Old Mill, Arundel have rivals in state tourney Montgomery, Carroll foes figure to be strong, too

March 05, 1998|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

From the regular season through this past weekend's region tournament, Old Mill and Arundel always have been the ones battling for the top of the list. At this weekend's Class 3A-4A state tournament, starting tomorrow afternoon at Western Maryland College in Westminster, the two teams will have plenty of company.

Old Mill, ranked fourth in the metro area, and Arundel, ranked fifth, are two of several teams that could take a state title with a good weekend. Last year's state champ Sherwood, of Montgomery County; No. 8-ranked Westminster, Carroll County and North region champs; and Montgomery County's Damascus all could have a say in deciding this year's champs.

"This is one of those tournaments you can't figure out. There're too many good kids out there," said Arundel coach Buddy Hepfer. "If our kids wrestle like they did last weekend, we have a shot."

The Wildcats, who finished second behind Old Mill in the regular season and Anne Arundel County tournament, qualified eight wrestlers to this weekend's tournament with their 10th Class 3A-4A East crown on Saturday. They beat the second-place Patriots, who advanced seven to this weekend's tournament, by a 160.5-145 margin with Severna Park taking third and qualifying six wrestlers.

Leading the way for Arundel will be senior 160-pounder Rob Connolly, who's ranked first in the state with a perfect 31-0 mark. Pat Ortman (27-4 at 119) and heavyweight Jeff Blachly (18-3) also won region titles for the Wildcats.

After finishing second to Old Mill all season, Connolly said winning the region was vital in the Wildcats chase for the state title.

"We needed something to get us started," he said on Saturday. "This is the time when you want to pour it on -- region and states. All you need is one more good weekend, and you're state champs."

Leading the charge for Old Mill is junior 112-pounder Chris Combs, a state champ at 103 last season who was upset by Meade's Matt Pandullo in the region final on Saturday, and three-time region and county champ Rich Sampson, who improved to 29-5 with a 8-0 decision over Patterson's Ed Kempa in the region final.

"We don't have the numbers with seven kids going, but it's really hard to say. We have as good as chance as any," said Old Mill coach Mike Hampe.

One match to watch for is Combs' possible rematch with Pandullo. If both advance, they would meet in the state final. Pandullo's 3-2 decision in the region final was his first win against Combs in 14 tries dating back to the seventh grade.

"One of the things I like most about Chris is that he hates to lose. He's not used to it," said Hampe. "He'll have sparks coming off his shoes when he hits the mat."

Severna Park has quietly enjoyed a breakthrough season under fifth-year coach Ralph Toomey, who would like to see his Falcons finish strong. Senior Josh Grady, the county and region champ at 125 with a 27-3 mark leads the way as a fourth seed.

Other region champs out of the Class 3A-4A East from the county are Chesapeake's Jeff Evelth (27-3 at 103) and Ryan Howard (30-5 at 130); Annapolis' Andrew Hemminger (26-3 at 145) and North County's WT Aye (24-2 at 152).

In the Class 1A-2A, Southern's 112-pounder Nick Alley will try for a second straight title. Alley, who won a state title at 103 last season, was upset by Kent's Jacob Kirwan in the Class 1A-2A East region final, 8-4, on Saturday. South River's Dan Whitcher won the 140-pound region crown with a 12-6 decision over Mardela's Dennis Krouse.

Pub Date: 3/05/98

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