ELDERSBURG -- North Carroll High clinched its sixth consecutive Carroll County championship last night at Liberty High, earning the honor before the finals even begun.
The Panthers advanced 11 wrestlers to the finals, but even if all 11 had lost and all five of second-place Francis Scott Key's finalists had won by pin, the Eagles still would have been one-half point behind North Carroll.
As was the case last year, the real battle heading into the finals was for second place. North Carroll had 157.5 points while Key had 127 and Westminster had 99, but with six wrestlers competing in the championship round.
North Carroll's dominance in Carroll was something few had predicted heading into the season. The Panthers had just three starters back from last year's club, and several coaches talked of possibly wresting the county crown from its perennial home in Hampstead.
As the season progressed, Key figured to have the best shot at North Carroll. But the Panthers concluded their county dual-meet season Wednesday night by pounding the Eagles, 50-15, putting to rest any rumors of a North Carroll downturn and locking up some good seedings for the county tournament, to boot.
"It guaranteed us some good seeds," North Carroll Coach Dick Bauerlein said of Wednesday's lopsided win at Key. "It was a big boost for us."
North Carroll had the top-seeded wrestler in eight of 13 weight classes yesterday and were seeded second in four others based on dual-meet results.
Last night's win, in turn, give the Panthers added momentum heading in to the Central Maryland Conference tournament Saturday at Frederick. It was that Frederick team, which finished second in the Central Maryland Conference, which gave the Panthers a scare several weeks ago in a close regular-season match.
"They were tough," Bauerlein said of Frederick. "It'll be (x interesting."