When Old Mill was scheduled to wrestle Annapolis prior to the holiday break last December, the weather was unseasonably warm.

Old Mill head wrestling coach Jim Grim had an idea the day before the match. He wanted the teams to compete outdoors, which had never happened in Maryland.

He approached his athletic director, Pat Kerry, who loved the idea, but they needed more time to work through the logistics.

The idea for Thursday's match came from Old Mill coach Jim Grim after the teams wrestled indoors on a warm day in December last year. (Carolin Harvey/The Baltimore Banner)

“Coach Grim had this idea, and we talked about it,” Kerry said. “But I told him we had to wait, submit some proposals and make sure that everything got approved. We thought it would be really cool to give these kids an opportunity to do something that had never been done before.”

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

So Grim and Annapolis head coach Tom Sfakiyanudis began talking through how they could make it happen.

After watching the University of Nebraska volleyball team play an outdoor match in August in front of 92,000 people, which set a record for the largest crowd to watch a women’s sporting event in the United States, Grim was even more motivated to push forward with the idea for a home match.

“Seeing this go from an out-of-the-box concept to fruition, I just feel so good for these kids and student-athletes that got to experience it,” he said. “I came up with this crazy idea, and our school and county administrators were so fully supportive. Everybody said, ‘Let’s go!’”

Old Mill won 57-12 in Maryland's first outdoor wrestling match. (Carolin Harvey/The Baltimore Banner)

With a fevered home crowd in the bleachers that resembled one you might see at a big rivalry football game, each Old Mill wrestler made his entrance accompanied by theme music. Temperatures hovered in the low 40s around the time the match started at 5 p.m.

The last time the Annapolis Panthers and Old Mill Patriots matched up in February, in the Class 4A East Regional Duals, it was Annapolis that won. But on Thursday night, at Bob Golliday Field, Old Mill dominated 57-12.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

“I’ve got to give credit to Old Mill. They did great,” Sfakiyanudis said. “There were a couple of matches that I knew would be close, that we had a 50-50 chance. But they won those. When that started happening, I knew it was going to be a long day. They wrestled great; they were more energetic on the mat.”

Grim recognized Annapolis was dealing with injuries.

“Trust me, they’re not done. They’re going to be a problem when they get back to full strength,” he said.

Dominick Hurley, who wrestled at Southern High School in Harwood, took great pride in watching his son Dominick II on Thursday night.

Annapolis High School faced Old Mill in the first outdoor wrestling match in Anne Arundel County on Thursday night. (Carolin Harvey/The Baltimore Banner)

“This is such a unique setting, and I think they did a phenomenal job planning this out over the last year,” he said. “As far as Dom’s approach tonight, it’s the same as always: Keep it simple, take him down and get him on his back.”

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Hurley II proceeded to pin his opponent in just over a minute.

Old Mill’s defending state heavyweight champion, 6-foot-3, 285-pound senior RJ Duncan, sent the crowd into a frenzy as he jogged toward the mat with the theme music from “The Purge” blaring.

Even though his opponent opted to forfeit, Duncan relished participating in local wrestling history.

“We’re the first teams to ever do this,” he said. “And to be a part of it with a bunch of guys that you love is pretty special.”

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Alejandro Danois was a sports writer for The Banner. He specializes in long-form storytelling, looking at society through the prism of sports and its larger connections with the greater cultural milieu. The author of The Boys of Dunbar, A Story of Love, Hope and Basketball, he is also a film producer and cultural critic. 

More From The Banner