Pressure is the last thing Aberdeen wrestling coach Dick Slutzky wants to contend with.
Last year, the Eagles became the first state team ever to win three consecutive titles (all in Class 1A/2A), but Slutzky is not pressing for a fourth. "We don't even think about it," said Slutzky, who begins his 19th year as Aberdeen's head coach. "We're so young. This is a different team than we've had the last year or two."
This is a rebuilding year for the Eagles, who were 15-1 last year. But Aberdeen wrestling teams don't rebuild so much as they reload.
The Eagles are ranked No. 8 in the state by the Maryland State Wrestling Association. They were ranked No. 1 all of last year.
Slutzky has some rock-solid returning talent to build on. His son Matt is a two-time county and state champion. He won the title at 119 as a freshman and at 125 last year, but he now moves up to the 135-pound class, where he is ranked No. 1 by the MSWA.
Senior Danny Osorio was the runner-up at the state tournament at 140. He is ranked No. 2 by the MSWA. Senior Everett Jones, a county champ who just missed making the regionals, is ranked No. 6 at 189.
Aberdeen has a lot of wrestlers moving up from its B team and there is competition within the squad at almost every weight.
In Harford County, the Eagles are everyone's pick for the team to beat.
Bel Air and Edgewood also should be near the top, but their coaches talk only about second place -- not about knocking the Eagles off their perch.
"Aberdeen is always the team to beat, even in their bad years," said Edgewood coach Chris Burns. "We'd like to try to give them a match, but they will be tough."
In state competition, this will be the Eagles' final year in Class 1A/2A. Next year, they will jump up to Class 3A/4A. The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association reclassifies schools every two years.
Slutzky said he doesn't feel a sense of urgency to make a final mark in Class 1A/2A. Only one school, Beall, has ever won four state wrestling titles.
"We've been 3A/4A before," said Slutzky. "The competition is more difficult. Some years it's not much more, but over the long haul, it's better. They have such big schools and they have so many students to choose from."
Still, Slutzky is not upset by the change. "It doesn't bother me either way. We realize we will have to dig down and build the program up another notch."
The jump will make it rougher on the individuals who have the potential to win state titles. Matt Slutzky, who hopes to be the state's first four-time champion, as well as the other non-seniors on the Eagles' roster will find the competition tougher in Class 3A/4A.