Next weekend's bus ride from Millersville, headed north to Western Maryland College in Westminster, will be filled to near capacity.
Old Mill loaded up yesterday, qualifying nine wrestlers to the upcoming state tournament in a dominating performance at the Class 3A-4A East Region finals the past two days at Meade High.
The No. 2 Patriots sent eight wrestlers to the final round yesterday and came away with four champions -- Chris Combs, Eric Hill, James Fleming and Antoine Cooksey -- to easily outpoint runner-up Arundel, 173 1/2-123.
As every weekend test passes, the Patriots have added layers of intensity as they look to wrap up the season with their seventh state tournament crown.
"We've set ourselves up real nice for states next weekend and that was our goal coming into the regional. Every weekend, the level is getting tougher and tougher and the team is coming through very nice at each level," said Old Mill coach Vern Hines, whose Patriots easily won the Anne Arundel County tournament last weekend.
Fleming, a 140-pound senior, was this weekend's example of how the Patriots have stepped it up.
On Friday, he came back from a 2-0 third-period deficit to claim a 3-2 decision over Northern's Victor Ghee, a two-time Baltimore City champ. He followed that up yesterday with a 3-1 decision over Patterson's Richard Johnson, also a two-time City champ and last year's region champ.
"Coming into this tournament we knew what we had to do and that was be on top after the first day. To get eight into the final is amazing," said Fleming, who won his first county championship last weekend.
"It was a great match in the final [against Johnson]. I caught him early and was able to stay on top."
Combs has been on top for a while, reaching another program milestone after last week becoming Old Mill's first four-time county champ. In winning his second region title this weekend, Combs became Old Mill's all-time leader in career wins at 117-9, surpassing 1985 graduate Charlie Royer's mark of 115.
"I have two more goals for next weekend. One is a third state [individual] title, and two is for Old Mill to be the best public school in the state of Maryland," Combs said. "We feel great; everyone is wrestling real tough. There are three or four tough teams in the state, but we feel if we can come in there and wrestle the way we've been, we'll definitely win."
Arundel, who also had four region champs -- Pat Ortman, Greg Klingler, Matt Neidig and Jeff Blachly -- and will have six going to the state tournament, is one of those tough teams, but Wildcats coach Buddy Hepfer said there's one thing that separates Old Mill from the rest this season.
"Old Mill has the team depth and their kids are wrestling well," he said.
Chesapeake-AA had a strong tournament placing third with 106 points.
Chesapeake's Eveleth brothers -- freshman 103-pounder Matt and junior 112-pounder Jeff -- both won region titles and then a surprise followed when Melvin Guthrie claimed the 189-pound class with a tough 4-3 decision over Old Mill's Derrick Dawson.
The highlight match in the final came at 119 with Meade senior Matt Pandullo coming from behind to score a 10-9 decision over Old Mill's Adam DeCosmo.
After winning the county crown at 152 last week, Annapolis senior Andrew Hemminger added his second straight region crown with a 5-4 decision over Chesapeake junior John Mosca.
Class 1A-2A, East Region
Southern's Nick Alley (112) won his weight class at Cambridge-South Dorchester High and looks to win another state title at next weekend's state tournament. South River's Brian King (135) was fourth.
Pub Date: 2/28/99