Seven county wrestlers from Oakland Mills and Howard high schools will compete in this weekend's Class 4A/3A state tournament, after qualifying in last Saturday's Region IV tournament.
The state tournament will take place at Western Maryland College.
Centennial also participated in Saturday's 19-team tournament at Anne Arundel County's Meade High.
Howard County champion Oakland Mills (101 points) was fifth, Howard (58.5) was 11th and Centennial (eight) 18th in a field considered to be the state's toughest regional tournament. Anne Arundel County's two-time state champion, No. 3-ranked Old Mill, was first with 216.5 points, followed by No. 5-ranked Broadneck (135) and then No. 7-ranked Annapolis (123).
"This is a tough region, but I'm a little disappointed because I thought we could have finished a lot higher," said Oakland Mills coach Danny Ricker, whose Scorpions were just behind fourth-place Northern-St. Mary's County (105). The Scorps were fourth with 111.5 points in last year's regional.
But, with four wrestlers finishing in the top four of theirweight class -- including an individual champion in heavyweight Monte Spencer -- the Scorpions equaled the number of wrestlers they sent to last year's state tournament.
Two of Howard High's three countychampions -- 130-pound regional runner-up Alexis Gough (32-2-1) and 189-pounder Dominique Pierre-Toussaint (fourth place) -- will go. Butall of Centennial's nine wrestlers failed to qualify.
The Scorpions' senior county runner-ups, Brian Dunbar (135) and Dustin Blackwell(171), were regional runners-up as well.
Oakland Mills' two-time county champions -- senior Kalev Freeman (119) and sophomore Adam Seidman (125) -- each finished third.
Howard's Gough had to default his championship bout against Northern's Jeff Simpson (28-2) after re-injuring a chronic leg injury 17 seconds into the match.
Two of the Scorpions' county champions were gone early. Joe Salinas (140) went down to injury in his first bout. Mike Maughan (130) was pinned in the first round.
Spencer (32-1), the county champion, pinned his way into the finals, where he decisioned Old Mill's Don Marco, 6-3. The two wrestlers came into the tournament tied as the state's second-ranked heavyweights, but Marco (29-2) had lost an earlier 7-4 decisionto Spencer in the finals of the Annapolis
While Ricker was proud of Spencer, he was equally pleased with Dunbar, a first-year varsity wrestler, in defeat. Dunbar grappled like a veteran in losing a 12-6 decision to Old Mill's top-ranked Brian Layman (32-1).
"I was impressed with Dunbar because I know how good (Layman) is. Hehits a lot of moves effortlessly and in a short amount of time -- some of them so quick you can't see them. I think he's the best in the whole state," said Ricker.
"But I knew he would try to slick Brian, so I told Brian to lock up tight and keep going after him. I've only had Brian for a year, but what I worked on was upper-body moves so he could neutralize a kid that's better (than him.)"
Dunbar had pressured Layman but still trailed, 7-2, in the third period. Dunbar, however, grabbed a takedown -- only the third one Layman has given up all year -- to come to within 7-4.
But Layman, a state tournament runner-up last year, proved too crafty for Dunbar and used a pair of escapes, a takedown and two near-fall points to pull away.
Blackwell's match was even closer.
He had a 3-1 lead over Old Mill's Ernie Longazel midway through the second period when he lost a battle with fatigue as much as to Longazel, who rallied against the fading Blackwell with a pair of takedowns and a pair of escapes to win, 7-6.
Seidman reached the semifinals on a first-period pin and a major decision, but that's where his luck ended in a controversial 2-1 overtimeloss to Broadneck's Vin Gerrior.
Their match was still scoreless 15 seconds into the third one-minute overtime period when Seidman escaped for a 1-0 lead. The Scorpion then locked up with the taller Gerrior, but was hit with his first stalling call to tie the match with under 15 seconds left.
The taller Gerrior appeared to be muscling Seidman toward the edge of the mat when the referee then nailed Seidman again as the buzzer sounded, giving Gerrior the victory.
The referee's call emptied the stands of several Oakland Mills fans -- including Ricker and assistant coach Phil Brown -- who stepped forward to dispute the decision.
"It was a terrible call, and (the referee) made it with only half a second left. Adam got robbed, but I don't think the ref meant to do it," said Ricker. Freeman downed Broadneck's Anne Arundel County runner-up Roy Brazeau, 6-1, before edging Old Mill's county champion Bob Sugden, 2-1, for third place. Freeman had lostto Sugden, 4-3, in the championship quarterfinals.