Whispers circulated during the preseason that No. 4 Old Mill returned little experience from a team that had won an unprecedented fifth straight 3A-4A state title -- that its dynasty was virtually over.
But with last night's 43-15 victory over No. 8 Arundel (8-2, 4-2), the home-standing Patriots (10-2, 5-0) answered loud and clear that they won't easily relinquish their throne.
Of particular question was the leadership of county champ Mike Hines (152 pounds, 14-5), who began the year being pinned twice. Last night, however, he overcame a 2-0 deficit for a 10-8 victory over Arundel's Mark Chesla (17-2, 10 pins) putting the match out of reach, 34-9.
"It's been a tough year so far, so I felt I had to prove myself to the county," said Hines, a junior. "I've just kept working hard, and I feel like I'm getting it back."
Old Mill also got Eric Donaway's 171-pound decision and a 59-second fall from No. 6 Don Patterson (189, 18-5) to counter a decision by Arundel's third-ranked heavyweight John Noon (18-0, 14 pins) in the second straight loss for Arundel, which was upset, 31-29, Thursday by Chesapeake -- a 44-13 loser to Old Mill on Wednesday.
"We were probably looking past Chesapeake and wrestled with no emotion," said Noon, a senior. "Tonight, we wrestled with emotion -- they just beat us."
Arundel led, 6-0, after Casey Harrington's first-period pin at 103, but the Patriots swept the next five bouts to lead, 25-6, starting with their first of four falls in the match by third-ranked Jason Bryant (112, 17-2).
At 119, Old Mill's Shawn Radford (14-5) trailed 6-2 with 20 seconds left against No. 3 Phil Meenan (17-3, 14 pins) before escaping to make it 6-3, and scoring a five-point, lateral-drop takedown to win, 8-6.
Paul Hulgren (125, 11-3) followed with a third-period fall, Tim Patterson (130) with a major decision, and Nick Basta (135, 17-4) pinned in 4:57 after building an 8-1 lead.
It was 25-9 after Arundel freshman Isaac Haertel (140, 17-3) overcame a 5-0 deficit to win, 12-5, over Old Mill's Dave Basta (11-2).
With the match tied 5-5 early in the third, Haertel (nine pins) scored a takedown and five back points. Old Mill's Mike DeLeonardi (145, 18-4) scored a pin make it 31-9.
Radford had had a tough week, blowing a 7-4 lead two days earlier against Chesapeake by allowing Matt Howard's five-point takedown in a 9-7 loss. Howard lost, 5-4, to Meenan the next night.
"I was trailing the whole match tonight, but I went hard for six minutes," said Radford, a senior.
"It had been an up-and-down week, and it feels good to come out on top."