Tough luck has not escaped Northern senior Matt Parsons during the 189-pounder's fast start this season.

Parsons has emerged as one of the top wrestlers in the state in his weight class. Off to a 21-1 start, Parsons has knocked off some of the area's top wrestlers and is ranked third at 189 pounds in Maryland 4A/3A class by the Maryland State Wrestling Association.

"Matt has been dominating this season," Northern Coach Frank Young said.

Parsons's season, however, has been anything but typical. At the 20-team Hammond Golden Bear Invitational on Jan. 18, Parsons went 5-0 but had to forfeit his final match because of a technicality.

Northern was forced to miss the first day of the tournament, considered among the toughest in Maryland, when snow closed the Calvert County schools that Friday. Parsons was bumped to the consolation bracket Saturday and won all five of his matches. His run included a win over Chesapeake's Chad La Planche, previously ranked third in the area, but he was forced to forfeit before the third-place match because wrestlers are allowed only five matches in a single day.

"It was real disappointing not to get a chance to place," Parsons said. "I was glad I was able to wrestle my biggest competition for states [La Planche] and win. I was pretty happy with that. I did what Coach [Young] wanted me to do. He said, 'Go 5-0 and make a state meet for Northern wrestling.' I wanted it to be known that I could've placed but I didn't get the chance."

Parsons has won 17 matches by pin, and his only loss was a pinfall in December.

During a semifinal match at the Chopticon Tournament in December, Parsons was about to pin his opponent with a cradle hold while on his back. But Parsons inadvertently pinned himself.

"It was a pretty stupid move," Parsons said. "I learned my lesson."

Parsons finished 32-5 last season, placing second in the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference and 4A/3A South Region tournaments. He qualified for the state tournament but lost his first match. After an intense offseason of training with teammate Walter Hoffman, at 19-1 the third-ranked 171-pounder in the area, Parsons has raised his goals this season.

"I want to get first at states," he said. "That's my main goal."

Great Mills Builds on Tradition Great Mills senior Jeremy Berg is on pace to continue the Hornets' tradition of talented heavyweights.

Berg, in his first varsity season, jumped out to a 22-0 start before falling to Lackey's Randy Robinson on Thursday night.

Berg has spent the past two years training with George Mitchell, a Great Mills wrestler who placed fifth in the state last season. Before Mitchell, Roy Olson finished one match shy of placing in the state in 1999-2000.

"We've been lucky the past four or five years with the heavyweights we've had," Great Mills Coach Bill Griffith said. "Jeremy has wrestled good opponents [in practice], and it's improved him every year."

Great Mills is looking to start another tradition by challenging the top teams in the SMAC. The Hornets (8-3 after finishing 4-9-1 last season) defeated Lackey on Thursday for the first time in nearly 10 years, said Griffith, a Lackey alumnus whose parents teach at the school.

Much Riding on Match

The stakes are high as Chopticon (11-1) and Calvert (9-1) meet in a dual match Tuesday evening.

The winner should earn a higher seed in the upcoming 4A/3A South Region Dual Tournament and thus avoid undefeated La Plata in the first round. Oxon Hill of Prince George's County also has one loss and likely will earn the four-team tournament's second seed.

Among the marquee matchups Tuesday night are the second meeting between talented 112-pounders Ryan Buff and Michael Cannon. Buff, a Calvert freshman, is 17-0 and handed Cannon (21-1) his only loss of the season.