Old Mill made winning its eighth Class 4A-3A Region IV wrestling title look easy at Meade Saturday, but four of the Patriots' five champions will tell you it wasn't.
Sure, the three-time state champions scored an astronomical 267 points -- 120 more than second-place Annapolis -- to shatter their 1990 meet record (225.5). The Patriots, top-ranked by the Maryland State Wrestling Association, also qualified a state-record 12 of 13 wrestlers for next weekend's state meet at Western Maryland College as they shoot for an unprecedented fourth straight title.
But aside from Old Mill's sixth-ranked Marc Procaccini (160 pounds, a 21-2-1 record), who cruised to an 18-2 victory over Chesapeake'sTony Perillo, none of the champions won easily.
Third-ranked Ernie Longazel (189, 27-1) won, 4-3, over Severna Park's fifth-ranked Aaron Cree (25-5), but needed a takedown with 13 seconds left to break a2-2 tie. Third-ranked heavyweight Don Marco (27-2) stacked Annapolis' 235-pound DeMond Galloway for a third-period pin, but had to overcome a 2-1 second-period deficit. Fourth-ranked defending state champion Brian Layman (171, 25-2) downed Arundel's Greg Booth only 10-5 after having crushed him, 21-6, in last week's county tournament final.
"We've been in tough tournaments all year, so we're used to these situations," said Old Mill's John Bliss (145, 26-0), who won, 9-2, over Northern's Ricky Sesso.
"But the competition's getting tougher -- you can just feel it," said Bliss.
"I've beaten Aaron nine times, and every time, our matches are like this," said Longazel, who, like Layman, won his consecutive regional crown.
The top four wrestlers in each weight class qualify for the state meet. Old Mill's fourth-ranked Jason Bryant (103) and Steve Lundstrom (112) were runners-up,Vytas Dulys (119) and Todd Hultgren (152) were third, and Joe DeLong(125), Kevin Seavey (130) and Rick Oleszczuk (135) were fourth.
Bryant lost, 7-5, to Arundel's fifth-ranked Phil Meenan (23-3) on a takedown with four seconds left. It was a reversal of their regular season bout, won, 5-3, by Bryant on a last-second takedown.
Annapolisdidn't expect sixth-ranked county champion Tom Sfakiyanudas (135, 27-3) to get pinned by Severna Park's Paul Ehemann in the semifinals. But Sfakiyanudas, one of five qualifying Panthers, rebounded for thirdplace as Annapolis edged Chesapeake, 147-146.5, in the team standings.
The Panthers' No. 2-ranked Chip Cochran (152, 28-1) captured his second consecutive title. But runner-up Seth Robbins (125) fell short when South River's sixth-ranked county champion Billy Whitcher (30-1) overcame a 4-0 deficit with his signature headlock -- good for five points -- en route to a 6-5 victory.
"I knew he'd be a lot tougher than last week," said Whitcher, who downed Robbins, 12-6, a week ago in the county tournament final.
Annapolis' Ford Baumgardner (140) pinned Old Mill's Ken Seavey for fourth place, while Greg Nida (119, second), Jaron Hairston (171, third) and Andy McMahon (160, fourth) qualified for seventh-place South River.
Chesapeake's fifth-ranked sophomore Doug Horton (130, 26-3) was the Cougars' only champion,winning, 4-1, over a surprise finalist in Meade's Bill Fisher. Fisher, who crushed Northern's No. 2 seed Andy McGowan, 9-2, and downed Severna Park's Dave Rupert to reach the title bout, will be joined at the state meet by heavyweight teammate Jeff Katona (fourth).
Chesapeake's Rich Brown (112) took third place, while Mark Downey (103), Shawn Somers (171), Chuck McConnell (189) and heavyweight Kevin Sellerswere fourth.
Among his victories, Brown pinned Atholton's Jason Sturm, who was fourth in the Howard County tournament. Teammate Ron Alexander (125) notched a 5-1 decision over Calvert's third seed Billy Pawlowski, but was later eliminated, and Somers pinned Centennial's Howard County runner-up Shamus Gillen in 3:35.
A consolation round team-point deduction for unsportsmanlike conduct may have cost Chesapeake second place. But Perillo said, "Downey is doing well after the recent death of his father, that was good to see. After getting fifthplace in the counties last week, we just wanted to do better -- and we did."
Severna Park coach Dave Caprio was "tickled to death" at his Falcons' fourth-place finish. Runners-up Ehemann, Cree and Scott Woodland (140, 27-4) weren't as surprising as freshmen Jamie Kuch (103, third) and George Mamalis (112, fourth) and senior Rodney Wallace (145, fourth).
Ehemann led, 2-0, but dropped a 6-5 championship bout decision to last year's runner-up, Northern's Tony Lignelli, and Woodland lost, 4-2, on Casey McBain's controversial overtime takedown.
The tournament was as encouraging to Chesapeake and Severna Park as it was disappointing to fifth-place Broadneck (120.5 points), which was missing four key wrestlers with injuries, including last year'sstate qualifiers Seth Lopatkiewicz (160) and Dave Macauley (171). Lopatkiewicz, the top seed at 160, had suffered internal bleeding and Macauley had a knee injury.