When the wrestling season got under way in December, Aberdeen didn'tlook quite as imposing as it had the previous four years.
For thefirst time in years, the Eagles were mostly young and green. Although they still had some strong wrestlers, especially in Matt Slutzky, Danny Osorio and Zack Fowl, the Eagles had a lot of work to do if theyhoped to retain the county title.
"We have a few stars," said Coach Dick Slutzky, "but basically we're a team of new guys. We had eight or nine guys out there who had not been in a varsity tournament before this year."
But by the timeAberdeen reached last weekend's Harford County wrestling championships, the youngsters were ready. The Eagles landed 10 wrestlers in the top three places in their weight divisions, including placing seven grapplers in the finals and winning five individual titles.
Those strong performances gave the Eagles their seventh straight county title and their 13th overall. They easily outdistanced runner-up Edgewood, 189-130, in the meet, Feb. 15-16 at Fallston High School.
Bel Air, with three individual champs, finished third with 101.5 points. Fallston was fourth with 93; followed by North Harford, 74; C. Milton Wright, 54.5; Havre de Grace, 50; Harford Vo-Tech, 43; and Joppatowne,6.
For Aberdeen, veterans Matt Slutzky (135 pounds), Osorio (140)and Fowl (112) all won titles. But the Eagles also got unexpected victories from Brett Johnson at 103 and Aaron Wanless at heavyweight.
"The younger guys really came through and showed a lot of pride," said Matt Slutzky. "They worked hard, and it's nice to see all that work paying off."
Johnson, a junior, decisioned Fallston sophomore Tom Brazier, 12-0, in the championship. Sophomore Wanless came from behind to beat Edgewood's John Lamancusa, 9-3.
Matt Slutzky continued his bid to win every post-season title of his high school career. The junior, 25-1 and ranked No. 1 by the Maryland State Wrestling Association at 135 pounds, pinned all three of his opponents in the county tournament. He spent only 5:01 on the mat on the way to his third straight county title.
Matt Slutzky -- also a two-time defending regional and state champion -- pinned Edgewood's Bill Carr in 1:09 to take the title.
The Eagles also owned the 140-pound class where Osorio decisioned Fallston's Max Dodd, 7-0. Osorio, 26-0 and ranked second in his weight class by the MSWA, finished third in the county lastyear and second in the state.
Fowl (24-2) gave the Eagles an expected victory at 112 pounds. Ranked No. 3 by the MSWA at 103 pounds, Fowl had a difficult time with Edgewood's Minh Dang before winning a 4-2 decision.
The Eagles had two other wrestlers reach the finals, Todd Jones at 145 pounds and Eric Ratcliff at 171.
In addition, Aberdeen had three winners in the consolation finals. All beat Fallstonwrestlers. Frank Johnson decisioned Carl Penski, 5-4, at 119 pounds.David Mumpower beat Derek Schwarz, 11-9, at 130 pounds. Mike Taylor decisioned John Perez, 8-4, at 160.
Also in the consolation finals, Aberdeen's Steve Stallard was pinned by Bill Richardson, of Fallston, at 125. Scott Johnson fell to Bel Air's Rob Smallwood, 8-3, at 152.
Both Aberdeen and runner-up Edgewood suffered blows going into the county championships. The Eagles lost one of their top wrestlers when Everett Jones, who probably would have been seeded first at 189 pounds, moved to Texas.
Edgewood lost one of its stars, Ty Long, when he failed to make weight. The junior, who had wrestled much of theyear at 112, was entered in the county meet at 103 pounds. He was top-seeded as well as being ranked No. 2 by the MSWA at 103 pounds.
Keith Spurlin and Brian Kocur won titles for Edgewood. Spurlin, ranked fourth by the MSWA, won his third straight county title at 152 pounds. He took a 2-1 decision over North Harford's Marc Perrine. Perrineneeded overtime to get past Smallwood, who won the county title lastyear at 145.
Kocur decisioned C. Milton Wright's Chris Miller, 6-2, to win the 130-pound title.
Bel Air had three champions in Allan, Scott Birth and Tim Gross.
At 119, Birth, second in the county last year, pinned C. Milton Wright's Aric Schwab in 2:58. At 189, Gross decisioned Fallston's Matt Radimer, 6-2.
Other individual champs were Havre de Grace's Jim Ervine at 125, North Harford's Dan Gunn at 160 and Harford Vo-Tech's Lance Sims at 171.
Ervine, the Warriors junior, decisioned Edgewood's Mike Bunker, 4-3. Ervine won after hereceived a point when Bunker was penalized for stalling with six seconds left in the match.
Gunn pinned Havre de Grace's Tom Burdsall in 3:35. Burdsall had won the county title at 152 last year. Sims decisioned Aberdeen's Ratcliff, 9-4, in overtime.
The county's wrestling teams were scheduled to compete for regional championships yesterday.
Aberdeen, ranked in a tie for 10th place by the MSWA, was to defend its Class 1A/2A, Region II title against seven Harford County teams and 10 Baltimore County squads.
The Eagles were going for their seventh straight regional title, but they faced a challenge from Owings Mills. The Golden Eagles, who won the Baltimore County championship with a meet record 232.5 points, are ranked second by the MSWA behind Mount St. Joseph.
Bel Air and C. Milton Wright, Harford County's only Class 3A teams, were to compete against teams from Baltimore, Carroll and Cecil counties in their regional championships.
Those who qualify will go on to the state championships scheduled March1-2 at Western Maryland College in Westminster.
Preliminaries begin at 2:30 on March 1 with quarterfinals to follow at 7:30. Championship semifinals begin at noon on March 2, followed by consolation quarterfinals and semifinals. Consolation finals begin at 6 p.m. with championship finals to follow.