As the old saying goes, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
But the proverbial weak links on Old Mill's wrestling team -- its inexperienced lower weights -- are in many cases as strong as the veterans on other squads.
That was the case in Tuesday night's 41-21 victory over Annapolis when the Patriots' lower-weight wrestlers were the glue that kept the team's 33-match winning streak going.
"Their lightweights were the juice tonight," said Annapolis's Pat Flynn, who wrestled at 152 even though he is ranked No. 1 at 145 by the Maryland State Wrestling Association. "We were expecting to have a lead after the first four matches, but when the pressure was on, Old Mill's lightweights did the job."
The Panthers trailed, 16-0, after the first four bouts and didn't get on the scoreboard until Ira Robbins (130) and Ford Baumgardner (135) notched back-to-back pins to bring the Annapolis squad to within 16-12.
Old Mill coach Mike Hampe said he expected victories from No. 2-ranked 103-pounder Steve Lundstrom (15-2), who picked up his seventh pin, and 119-pounder Bob Sugden, who improved to 12-7 withhis 4-0 decision over Mike Bousman (11-5-1).
However, Hampe didn't expect 112-pounder Vytas Dulys to overwhelm Kevin Owen, 13-0, in a match that was supposed to be close -- especially considering Dulys had to lose a couple of pounds before the match.
And at 125 pounds,the Patriots' Rick Oleszczuk decisioned veteran Ian Robbins, 8-4. Robbins (Ira's twin brother) carried a 10-7 record into the match. Oleszczuk, a first-year varsity wrestler, brought only a 1-4 record into the bout.
"I really think Oleszczuk and Dulys were the biggest reason (for the win,)" said Hampe, whose two-time defending Class 4A/3A state champion Patriots are 7-0 overall and 4-0 against the 4A league.
The Patriots also maintained their top ranking in the MSWA's top10.
"We were worried about those matches before tonight," said Hampe. "But we talked about pride and tradition and I think that's what kept (the streak) intact."
The Patriots' lead increased to 21-12 after top-ranked Brent Layman (140) raised his record to 18-1 by coasting to a 21-6 technical fall victory over Tom Sfakiyanudas.
Chip Cochran grabbed a 5-3 upset win over Old Mill's sixth-ranked John Bliss at 145 pounds, and Flynn (17-0) picked up his 11th pin of the season over Old Mill's John Earle to tie the match at 21-21.
Annapolis had hoped those two matches would be the turning point, but the Patriots' four upper weights closed as expected -- with victories.
Old Mill's third-ranked Brian Layman (160) and fourth-ranked heavyweightDon Marco each registered first-period pins and Sun Park (171) and Earnie Longazel (189) won by 11-2 and 11-1 decisions, respectively.
Layman (eight pins) boosted his personal record to 13-0 and Marco (14 pins) improved to 16-1.
"We won some battles, but we didn't win the war," said Cochran, who improved to 17-1.
Annapolis (6-1, 2-1), a state tournament runner-up to Old Mill last year, had been ridingthe momentum of last weekend's victory in the eighth annual Arundel Invitational tournament.
"I'm not unhappy with the way it turned out, although I thought there were some matches that could have gone our way," said Annapolis coach Dave Gehrdes. "Overall, I thought that we wrestled well."
Old Mill next visits the No. 7-ranked BroadneckBruins (6-0), who cruised to a 34-25 victory over the No. 10-ranked Charles County power Lackey in a tri-meet with Prince George's County's Frederick Douglass Tuesday night.
Broadneck buried Douglass, 62-3. The Bruins then won the first six bouts for a 28-0 lead over hostLackey (6-1), the defending Southern Maryland Athletic Conference champion and a state tournament runner-up in 1986.
There were four bouts left after Broadneck's Seth Lopatkiewicz (152) put the match mathematically out of reach, 34-6, with a third-period pin.
Lackey didn't score until sixth-ranked Jason Batchelor's first-period pin at 145.
"Lackey had a solid team, but they don't have any superstars,"said Broadneck coach John Mayberry. "We jumped all over them early -- that's what we've got to do to win."
Top-ranked Shawn Miller (112) had a pair of victories to remain unbeaten at 16-0 with 13 pins. No. 3-ranked 130-pounder Duke Koblinsky increased his record to 15-1, including seven pins.
Also with a pair of victories were No. 6-ranked Charlie Bennett (103) and Roy Brazeau (119), who each improved their records to 17-2. Brazeau has 11 pins.
Lopatkiewicz' record now stands at 14-5 with 11 pins.
After Old Mill next Friday, the Bruins meet Annapolis (Jan. 29) in another big match.
"The way it looks now, nobody's going to beat Old Mill," said Mayberry. "It's a battle for second place and we've got to win the first five or six matches against Annapolis or we won't beat them."