Tonight, county fans can witness a milestone as No. 2 Old Mill visits No. 3 Northeast in what is believed to be the state's first dual-meet clash of defending state champs.
The county is the first to share the 1A-2A state crown, won by Northeast (12-1), and the 3A-4A version, held by five-time champion Old Mill (13-2).
Last year's 37-13 Northeast loss increased Old Mill's lead to 6-2 in the series. The Eagles won 38-9 in 1977 and 31-21 in 1978 -- Old Mill coach Mike Hampe's first two seasons.
Old Mill has lost twice for only the fourth time in Hampe's career -- last losing twice in 1985 at 11-2. Another loss would be only fifth time Hampe's Patriots suffered three defeats in a season -- the last time being a 10-3 campaign in 1986.
Old Mill won Hampe's 200th career dual meet, 27-26, Saturday over then-No. 2 North Carroll (11-1), which two days earlier trounced then-No. 5 Francis Scott Key, 51-18.
North Carroll wrestled flat against Old Mill, something Hampe wants to avoid against Northeast.
"We have to maintain our intensity," said Hampe. "We figure we have to stay with them over the first seven bouts and battle it out the last six."
Northeast won the county's first state title in 1976 under present coach Al Kohlhafer and has been closing in on Old Mill, going 2-12 three years ago, then 6-7, and 12-1 last year.
The Eagles were 11th in the county tournament three years ago, fourth two years back, and second last year -- their best finish since winning the crown in 1977. In all, Kohlhafer has won three county and four regional crowns over 24 seasons.
"We'll just go with what's gotten us here," Kohlhafer said. "We're not changing anything for Old Mill."
Four of Kohlhafer's wrestlers are ranked by the Maryland State Wrestling Association, with the top-ranked state champion Kusick twins, Marty (112, 18-1, 11 pins), and Mike (19-0, eight pins), sixth-ranked Matt Jewer (135, 19-1, 12 pins) and No. 2 Steve Smiddy (140, 18-1, nine pins).
Jewer's and Smiddy's were two of the nine losses suffered by Northeast in last year's meeting. Also losing were Ron Katzenberger (160, 17-4) and heavyweight Dan Defenbaugh (11-9, six pins).
All are improved, with Katzenberger's latest victory being a 6-5 upset of South Carroll's then-No. 5 Mike Chenoweth (20-1, 17 pins) in Saturday's Broadneck Tournament. "He wrestled extremely well in that match," said Kohlhafer. "And Dan's intensity has really picked up."
A pivotal bout could come at 152, where Northeast's county runner-up Jason Grunder (13-5) should meet county champ Mike Hines (14-5). Hines avenged last year's loss to Grunder in the county tournament. At 103, Northeast's Glen Mosco and Old Mill's Jerod Marquardt have less than 10 victories combined.
Old Mill's ranked wrestlers are No. 3 Jason Bryant (112, 19-2) and No. 5 Don Patterson (189, 20-5). Patterson's pin secured the victory against North Carroll, and Nick Basta (130, 20-4) scored a 5-0 upset of North Carroll's then-No. 4 Corey Rill.
Others wrestling well for the Patriots are Shawn Radford (119, 17-4), Paul Hultgren (125, 14-3), Dave Basta (140, 13-3) and Mike DeLeonardi (145, 20-5). Radford led 3-2 in last year's eventual loss to Marty Kusick, and DeLeonardi proved himself worthy in a 4-2 victory over DeMatha's No. 4 Robert Alexander.
Glen Lail (125, 15-6, nine pins) and newcomer T. R. Flemming (130, 5-1) will be keys if Northeast is to build the lead Hampe fears. Similarly, Old Mill's Eric Donoway (171, 11-8) will have to come through to keep the pressure off the Patriots' upper weights -- as he did in losing only 6-5 to North Carroll's No. 2 Chris Boog (21-0).