For top-ranked Old Mill, an unprecedented fourth straight Class 4A-3A state wrestling title seems just a knee-pick, single-leg takedown away.
From a record-breaking squad that scored a state-high 130.5 points for its third straight crown, breaking Bowie's 11-year-old mark of 113, the top-ranked Patriots have five returning state place-winners, including state champion Brian Layman, who finished unbeaten.
In addition, Coach Mike Hampe's Patriots, who kept the state crown in Anne Arundel County for the fourth straight year, recently dethroned No. 2-ranked and National Prep tournament champion Mount St. Joseph for last weekend's Annapolis tournament title.
But No. 3 Broadneck, the 4A-3A champ in '88, ended Old Mill's regular-season winning streak at 33, forcing the Patriots (15-1) into a three-way county league tie with Broadneck and No. 5 Annapolis. Along with those two teams, Old Mill, ranked No. 21 in the USA Today's preseason poll, now has the No. 6 Aberdeen Eagles to deal with.
Dick Slutzky's Eagles, who moved into Class 3A this year, were )) the first team to win three outright state titles, doing it at the Class 2A-1A level before being dethroned last year by No. 4 Owings Mills.
Aberdeen beat No. 7 Oakland Mills by just 33-31 a year ago, and the Scorpions drop into Class 2A to challenge Owings Mills.
In defending its Baltimore County title, Owings Mills will have to contend with No. 8 Randallstown and No. 10 Perry Hall.
A youthful Mount St. Joseph will try to win its 17th Maryland Scholastic Association Tournament crown but should get heavy competition from No. 9 Loyola.
7+ Here is a look at the preseason top 10.
1. Old Mill
* Top-ranked by the Maryland State Wrestling Association, the Patriots return five state placing seniors from last year's squad, including Layman (171) and runner-up Steve Lundstrom (112). Seniors John Bliss (145), Ernie Longazel (189) and heavyweight Don Marco all finished third in the state meet. Senior Vytas Dulys (119) was third in the county and region. Gilman transfer Mark Proccaccini (152) is solid, as is muscular Young Chang (140), who squats 360 pounds. Sophomore Jason Bryant (103), winner of the recent Annapolis tournament, has been a pleasant surprise for Coach Hampe.
2. Mount St. Joseph
* The Gaels, ranked third by the MSWA, have just two seniors in a starting lineup that includes four juniors, two freshmen and two sophomores. But coach Paul Triplett's Gaels are experienced, beginning with returning MSA champs Chad Votta (senior, 140) and Shane McCarthy (junior, 135). Junior Kevin Neville (152) is a returning MSA runner-up, and sophomore Paul Scott (125) was third. Junior heavyweight Dave Sunderland recently upset St. Paul's defending MSA champion Troy Thinglestad. Freshmen David Inkman (103) and Danny DeVivo (145) each were junior league state champs, and junior Joe Aiosa (130) was a Curley tournament runner-up.
* Leading the MSWA's 10th-ranked Bruins are junior regional and state champion Charlie Bennett (112) and senior state runner-up Shawn Miller (119), who was a county and regional champ. Regional runner-up Vin Gerrior (senior, 130) was fourth in the county, senior Seth Lopatkiewicz (160) was third in both the county and region, and Dave Macauley (171) was third in the region. Miller and Lopatkiewicz were individual champions at the recent Annapolis tournament. Seniors Chris McTammany (152) and Cliff McClain (189) combined for more than 35 victories, and senior Josh Marder (125) was a state qualifying freestyler over the summer. Junior Nick Pantazes (103) was last year's junior-varsity county champion.
4. Owings Mills
* Tied with Aberdeen as the MSWA's seventh-ranked team, the Eagles return junior county, regional and state champs Greg Kessler (135) and Grant Johnson (160). Senior regional champ ++ Sigmund Fraser (171) was third in Baltimore county and fourth in the state, and junior Corey Setlen was a county champion and a regional runner-up. Setlen recently defeated Loyola's MSA champ Tim Spielman in the Eagles' 45-27 victory. Sophomore Stan Lazer (103) was unbeaten on the junior varsity, senior Dan Ginsberg (112) was 8-1 as a varsity backup, and junior Paul Saperstein (130) was 8-1 on the junior varsity. Junior Joe Castor (145) was a junior-league state champ two years ago, senior Kirk Snyder (189) was 10-4 last year, and junior heavyweight Clint Helphenstine was a junior-varsity county champ.