County coaches seeded Old Mill heavyweight Don Marco No. 2, telling him he was second-best to Southern's Robert Burley despite having beaten Burley three times.
Marco almost believed them.
"I felt like everybody was against me," said Marco, still reelingfrom his helter-skelter, 8-7 victory over Burley.
With the win, Marco (24-2) captured his second consecutive title and became one of five individual champions for the three-time defending Class 4A-3A state champion Patriots.
In capturing its third straight county tournament and its seventh overall, Old Mill (229 points) outdistanced second-place Annapolis (132) and eclipsed the tournament record (203.5) that the team set a year ago.
In all, 12 of the Patriots' wrestlers finished in the top four, including the record-breaking victory in the consolation championship round from Todd Hultgren (152, 22-4-1). Hultgren won, 16-4, over Broadneck's Chris McTamany to give Old Mill 205.5 points.
All five of Old Mill's champions are ranked by the Maryland State Wrestling Association.
Top-ranked John Bliss (145, 23-0) pinned all three of his opponents; fourth-ranked defending statechampion Brian Layman (171, 22-2) registered two pins and a technical fall; sixth-ranked Marc Procaccini (160, 18-2-1) used a last secondtakedown to win his title bout, 5-4, over Broadneck's Seth Lopatkiewicz; and third-ranked Ernie Longazel (189, 24-1) downed Severna Park's sixth-ranked Aaron Cree, 5-1.
Layman, who was 33-0 last year, captured his third straight crown, and Kevin Seavey (130) and Jason Bryant (103) were runners-up. Finishing third were Hultgren, last year's103-pound champ Steve Lundstrom (112), Rick Oleszczuk (135) and Ken Seavey (140), while Vytas Dulys (119) placed fourth.
But Marco's was the most dramatic victory of all.
After the wild bout, the 220-pound senior walked over to comfort an exhausted Burley, who was slumped over on a set of floor-level bleachers.
"He's a good wrestler," said Marco. "He really came after me."
So did Annapolis' DeMond Galloway, who had a 6-2 lead over Marco -- nearly flattening him in the first period -- before Marco recorded his 17th pin of the year in three minutes and eight seconds.
"I almost gave up, but I've worked too hard for this," said Marco, whose bout with Burley was their fourth meeting. Marco twice edged Burley -- 4-3 during the regular season and 2-0 for last year's county title.
But this one proved the toughest, as Burley (22-3), ranked fourth by the MSWA, held a 6-0 leadover third-ranked Marco with 34 seconds left in the bout.
He nearly decked Marco during the first period, but the Old Mill senior rallied, almost pinning Burley with a five-point reversal. Marco cut the deficit to 7-6 when Burley was penalized for stalling, and won, 8-7, on a buzzer-beating takedown.
And he did all this after twisting his ankle with 50 seconds left in the match and requiring nearly a minute to recover.
The only other wrestler who placed for Southern (40, ninth) was Sherrard Neal (125), who blanked Glen Burnie's Mark Nevin (19-5-1), 8-0, for third place.
Just like last year, when Marcoand Burley each became a regional runner-up and finished third in their respective state tournaments, the two heavyweights will go their separate ways.
Marco will have to get by Quince Orchard's top-ranked Dave Vernier to win a Class 4A-3A state crown, and Burley will meet Oakland Mill's defending state champion, Monte Spencer, at the Class 2A-1A level.
For Annapolis, sixth-ranked Tom Sfakiyanudas (135, 24-3) beat South River's Steve Glasgow, 11-6, and second-ranked Chip Cochran (152, 25-1) cruised to his second straight title, 7-1, over Northeast's Al Grunder.
Sfakiyanudas, who needed a five-point maneuver to break a 4-4 third-period tie to pad his victory, said: "I don't know about Steve, but I didn't wrestle as well as I'd like to. Still, it's nice to win after being second last year."
The injury-ravaged Panthers entered just nine wrestlers in the tournament, with runner-up Seth Robbins (125) dropping his title bout, 12-6, to South River's sixth-ranked Bill Whitcher (27-1), and Ford Baumgardner (140) losing a 3-1 heart breaker to Severna Park's Scott Woodland (25-3). Woodland captured his second straight county crown to lead seventh-place Severna Park (94 points).
Galloway pinned Chesapeake's Kevin Sellers for third place and Ira Robbins (130), Seth's twin brother, took fourth, as did Jack Copus (145).
For Broadneck, which was third with 123 points, top-ranked senior Shawn Miller (119, 27-0) won his third county title, 2-0, over South River's fifth-ranked Greg Nida.
Afterward, Miller said, "It feels good to win, but I want to go undefeated."
That's a goal he nearly accomplished in last year's state-runner-up 34-1 season.