It seemed like Chesapeake Coach Tom Slichter should throw in the towel. His heavyweight wrestler, Kevin Sellers, was certainly getting tossed around like one by Southwestern's burly Donnell Jones.
Sellers was down but not out of the heavyweight bout, 9-3, but just when things seemed most bleak, he flipped Jones to his back, held him there and gained the bout-winning pin with 28 seconds left in the second period.
Sellers, who has a 6-1 record this year, became one of two champions for Chesapeake in Saturday's sixth-annual Cougar Invitational wrestling tournament. Shawn Somers decisioned Eleanor Roosevelt's CarlosReed, 15-6, for his 171-pound title.
In all, eight Cougars placedin the top four of their respective weight classes as Chesapeake (204 points) finished a distant second to champion Mount St. Joseph.
Although Chesapeake couldn't stop the Gaels from breaking the tournament scoring record (239), both the Cougars' finish and their point total were a team best.
"I'm not sure we're at the level of some ofthe county's best teams, but at least Annapolis, Broadneck and Old Mill have to think about us," said Slichter, whose Cougars were third last year with 151.5 points behind champions Old Mill and the Gaels.
Rich Brown (112) and Doug Horton (130) were runners-up for Chesapeake, and Ron Alexander (125), Steve Kopp (145), Tony Perillo (160) and heavyweight Chuck McConnell all finished third.
Northeast (134 points, fourth) got titles from freshmen twins Marty (103) and Mike Kusick (112), and from sophomore Steve Smiddy (119), a transfer from Mount St. Joseph. All three grapplers improved to 5-0.
Severna Park's sole champ was No. 6 Aaron Cree (189), who pinned North County's Ji Kim with just 29 seconds left in the match to raise his record to 6-1.
Also placing in the top four for fifth-place Severna Park (126.5)were runner-up Scott Woodland (145), Paul Ehemann (140, third) and Travis Koballa (160, fourth). Heavyweight Corey Fowler was third for 12th-place North County (59.5), and Rich Pachoca (103) was fourth for last-place Meade.
The Cougars seemed to have improved over last year, when they were 8-5 against the county league and placed fourth inthe county tournament -- the team's best finish in the school's history.
"We think we can do better than that," said Slichter. "Just like the rest of our kids today, Sellers was down in his match. But they always fought back."
Horton, a county runner-up last year, losthis title bout, 8-2, to Eleanor Roosevelt's state runner-up Kenny Cooper, but his best match was in the semifinals. There, he used a takedown in sudden death overtime to gain a 5-3 semifinal victory over Northern's No. 4 Tony Lignelli, who was fourth in the state last year with a 34-4 record.
"I'm glad I beat Lignelli; I knew he was rankedpretty high," said Horton, who was pinned by Cooper in last year's tournament, when he finished third.
"I was winning, 2-0, after getting the takedown against Cooper, but then I got penalized for lockinghands. That's probably the first penalty point I've given up in years, and it just crushed me mentally."
For Northeast, which was 14thout of 15 teams last year, the Kusicks continued to raise eyebrows.
Marty pounded the Gaels' David Inkman, 9-2, in the title bout after defeating Frederick's sixth-ranked Tim Novak, 8-5, in the semifinals.
"I was a little nervous at the beginning, but after I hit a fewmoves, I started feeling OK," said the lighter Kusick after winning his first high school tournament. "My brother is a lot more aggressive and more physical than me. He goes for more pins and tech falls."
Mike Kusick used two pins and a major decision to reach the finals,where he blanked Chesapeake's Brown, 16-0.
"I'm not as strong as most of the kids out there, but I practice a lot," said Marty Kusick,who combined with his brother for a 77-11 record when they were junior league state champs last year.
Smiddy had the toughest time of the three, scoring a last-second reversal over Frederick's Tim Fieldsfor a 5-4 victory.
Ranked third by the Maryland State Wrestling Association and No. 2 in The Sun poll, the Gaels had six finalists, four champions and eight wrestlers who finished in the top four of their respective weight classes.
Mount St. Joseph's Shane McCarthy, a Pasadena resident, won last year's Maryland Scholastic Association championship at 119 and was looking to win his third Chesapeake crown Saturday.
But he lost, 7-1, to Archbishop Curley's No. 4 Gary Myrncza (10-0), who also dethroned McCarthy at the Curley tournament two weeks ago.
It was the third straight tournament in which McCarthy has been a runner-up. He lost, 4-3, to Oakland Mills' fourth-ranked Adam Seidman at Annapolis. By this time last year, McCarthy had won allthree tournament crowns.