The county high school wrestling scenario has long been divided intotwo camps.
In one corner are the swaggering Scorpions from Oakland Mills. On the mat, the Scorpions combine bravado with confidence and intimidation with intelligence. Their program carries, in the wordsof third-year coach Dan Ricker, "the right kind of arrogance" that stems from a succession of 11 county championships in 14 seasons. The Scorpions' bullying style may not be endearing, but the bottom line speaks loudly: These guys can flat-out wrestle.
In the other corner sits the rest of the county, the other seven teams that think they can, hope they can, but deep down wonder if they'll ever beat Oakland Mills. They're the ones who dream of the nightwhen the Scorpions aren't winning matches and pinning opponents withengine-like efficiency, then sticking their chests out after each victory for punctuation.
Hammond, one of the league's better teams behind -- whom else? -- took its best shot Wednesday night. The GoldenBears scrapped early. They even pushed back at times when things gottesty. But in the end they withered under a five-pin assault and superior conditioning by the Scorpions, who posted a 39-20 victory.
The defending county champion Scorpions, who came to Hammond expectingtheir toughest challenge of the still-young league season, lived to remain top dogs for yet another day. They improved their league record to 3-0, 6-2 overall, and have now won 21 consecutive matches against the county dating back to the 1988-89 season.
Hammond suffered its first league defeat in three dual meets. The Bears' overall recordfell to 8-3.
Adam Seidman, the 130-pounder who pinned Hammond's Brian Magill midway through the second period to give Oakland Mills a 15-6 lead it would never relinquish, left no doubt the Scorpions continue to invite all comers to try knocking them out of top-dog status.
"We did this for the coach and for team pride. Every year people say Oakland Mills is going to get its butt kicked by somebody (in thecounty), but every year Oakland Mills goes out and kicks butt," saidSeidman, the defending 125-pound county champion who improved his record to 19-2 with his sixth pin of the season.
"It's expected. Oakland Mills has been on top for so long," Seidman added.
Besides showcasing the Scorpions' impressive array of talent once again, the meet also captured some of the frustration teams feel in trying to unseat them. This was best typified in the 119-pound match between Hammond's Chris Mercurio and the Scorpions' Kalev Freeman.
Mercurio jumped all over Freeman with a series of takedowns and near falls that staked him to an 11-2 lead at the end of two periods. But in the third period, a tired Mercurio did nothing but hang on in the bottom position while Freeman desperately tried to turn him over and pin him. Freeman was awarded two points for Mercurio's stalling, and the match ended 11-4.
Then the two shoved each other briefly on the edge of themat before the coaches and referee intervened. Although it wasn't clear who started the pushing, Freeman obviously was livid over the stalling, and even said after the meet, "I was upset. I'm expected to win. It's a lot of pressure, and I've got to learn to handle that pressure. I respect him (Mercurio.)"
A team point was taken away from each team, which made Bears coach Bill Smith equally mad. A 7-6 Hammond lead became a 6-5 lead.
"It sounds like whining, because it was inconsequential to the match. We got beat by a better team. But that situation did not warrant a penalty point," Smith said.
"Chris waspushed as he was getting up and he defended himself. They'll (Oakland Mills) call us crybabies, we'll call them poor sports. That's the way Oakland Mills does things. It's the attitude. They push people. They make gestures after they win. When you lose to Oakland Mills, you don't just lose. You get embarrassed."
Ricker bristled at Smith's comments. "He (Smith) says I teach them to be mean and nasty, and I do. But I don't teach them to push people and cost us team points," hesaid. "That's stupid. I get enough team points taken away by myself.We're arrogant, but it's the right kind of arrogance."
Arrogance notwithstanding, the Scorpions are also proficient and methodical on the mat. Besides Seidman, 112-pounder Danny Bickell (19-2), 145-pounder Marcus Myles, 171-pounder Justin Blackwell, and top-ranked heavyweight Monte Spencer (19-1, 15 pins) also got into the pinning act. Spencer needed a mere 26 seconds against Jesse Pitt to finish the meet.
Mike Maun (125) also scored a 13-0 decision over Hammond's Pat Sheplee, Jeff Henderson (160) took an 8-4 decision over Hammond's Dan Johnson, and in the evening's other bad-blood match, Brian Dunbar and Hammond's Omar Williams pawed, pushed and glared at each other for much of the 135-pound event, before Dunbar came away with a 6-3 victory.
Besides Mercurio's victory, Hammond's high points were a technical fall by James Burrell (19-3) over Joe Salinas in the 140-pound class and a pin by Pat Brennan over Justin Wethington in the 189-pound class. Ricky Matthews (152) also scored an 8-5 victory over Brian DuVall to improve his record to 16-5. Dan Proulx also started the meet with a 9-0 victory over Carlos Mena in the 103-pound match.