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Outside the Box may be Outside the Building

Old Mill's Jim Grim said he is trying to "get local wrestling coaches to think outside of the box."

That's why his Patriots (21-1) will host the Annapolis Panthers (1-2) in an Anne Arundel County League wrestling match on Thursday night -- literally doing so at 5 p.m. on a mat outside on the high school's Bob Golliday Field. It's an idea Grim hatched with Panthers' coach Tom Sfakyanudis.

"I approached Tom last year about doing this if I could get it approved. I reached out to a few message boards in Virginia and Pennsylvania and got some good advice," said Grim, “Who “took my ideas and presented them to” Clayton Culp, Anne Arundel County Public Schools coordinator of athletics. I took my idea to [Culp,] our athletic director [Pat Carey] our principal [Alison Mikeska] and they loved it. So, I called Tom and reached out to the Annapolis athletic director and everybody was on board.”

Grim said eight heaters will surround the mats as the wrestlers compete in addition to being in their warm-up areas.

"We'll have mats down on the field with the heaters surrounding the wrestling area and the team room area will be heated for the kids to warm up," Grim said. "There will be dry mops used for the mat in case of condensation. So, the spectators can just dress warmly as if they're at an outdoor event."

The match will be moved inside before 6 p.m. if temperatures drop too low, or weather conditions become too harsh, otherwise, the match will start at 5 p.m. and will be completed outside.

"I love promoting this great sport and that people are excited about it. It's great that Jim and Clayton made it happen," said Sfakiyanudis, a 1992 Annapolis graduate who was a county champion, regional runner-up and a Class 4A-3A state semifinalist. "I'm hoping for a big crowd and that it's a great match for them. Jim's team and my team split last year. Both times, the matches were battles. The kids are excited. It's going to be great." Annapolis 165-pounder Davis Ruhf and his teammates spent Tuesday practicing outdoors on a mat outside and within the Panthers' stadium.

"Practicing outside was a lot different than usual. It gave us a good understanding of what it will feel like on Thursday night," said Ruhf, a county and regional runner-up last season. "Wrestling Old Mill outside will be fun and I'm grateful that we're going to be the first to do it. Getting a good warm-up before the match will be super important on how I wrestle. The adrenaline and the nerves will help me during the match."

The Patriots are 21-1, having lost, 43-27, to county rival and two-time Class 4A state dual meet champion South River at last weekend's Warriors Duals at La Plata High. The Patriots are led by fourth-ranked RJ Duncan (285), who is 19-0, a county runner-up, and defending Class 4A-3A East Region and Class 4A-3A state tournament champion. Also doing well for the Patriots are sophomore Logan Johnson (113) and juniors Tristen Sudama (106) and Ruben Salas (150). Sudama is 20-1, Johnson is 19-2, and Salas, 17-2.

"We are making a bit of history, and this will be a memory that will last a lifetime. It's a side bonus for us to be wrestling against Annapolis," Grim said. "Tom is a great friend of mine and I have a ton of respect for him and his program. We've been competing for years, and I love the way that he coaches. Plus, they ended our season last year and I want a little bit of payback."

The Panthers (288 points) surpassed runner-up North Caroline (231) to win the championship in the Dec. 8-9 Andy Perez Co-Ed Memorial Tournament at Cambridge-South Dorchester High.

Winning titles at Cambridge for the Panthers were Ruhf, senior Ronan Keohan (157), sophomore Steven Umana (106) and juniors Carmine Zimmerelli (113) and Grayden Stramanak (285).

The Panthers placed 12 wrestlers in the top three of their weight classes at Cambridge, with runners-up in juniors Teddy Sfakiyanudis (138) and Myles Rankin (144), third-place finishes from juniors Conrad Femrite (120), Jaeger Franz (126), Trevor Price (132) and Chris Smotherman (215) and also from senior Hugh Cooper-Michalski (150). Ruhf and Keohan are the lone seniors who placed in the tournament on the underclassmen-laden squad. Ruhf is unbeaten on the year at 10-0, Keohan is 11-1, Umana and Teddy Sfakyanudis are 10-2, and both Rankin and Cooper-Michalski are both at 9-3.

"We're excited to wrestle against Old Mill outdoors and we're hoping for a big crowd. I think it will be great to promote the sport," said Teddy Sfakyanudis, who was fourth at counties and third at regions last season. "A lot of people who wouldn't normally come out for a wrestling match seem pretty excited about it. The team has been working really hard and we're hoping that we can walk away with a win."

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