HAMPSTEAD — The big question had already been answered when the Manchester Wrestling Club took to the North Carroll High mats at Sunday's Manchester Holiday Tournament finals.
Dundalk, a perennial Maryland Junior Wrestling League power from Baltimore County, had already clinched the team title with 299 points, more than second-place Manchester could possibly have earned.
But one interesting question remained -- where would the Winfield-based Warriors finish?
The Warriors, a 1990 last-place finisher in the Manchester tournament, eventually took fourth in the 11-team field, with 162 points. It was the Warriors' highest finish ever in theannual tourney, which drew 276 wrestlers from the metro area.
Dundalk finished with 332, easily topping Manchester's 266.5.
"I thought we had the team to win it, but Dundalk did everything right," said Manchester coach Ken Kiler, whose team won its tourney last year. "We could have wrestled better, but we're typically a slow starter."
But there was at least some consolation. Manchester topped another Junior League power, Randallstown of Baltimore County, third with 257points.
Francis Scott Key was ninth with 85, but that northwestern Carroll team earned the afternoon's first big thrill.
In the opening bout, 5-year-old Lee Crowl pinned Frank Armacost of Reisterstownto win the 40-pound class title. Crowl was a last-minute addition ina weight class which didn't even exist until the tourney seeding meeting.
"I didn't expect him to get that far," said Key coach Steve Hoff.
The bearded Hoff, himself a Francis Scott Key High wrestler from 1974 to 1976, said he would have been surprised to see the youngster place as high as third.
While his Junior Eagles didn't finishhigh in the standings, nine of 12 entrants finished in the top six (award-winning) positions.
Manchester sent five to the finals, morethan any other team.
But it trailed Randallstown by 1 1/2 points as Tyler Alexander stepped to the mat for the 55-pound championship bout. Alexander attacked early and often, and put Manchester ahead forgood with an easy 11-1 decision over Danny Natterman.
Teammate Randy Holmes then earned a hard-fought, 2-1 win in the 80-pound finale.
After going ahead on a first-period takedown, Holmes wrestled conservatively to hang on against Dundalk's Mike Young, despite Young's frantic efforts to pin him in the bout's closing moments.
Manchester's 95-pound Doug Dell made short work of Gray Frain of Randallstown. Dell snared him in a leg scissors for a quick pin 55 seconds into the match.
"(Dell's) in a class above just about every other wrestler in the league," said Kiler.
But Kiler's son wasn't as fortunateat 122 pounds.
Muscular Alex Leanos of Randallstown outscored TomKiler, 5-0, in the third period to win, 7-2.
Erik Hott scored another win for Manchester in the meet's only all-Carroll finale. Hott led the Warriors' Jason Kramer, 4-2, after two periods in the 137-pound championship, but still wrestled the final stanza as if he were losing.
"He was aggressive. He didn't stall. I was worried he would get in trouble," laughed Kiler later.
Hott didn't though, and dominated that final period to win, 8-2.
"(Kramer) kind of wore out buthe still had a great tournament. We'll see him many, many times," said Warriors coach Jerry Little.
Little's 130-pounder, Charlie Conaway, scored the only championship for the Warriors. Conaway trailed early, but exploded midway through the second period first to tie the score at 2-2, and then flatten Ken Sigler of Dundalk with 40 seconds remaining.
"Got him in a headlock. That's our move," beamed Littleafterward.
"Last to fourth in one year isn't bad," he continued, noting the team's success.
Kiler said he thought the Warriors could take fourth: "Jerry's got a good team. It's nice to see another local team get a trophy."
Team scores: 1. Dundalk 332, 2. Manchester 266.5, 3, Randallstown 257, 4. Warriors 162, 5. Severna Park 159, 6. Perry Hall 146.5, 7. Reisterstown 139, 8. Buccaneers 117, 9. Francis Scott Key 85, 10. Parkville 81, 11. Lansdowne 23.5