By tomorrow afternoon in Westminster's Western Maryland College gymnasium, Old Mill wrestling coach Mike Hampe will be staring across at a face he vaguely recalls from his days at Lock Haven University.
From his mat-side chair, Hampe, a former college track star and football player, will be shouting instructions to 103-pound sophomore Jason Bryant, while Quince Orchard coach Ron Bowes, once a wrestler at the Pennsylvania university, does the same for freshman David Chee.
The winner of that first-round bout could set the tone as front-runners Old Mill and Quince Orchard begin what promises to be a mightybattle for the state title.
Bowes, in his first season, refused to emphasize the initial bout of a two-day meeting involving the two squads and the rest of state's best 4A/3A teams.
"It's just one match," said the fourth-year coach, whose Cougars are 41-1 in dual-meet matches over the last two years, including 14-0 this year. "We have six or seven guys I'm counting on to score points, but several others have to come through."
Hampe thrives on psychological warfare. As Old Mill won its third straight state title a year ago, scoring a state-record 130.5 points to beat North Carroll's 95.5, Hampe motivated the Patriots by using a first-round victory by Vytas Dulys, 9-7, overthe Panthers' Chad Miller. Quince Orchard was third with 62.5 points.
"To our advantage, I feel we have strength, conditioning, maturation of some of our returning guys, skill and mat experience," said Hampe, whose 15-0 Patriots raised his 17-year dual-meet record to 175-22-3. "We feel we're in as good or better shape than the other guy inthe last 30 seconds of a match."
Hampe builds the Patriots mentally, and assistant coach Jay Braunstein -- a former All-American at Clarion University -- conditions them physically and tactically.
Thetwo squads have taken similar paths to the state meet.
With six individual county champions, Quince Orchard broke a 9-year-old Montgomery County tournament record of five (Paint Branch, 1982) and outdistanced second-place Wheaton, 214.5-138. The Cougars' county champs were Damon Anderson (130 pounds, a 29-3 record), Jorge Garcia (140, 30-1), Eric Alban (160, 30-1), Jacob Ritchie (171, 27-1), Glenn Meyers (189, 29-4) and Dave Vernier (heavyweight, 30-1). Chee was a runner-up.
Locally, the Patriots captured five individual crowns and established a county mark with 229 points. Champs for Old Mill were John Bliss (145, 26-0), Marc Procaccinni (160, 21-2-1), Brian Layman (171, 25-2), Ernie Longazel (189, 26-1) and heavyweight Don Marco (27-2). Bryant and Steve Lundstrom (112) were runners-up.
The Patriots virtually duplicated their county tournament performance a week later, winning the Region IV title with a record 267 points and qualifying a state-record 12 wrestlers for tomorrow's first round. Quince Orchard wonthe Region II title by 50 points over runner-up Frederick, qualifying 11 wrestlers, including six top seeds.
Like Hampe in Anne Arundel County, Bowes is a mainstay in Montgomery County wrestling circles.In 10 years at Wootton High, he compiled a 79-24-2 record with one state champion wrestler.
The Patriots are hungry for an unprecedented fourth straight state title, but the Cougars are starving for their first.
"The county hasn't won a state title since Paint Branch in 1978," said Bowes. "The kids are feeling some pressure and so am I."
Quince Orchard won tournaments at Lackey and Magruder, but was most impressive locally in winning the Jan. 10 Arundel Invitational over eventual National Prep Tournament champion St. Benedict's (N.J.).
The Cougars have gained statewide respect but still are grappling for recognition at home.
"Unlike Old Mill, we don't have a lot of big crowds for our matches. That's disappointing," Bowes said. "With its budget cuts, our (local newspaper) hasn't been able to give us much coverage."
A reporter was there during the preseason, however, to quote 140-pound Garcia saying in a preview, "Old Mill better watchout for us." Hampe pocketed a copy of the highlighted article, toting it around at the county tournament.
"It bothers us that we didn't get to see them actually wrestle this year," he said. "But I've gotten some scouting reports and heard some scores."
The Cougars are a solid team.
Chee, for instance, wrestled well against Arundel's Phil Meenan, who has split bouts with Bryant, before losing, 8-0. TheCougars' John Zinno (112, 26-5-1) twice took DeMatha's Mynor Herrera, a National Prep champion, into overtime.
The Cougars' Diego Garcia (119) owns a 4-2 victory over Annapolis' Ira Robbins, who finishedfourth in the same county tournament weight class (130) where Old Mill's Ken Seavey was a runner-up.
Jorge Garcia was one win from finishing among the state's top four 130-pound wrestlers last year but fell in a consolation semifinal loss to Severna Park's two-time countychampion Scott Woodland, who placed fourth.