach. "We're a young team and it's a wide-open field. If they do it, great, but I'm only interested in them doing well individually."
Having only four seniors, Owings Mills has won every event it has entered this season, including capturing its seventh Baltimore County tournament crown and ninth North region duals title. And with its 43-26 win over Allegany County's Beall (21-1) on Feb. 25, Owings Mills (17-0) became the first program, and Pritzker the first coach, to win consecutive state dual crowns.
Today, the Eagles will vie for the title with No. 6 Harford Tech and No. 7 Centennial, which is led by the top-ranked Nakasone twins, state champion Dave (152 pounds) and Mark (145). In 4A-3A, No. 3 River Hill should compete for its first title with ninth-ranked and defending champion Chesapeake-Anne Arundel and No. 8 Old Mill. The Hawks already have won the 4A-3A duals crown.
One and done
Unlike previous years, when a wrestler could finish as high as third in the state tournament after a first-round loss, this year's tournament features a first-round, single-elimination format. Double-elimination begins in the ensuing quarterfinal round.
"This year, you don't get a second chance," said McDonough of Charles County's Derrick McDermott.
After suffering first-round losses in last year's 4A-3A state tournament, McDermott and Corey Bowers of Chesapeake-Anne Arundel each pulled for his conqueror to win his next match - which they did.
Under the "follow-the-winner" format, Bowers went on to win four straight matches to finish third at 112 pounds, and McDermott won three consecutive bouts to take fourth place at 125.
McDermott, who is 32-0 at 130 pounds, opens with a familiar opponent in Fallston senior Chris Baum (26-4), whom he blanked, 4-0, earlier this year. "We're easily two of the top four guys in the weight class, but one of us goes home early. I have to make sure that it's not me."
Bowers and McDermott are among "about two percent" of wrestlers who came back to place third or fourth under the previous format, according to tournament director Duke Beattie, referring to a system that existed for "at least a decade" and could return next year.
Beattie said the change is a tradeoff for the opportunity to showcase the championship finals (on two mats) separately from the consolation finals (on six mats) as opposed to wrestling them simultaneously as in past years. Prior to the title round, all place-winners and finalists will be paraded before the audience.
Beattie said the committee will re-examine the move.
The future of 215
The inaugural 215-pound weight class - for wrestlers considered too small to compete as heavyweights and too heavy for 189 pounds - has produced two strong and agile prototypes.
Broadneck junior Tyler Moyer (28-1) is top-ranked and considered a favorite to win the 4A-3A crown, and Joppatowne sophomore Jeremy Navarre (26-2), ranked No. 4, is among the favorites in 2A-1A.
What:34th annual Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association 4A-3A and 2A-1A wrestling
Where: McDaniel College
Schedule: Today - preliminaries (eight mats), 2:30-6:30 p.m.; quarterfinals (eight mats), 7:30-10 p.m. Tomorrow - championship semifinals (four mats), 10 a.m.; consolation quarterfinals (six mats), 12 p.m.; consolation semifinals (six mats), 1 p.m.; consolation finals, fifth and sixth (two mats), third and fourth (two mats), 4 p.m.; championship finals (two mats), 6 p.m.
Admission: $5 for each of the sessions; all-session pass $15.
Online: Round-by-round results can be found at www.mpssaa-wrestling.com