The road to the Anne Arundel County championship should be congested, yet familiar, for wrestling fans.
Arundel, Broadneck and Old Mill are the favorites to win the county crown, while Chesapeake lurks as a dark horse. The fireworks when these teams meet should be entertaining.
Old Mill, defending county and state 4A-3A duals champion, graduated seven of eight starters, including second-team All-Metro star Antoine Cooksey and region and county champion Dave Hicks.
But the Patriots, hoping for a third duals championship in four years, are powered by senior Adam DeCosmo, a state champion at 130 pounds, and senior Nick Liston, a county and regional titlist at 140 pounds.
And coach Vern Hines can mine a junior varsity squad that had five county champions.
Broadneck enjoyed a 14-2 season, but both losses came to Old Mill.
Like the Patriots, Broadneck graduated many starters, including 125-pound region champion Ricky Boulay.
But like their rivals, the Bruins return a solid lineup, which features 160-pound senior Jordan Rathlev, a regional champion, and 140-pound senior Brad Willard, a state qualifier.
Coach Bob Halcombe can pluck wrestlers from a JV squad that included five county champions.
Arundel has plenty of depth on the varsity level with eight returning varsity letter-winners from a squad that finished 11-3 last season.
One of those back is senior Mike Money, a county and regional champion last year.
Combine him with junior Ryan Lowder, who placed sixth at states at 130 pounds, and junior George Kotsis, who finished fourth at regionals at 103 pounds, and one of Arundel's strengths will be its experience.
Chesapeake enters the season having won the state 4A-3A tournament for the first time since 1980. But the team is reeling from graduation, injuries and transfers.
The Cougars graduated six wrestlers and lost 103-pound sophomore Steve Yaruta, a county champion, for the season after he aggravated a shoulder injury during the preseason.
Sophomores Alex and Adam Necessary moved to the Eastern Shore, but first-year coach Rex Miller, an assistant coach under All-Metro Coach of the Year Tom Slichter last season, does return two-time state champion and junior Matt Eveleth.
Severna Park graduated county champions Dan Fitzgerald and Dan Seger but should play a vital role in the county standings. Socrates Mamalis, a 130-pound senior, was a regional runner-up at 119, and 125-pound sophomore Steve Smith was fifth in the county.
The key for coach Paul Joyce will be the development of one JV county champion and three JV finalists who make the leap to varsity this year.
A team poised for postseason success is Annapolis, which went 8-9 with only one senior in the starting lineup.
The Panthers are led by junior Paul Macknis, a second-team All-County pick who qualified for the state tournament at 125 pounds last year.
For coach Tom Sfakiyanudis, one goal is to amass a winning record, which would be the program's first in 10 seasons.
Rebuilding is the theme at South River, where six starters return from last year's 10-4 squad.
The presence of 130-pound junior Anthony Tucker, who qualified for states, and 135-pound junior Kyle Durbin, who placed fifth at regionals, could offset some questions at the upper weights.
Meade made up for a slow start by placing fifth in the Class 4A-3A East regionals last year, despite a 3-11 dual-meet record.
Coach Chad Vossburg will lean on 119-pound junior Matt Harvey, a county and regional runner-up, and 112-pound senior Arian Custudio, a third-place finisher at counties and regionals to mold a young group.
Northeast will try to forget about the 11 matches it was forced to forfeit last year after a wrestler was declared ineligible.
Senior Matt McKenzie, a JV county champion at heavyweight, could surprise some of his peers, but coach Al Kohlhafer says inexperience and a lack of depth will be the Eagles' biggest obstacles.
North County has seven returning varsity letter-winners. David Barnes, a 125-pound senior, and Eric Schlueter, a 145-pound junior, are among those returning, but Knights coach Jim Grim is concerned about his squad's inexperience.
Unlike years past, Glen Burnie won't be forfeiting many weight classes, as coach Corey Fowler has 11 wrestlers. Greg Hammack, a 145-pound senior who placed third in the county and fourth at regionals, is the Gophers' top wrestler.
Southern graduated five starters but could be competitive if 103-pound sophomore David Thornton, who placed fifth at regionals, and 135-pound senior Mark Bender lead the way.
Among the private schools, Annapolis Area Christian returns a veteran squad that won the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference last year.
The Eagles have second-team All-County pick and 125-pound senior Luke Palumbo (38-7 last season) and first-team All-County choice and 152-pound senior Alex Bitzer (27-11).
The flip side to the Eagles' success is the challenge facing St. Mary's rookie coach Pat Arvidson.
The former Meade coach has just five wrestlers on his varsity roster, including 119-pound senior Mike Kohler - the only one with varsity experience.
Archbishop Spalding has two projected starters, 103-pound senior Matt Cummings and 189-pound senior Brian Clark.
Whether the Cavaliers can challenge the MIAA powers remains a mystery.
Wrestlers to watch
Adam DeCosmo (Old Mill, 135 pounds) Reigning state champion went 35-2 last season.
Matt Eveleth (Chesapeake, 119 pounds) Junior continues quest to become Maryland's third four-time state champion.
Luke Palumbo (Annapolis Area Christian, 125 pounds) Senior went 38-7 and was third at national preps.