This was supposed to the year Oakland Mills might relinquish its grip on the league championship, but with two rounds remaining in last night's Howard County wrestling tournament, the Scorpions were conducting business as usual.
With six of their wrestlers awaiting the championship finals, the Scorpions were leading with 190 points. Hammond, which handed Oakland Mills its first dual meet loss in four years last month, was in second place with 176 points. But the Golden Bears had only four wrestlers advance to the finals. Wilde Lake, which also sent six wrestlers to the finals, held third place with 164.
And Joe Salinas, Oakland Mills' outstanding 140-pound wrestler, wasn't the least bit surprised at the way the tournament was proceeding.
"At this tournament, more than ever, we're showing what we can do," said Salinas, a defending county champion who pinned Howard's Josh Tzuker in the first period during yesterday's semifinal round to advance to the finals against Wilde Lake's Tony Farace.
"Everything we've done this season has been focused on this tournament."
The Scorpions, who were trying to win their third consecutive county tournament and 12th in the past 15 years, had an off-year by their standards, although numbers can be deceiving.
Their 8-4-1 dual meet record was Oakland Mills' worst under four-year coach Dan Ricker. The Scorpions also dropped a 31-29 dual meet decision last month to Hammond, which broke their 25-meet winning streak in the county. Still, Oakland Mills has performed well in formidable tournaments, finishing fifth in the Annapolis tournament and third in the Lackey and Arundel tournaments.
"There's such a difference between a dual meet team and a tournament team," Salinas said. "If there's an advantage in a tournament, we capitalize on it. We always have."
The Scorpions took advantage of great seeding yesterday. All six of their top-seeded wrestlers advanced easily to the finals. Four of them -- Salinas, Adam Seidman (135), Marcus Myles (145) and heavyweight Monte Spencer -- came into the tournament undefeated against the county.
The Scorpions also got an extra push from Mike Maughan (125) and Geoff Henderson (160), their other top seeds. Maughan edged Hammond's Erin Woodward, 6-5, in the semifinals, avenging a pin by Woodward last month. Henderson edged Glenelg's Shawn Chaconas, 5-4, in the semifinals.