Chesapeake wrestling coach Tom Slichter and his Cougars took a humorous approach after last weekend's victory in the Arundel tournament.
"We spent Monday watching the films and laughing at some of the mistakes we made," said Slichter, who calls this year's Cougars (3-0 indual meets) the best squad in his seven-year tenure.
"They're really enjoying what's going on. Most of these kids havenever had anything like this happen to them before. But they're not being cocky. I don't think that we've had enough success to know how to be cocky."
No one else in the county league is laughing, because the Cougars are no joke.
Last year was Slichter's best at the helm. His Cougars, led by state champion Brian Eveleth, finished with an 8-5 dual-meet record and fourth in the county tournament behind perennial powers Old Mill, Broadneck and Annapolis.
The Patriots, theBruins and the Panthers are ranked Nos. 1, 3 and 6, respectively, inThe Sun poll, and Old Mill and Broadneck are No. 1 and 10, respectively, by the Maryland State Wrestling Association.
All but two starters returned from last year's Chesapeake squad, and just one Cougar wrestler has a losing record.
Chesapeake's progress has gone up steadily since the season's outset. It was runner-up to The Sun's No. 2-ranked Mount St. Joseph in the Cougar Invitational before winning the Arundel tournament. Chesapeake was third in both tournaments a yearago.
But the Cougars will get their chance to make a permanent statement in tomorrow's Aberdeen Invitational tournament, before re-entering county dual-meet matches against Arundel on Tuesday and Broadneck on Thursday.
Aberdeen, ranked No. 5 by The Sun and No. 7 by theMSWA, is four-time champion in the fourth annual tournament, where the Cougars (141.5) finished a distant second to the Eagles (209.5) last year.
"We've gone third, third and second since we've been in it," said Slichter.
"This is our chance to beat a ranked team. We're looking forward to it -- we really are."
Aberdeen won its third Class 2A-1A state title two years ago and moved up to the Class 4A-3Athis year. Junior Ron Alexander (125) is eager to show the Eagles that the Cougars belong among the state's elite.
"Staying close to Mount St. Joe in our own tournament was a big thrill, but it would be even better to beat Aberdeen," said Alexander, a junior who has a 6-2record.
"We started the season ahead of the other teams as far asconditioning, but they're catching up. We have to keep working hard to stay ahead."
Alexander, 17, spent his summer wrestling for the state's freestyle national team. Since winning the 119-pound championship at Aberdeen last year, he has won one summer freestyle tournament and taken second in another.
Returning county runner-up Doug Horton (130), a sophomore with an 8-2 record (five pins), is also a defending Aberdeen tournament champ.
He already has beaten Northern's No. 4-ranked Tony Lignelli (fourth in the state last year). Horton's only losses came at the hands of Eleanor Roosevelt's state runner-up Kenny Cooper and Severna Park's Scott Woodland in a rematch of last year's county championship.
Senior heavyweight Kevin Sellers (9-2) was third at Aberdeen last year, as was sophomore Steve Shirk (119, 3-1), while seniors Steve Kopp (145, 10-1) and Shawn Somers (171, 10-1) each were fourth.
Other Cougars with winning records include Tony Perillo (160, 10-3), Chuck McConnell (189, 9-3), Rich Brown (112, 9-2), Mark Downey (103, 8-3) and Ron Shirk (152, 7-4).