Oakland Mills and Hammond will lead the battle for the 1990-1991 county dual meet championship, with Wilde Lake and Atholton close behind.
Both the Scorpions and Bears, although inexperienced overall, have a small core of strong returning wrestlers. And both teams are among the few fielding a full lineup of 13 wrestlers at this point.
Another plus for Oakland Mills and Hammond is that their novice wrestlers have a lot of brute strength to overcome their lack of skill.
Both teams will be very physical.
Less physical teams such as Glenelg, Atholton and Centennial have several above-average individuals, but none has a returning county champion, and only Centennial has a runner-up (Paul Badawi).
Wilde Lake has some skilled wrestlers but is not as physical as Hammond or Oakland Mills, and the Wildecats lack a heavyweight.
Howard, which picked up county champion Alexis Gough when he transferred from Oakland Mills, is a dark-horse factor later in the season.
The countywide coaching situation remains in a state of flux, with four new head coaches taking over at Hammond, Atholton, Glenelg and Mount Hebron.
Hammond's new coach is Bill Smith, a teacher who has coached the Bears' junior varsity for several years. He is Hammond's third head coach in nine years.
Atholton's new coach is Ron McMillan, an insurance and investment agent who was assistant coach at Wilde Lake for six years. McMillan wrestled at Loyola High School and Lafayette College. He is Atholton's third head coach in six years.
Glenelg's new coach is Brian Chadwick, an electrician who was a county champion at Oakland Mills in 1981. Chadwick is coaching for the first time. He is Glenelg's third head coach in four years.
Mount Hebron's new head coach is Harry Reese, a teacher at St.
Phillip Neri School. Reese, who has coached basketball, is making his debut as a wrestling coach. He is Mount Hebron's fifth head coach in four years.
Alex Pagnotta, a county champion in 1986, will be the assistant coach.
Originally hired as head coach, Pagnotta had to take a back-seat role because of a recent job transfer to New Jersey.
Here's a team-by-team look at the county's wrestling program:
Last year was one of the most disappointing in Atholton's proud wrestling history.
Two strong wrestlers quit and one was ineligible, thereby gutting what should have been a strong team. As a result, the Raiders finished with just two league wins and three wins overall.
McMillan replaces veteran coach Earl Lauer this year and hopes some new blood can spark renewed life into the program.
Atholton has won three of its first four dual meets, including a 37-30 win over tough South Carroll.
"That South Carroll win helped our confidence, but neither team was at full strength for that meet," McMillan said.
The Raiders finished eighth out of 10 teams in the Chopticon Tourney, but they had four wrestlers place in the top four in their weight classes.
Those four were Tony Zancan (135) who was third, and Greg O'Shea (125), Andy Lewis (189) and David Hill (119) who were all fourth.
Zancan is 5-2 this year. Lewis, after missing last year with pneumonia, is 6-2.
Another wrestler looking tough is Jeff Davis (171), a transfer from Hammond. He is 6-2 so far.
Atholton has one of the more experienced teams this year, with eight returning varsity wrestlers.
Seniors John Presley (152), Soren Barr (HW), Gary Hobbs (145), Frank Coulson (160) and O'Shea give the Raiders a veteran look.
Atholton opens the league against Wilde Lake and then faces Oakland Mills. "We need to beat at least one of those two, and then I think it will be a good year," McMillan said.
Maybe the biggest news is that the Eagles finally have the same coach two years in a row.
Last year, Todd DeCrispino was the sixth coach in six years at Centennial.
This year, the Towson State University student and former Mount Hebron wrestler actually has one of the largest turnouts of any team, 31.
Like last year, however, he is again caught without a heavyweight, a factor that has already cost the team a possible win against North Harford this year. Centennial lost that match, 37-30, after leading 30-27.
The team is 1-6 through the early going, having beaten South Carroll and lost to North Harford, Joppatowne, Dulaney, Red Line (Pa.), C. M.
Wright and Atholton.
The Eagles' top healthy wrestlers are Shamus Gillen (160), Bill Augustin (171), Ken Tortolani (135) and Matt Evans (103).
Augustin, a junior, finished third in the county last year and posted a 16-9 record. His brother, Don, was a two-time county champ who graduated last June.
Gillen, a junior, finished fourth in the county last year with a 10-11 record. His brother, Zach, was also a county champ who graduated last June.
Tortolani, a junior, wrestled junior varsity last year but looked impressive in pinning his North Harford opponent John Griffith in just 1 minute, 12 seconds on Tuesday.
And Evans, a freshman, earned an impressive 13-6 decision against his North Harford foe, Brannon Moore.