When top-ranked wrestling teams tangle, it's the unexpected results that often provide the margin of victory.
Old Mill and North Carroll, co-ranked No. 1 by the Maryland State Wrestling Association, proved it Friday night. The Patriots of Old Mill won, 39-21, and it was sophomore Todd Haltgren's 9-4 decision over Scott Bruce at 135 pounds that altered the outcome more than any other single match.
In defense of Bruce, he was wrestling with a face mask to protect stitches over his eye. Yet before the match, Haltgren saw the mask as possibly working to Bruce's advantage.
"It makes it more difficult to use certain moves, like the cross-face," Haltgren said. "I knew I had to work him low. I saw him wrestle [in the preliminary match] against Glen Burnie and planned my strategy then."
Haltgren's victory was Old Mill's third in the first six matches, pulling the Patriots within 15-12.
"We needed at least two victories in the first six matches, or we would have been in deep trouble," said Old Mill coach Mike Hampe. "Todd gave us our third to that point."
Steve Lundstrom (103) and Vytas Dulys (112) had produced the first two for the Patriots, before North Carroll got pins from Tom Dell (119) and Justin Deibel (125) and a 7-2 decision from Andy Rill (130).
North Carroll expected those and probably hoped for another at 112, but Dulys had to shed 3 1/2 pounds to make weight by riding an exercise bike through his lunch period Friday.
"I think they were serving pizza in his sports nutrition class [following the lunch period]," said Hampe.
"I asked for a pass from my [sports nutrition] teacher," said Dulys. "She understood and that let me stay on the bike for a second straight [class] period."
Dulys figured, once he had weighed in (about 4 p.m.), he easily regained the lost pounds before he actually took the mat.
With all that having transpired, North Carroll coach Dick Bauerlein chose to bump unbeaten 140-pounder Jason Myers up a weight class. That meant the much anticipated 140-pound match between Old Mill standout Brent Layman and Myers would be put off for another day.
Layman won at 140 with a leg-cradle pin to put the Patriots ahead 18-15 and they never looked back.
John Bliss outpointed Myers at 145, 5-4, desperately hanging on to a leg for the final 25 seconds of the match to maintain control.
"I didn't know whether the referee had awarded him escape points, reversal points or no points, but I had my hands locked around his leg and I couldn't take the chance on letting go," said Bliss.
"The rule is clear on that one," said Hampe. "As long as John's hands were locked, he was considered in control."
The full house at North Carroll saw it the other way, but the referee denied Myers the points necessary to have reversed the outcome.
Old Mill then took every subsequent match except at 160 where North Carroll's defending state champ Dave Foster gained a pin in 3 minutes 28 seconds over Sun Park.
Foster was another unexpected story. He figured to win his match, but he didn't count on the gym's microphone cutting out during his inspiring rendition of the national anthem before the meet began.
Foster never skipped a beat, letting his strong baritone voice echo ". . . the rockets red glare . . . " off the rafters. The faulty microphone connection was fixed in time for . . . "Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave . . . "
The night's biggest upset?
Nary a soul shouted "O's."
If they had, it would have been an "O" as in Old Mill. The Patriots, who began the season ranked No. 3, undoubtedly will be No. 1 when the MSWA releases its newest poll tomorrow.