Patriots, Eagles match up No. 3 Old Mill, No. 5 Northeast set for showdown

February 12, 1993|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,Staff Writer

Finally, it's here -- the northern county's mat showdown between No. 3 Old Mill and No. 5 Northeast.

The teams will strap on their head gear at 7 tonight at Old Mill, and some two hours later, speculation should end as to which team is better -- Mike Hampe's four-time 4A-3A state champion Old Mill Patriots (11-1) or the once-powerful Eagles (12-0), whose program has been revived by 23-year coach Al Kohlhafer.

Old Mill and Northeast are ranked fourth and fifth, respectively, by the Maryland State Wrestling Association.

"This is really exciting," said Kohlhafer, whose Eagles had records of 2-12 and 6-7 the past two seasons. "For our kids to be involved in something as big as this far exceeds our expectations."

Hampe, in his 18th season, isn't buying that sort of talk from his long-time rival, especially since Kohlhafer has just one wrestler -- freshman heavyweight Dan Defenbaugh (9-10) -- with a losing record. And Defenbaugh is no slouch.

Neither are the Eagles' lower weight wrestlers, including freshman Dale Bowers (103, 19-4), and the sophomore county champion Kusick twins, Marty (112, 23-0) and Mike (119, 22-1).

The Patriots appear to have an edge upstairs, with fifth-ranked Todd Hultgren (160, 20-5), second-ranked state champion Marc Proccacini (171, 21-3) and sophomore sensation Don Patterson (189, 18-4). Patterson has 15 pins, followed by Hultgren (14) and Proccacini (11). Hultgren split bouts with Northeast's regional champion Al Grunder (160, 18-6) last year.

Another pivotal bout could come at 130 pounds, where both Old Mill's Kevin Seavey (22-5) and Northeast's Steve Smiddy (20-3) both are ranked sixth in the state by the MSWA. Seavey, however, may go at 135.

"I have to see where he puts the Kusicks, but I see us as having to win eight matches -- four of the first six and four of the last few," said Hampe, whose Patriots had their 31-match winning streak ended by No. 2 North Carroll last Friday.

In 1991, an Old Mill winning streak was ended at 33 by Broadneck, 31-28, before the Patriots set county (203.5) and state meet (130.5) scoring records.

"North Carroll beat us with two pins and three major decisions," said Hampe, whose career record is 186-23-3. "I think Northeast is tough enough to do the same thing."

Old Mill has a 5-2 record against Northeast, losing in Hampe's first two seasons, 38-9, in 1977, and 31-21, in 1978, when the Patriots went 9-3-1 and 8-3, respectively.

Northeast was a strong program then, having won the county's first state title in 1976. Since then, however, Kohlhafer has won just three each in county and regional crowns, compared with eight each in county and regional titles for Hampe.

The Patriots have had three-loss seasons only four times, and two-loss seasons three times, last losing three times in 1986 at 10-3, and last losing twice in 1985 at 11-2. Northeast was 11th in the county tournament two years ago and fourth last year -- its best finish since winning the title in 1977.

have nothing to lose," said Kohlhafer. "We're not county, region or state champs and these kids are looking forward to it. For some of them, it'll be the greatest experience of their lives."

One major concern of Kohlhafer's, however, is whether his youthful squad can withstand the hype of a big match. It boasts just three seniors in Grunder, defending county runner-up Bill Katzenberger (152, 12-2) and Jeremy Funk (171, 10-4).

Old Mill expects its biggest gate of the season for this one, which translates into a huge, knowledgeable and boisterous audience.

And with the Eagles being touted as 2A-1A state title contenders, rivals such as No. 2 North Carroll coach Dick Bauerlein and co-No. 5 Francis Scott Key coach Bill Hyson have said they will attend.

"The crowd concerns me because it's been a long time since we've seen that at Northeast. Obviously, we'll be in hostile territory," said Kohlhafer. "I still don't think we're a powerhouse team, we've just held our own against tough teams. But we're going over there to win, no question about it."

Hampe expects no less.

"Having a crowd was a factor for North Carroll against us," he said. "But I've seen their guys, and they're so focused, I don't think it [the crowd] will matter."

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