Big 3 ready to flex muscles in county tournament Bears, Scorpions and Wildecats favored

February 19, 1993

The 24th Howard County Wrestling Tournament is shaping up as a historic occasion.

Hammond stands to make the most notable history this weekend at Atholton. The Golden Bears, who never have won the county tournament, are favored to win it after a 13-1 season, which included two tournament championships and their second straight 7-0 romp through the county dual-meet schedule.

But the Bears have plenty of company, beginning with Oakland Mills, everyone's old nemesis.

The Scorpions have won the past three tournaments and 13 of the past 16. Under coach Steve Carnahan, who returned this year following a four-year hiatus, Oakland Mills is poised for a run at another title. After dropping their first six matches -- thanks mostly to a rough out-of-county schedule and including a 16-point loss to Hammond -- the Scorpions regrouped to beat Wilde Lake and Howard to finish at 6-1 in the county and 6-6 overall.

Then there's Wilde Lake (5-2 in county), which won the tournament in 1989 and will bring one of its best teams ever to the tournament. Even Howard (4-3), which has its most promising squad in years, should figure heavily in the outcome.

In other words, this could be the most competitive tournament since the county increased to eight schools in the mid-1970s.

"I think it will be the most exciting tournament we've had in years," Carnahan said. "I'd be very surprised if one or two teams ran away with it. Things are going to go back and forth. Unlike past years, I think it might not be decided until the championship finals."

The tournament most likely will be dominated by the Big Three -- Hammond, Oakland Mills and Wilde Lake.

Hammond brings the most impressive combination of talent, experience and depth to the tournament. The Bears were rewarded handsomely for their consistency, as 10 of their 13 wrestlers drew seeds of third or higher. The Bears are also still smarting from last year's tournament, during which Oakland Mills rebounded from a dual-meet loss to Hammond to beat the Bears by 16 points.

"I'd have to say I like Hammond to win it. They have such a good, balanced team, and they really want this one," Glenelg coach Jeff Kent said.

Hammond's Dan Proulx (119), John Motley (130) and Erin Woodward (145) are top-seeded and each should cruise to the finals. Proulx and Woodward are heavy favorites to take titles. Motley probably will have to overcome second-seeded Mark Grinspoon of Howard in the finals, and the task won't be easy. Grinspoon edged Motley last week, 10-9.

Three more Bears -- Amit Kapoor (103), Mac Goudy (171) and Pat Brennan (189) -- are seeded second. Goudy and Brennan appear to be locks to reach the finals.

In addition, four Hammond wrestlers drew third seeds. Mike Chang will compete for the title at 112 pounds, one of the tournament's most wide-open classes. Brian Law (125) also has an excellent chance at a title. He already has beaten top-seeded Fennell Howell of Wilde Lake, 6-4, and he lost to second-seeded Jamey Arnsmeyer (Glenelg) by only two points. Josh Stokes (152) probably will have to avenge a loss to second-seeded John Wiland to advance to the finals against top-seeded Geoff Henderson of Oakland Mills.

Henderson is one of four Scorpions who drew top seeds. Adam Seidman (140) is one of the tournament's locks. He blew through the county undefeated, and should earn his fourth straight county title with little difficulty. The same goes for 103-pounder Juri Freeman and heavyweight Justin Wethington.

Oakland Mills also will depend on second-seeded Roy Parker (145) and third-seeded Paul Crickard (135) and Ryan McNeill (189) to reach the finals. Otherwise, Oakland Mills needs surprise performances from several lower seeds to come away with another title.

"It all comes down to the kids who aren't seeded one or two," Wilde Lake coach Rich Jackson said. "Are they going to up their performances to another level? Are they going to produce the points the team needs to come out on top?"

Carnahan hopes to get crucial points from wrestlers such as Wade Mitchell (112) and Matt Sutton (130), each a fourth seed. Mitchell already has beaten top-seeded, defending 103-pound champ Steve Cho (Glenelg), 4-1. His only county defeat came in overtime to Chang. And Sutton came on strong to finish 5-2 in the county.

Wilde Lake might be in the best position to deny Hammond its first title. The Wildecats have three wrestlers who have drawn first, second and third seeds. Top-seeded Mike Green (171) and Nate Casella (189), who both were barely challenged in the county, are locks. Howell (125) should make it to the finals, but he's no sure thing against Arnsmeyer or Law.

Tony Crawford (140), Robert McGrain (160) and heavyweight Carlo Gerstenfeld drew second seeds.

Each should advance to the finals, although Gerstenfeld might encounter a tough semifinal match with Hammond's Jimmy Jackson.

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