Above: St. Joe’s Austin Stith (left) won a key match, edging McDonogh’s Jack Wimmer, 3-1, at 195.

Gaels win first three bouts to take an early lead, win eight of fourteen matches in MIAA showdown

by Billy Loverocket

The top-ranked Mount St. Joseph wrestling team was rightfully worried coming into their MIAA Conference battle with No. 2 McDonogh, Saturday evening. Coach Harry Barnabae received a phone call Saturday morning informing him his heavyweight, Isaac Righter, would not be on hand for the match due to the flu.

Righter had pinned the Eagles’ defending state champion PJ Mustipher at the Beast of the East tournament in December. To lose those potential points in a dual meet that is always highly contested was a tough blow. The Gaels, however, found the points they needed and knocked off their rival, 33-23

“As a team, they knew that to secure the victory every point mattered,” Barnabae said. “In Isaac’s absence they dedicated the match to him. Both teams had wrestlers out as McDonogh forfeited to us at 120. As a coach you don’t dwell on any particular situation. You have to overcome the obstacle and move forward. Isaac is a huge part of our team and we look forward to his return.”

The young Gaels sucked it up and overcame that obstacle to beat McDonogh for the third straight year, and fourth time in a row. St. Joe defeated McDonogh twice last year in dual meets. The first was their annual MIAA showdown, the second was at FloWrestling’s Who’s No.1 Dual tournament in Pennsylvania.

“We knew coming into the match that it is going to be a battle,” said Barnabae. “This is a seasonal marquee rivalry that spans the decades, and the fans rarely are disappointed. Our senior captains stepped it up again with key victories over tough rival opponents. Schultz, Stith and Rill knew how important their matches were and they didn’t let the team down.”

McDonogh chose to send out sophomore Jackson Bonitz (No. 21 at 195) to face No.3 David Schultz at 182lbs. Schultz did what he was favored to do, and picked up, not just the win, but the fall to put six points on the board for St. Joe.

“(I wanted to) start us off strong,” said Schultz. “At first, I didn’t want to really start us off. I’m not really a big fan of that. Coach said, “Let’s go get some bonus points.” We weren’t sure who they were going to send out, but whoever it was I had that bonus point mindset. I wasn’t really looking at my performance, I was looking at it as a team aspect. I knew I had to go out there and start us off strong.”

At 195lbs, No. 2 Austin Stith kept the momentum flowing the Gaels’ way with a 3-1 decision over Jack Wimmer (No. 4 at 182). This was a huge win because on paper this bout favored McDonogh since Wimmer had defeated Stith in a freestyle match over the summer.

“(My goal) was just to wrestle my best,” Stith added. “I’ve been working really hard. I went in really confident. I’ve been really confident lately. I just went out and did what I do. He’s a really, really good wrestler. I felt like I could pull out the win the whole time. I was happy with my performance. (I) wish I pulled the trigger a few more times. But overall, I’m happy about my performance.”

Another huge swing match occurred next at 220lbs. No. 2 Keagan Rill (St. Joe) and No. 3 Parker Robinson have engaged in a fierce rivalry that stretches over the last three seasons, including this one. In this time span each wrestler has won three of their six meetings. This match would be a big factor in who would win the dual meet and Rill came out on top, 3-1, to put the Gaels up 12-0.

Barnabae chose to forfeit to Mustipher, who was fresh off an appearance at the Under Armour All-American football game in Orlando on Thursday night.

Cooper Flynn (No. 2 at 106) won the Eagles’ first contested bout of the night over No. 11 Frankie Antonelli, picking up a 16-0 technical-fall to bring McDonogh within one point of St. Joe, 12-11.

The Gaels went on another three-match win streak picking up a pin, a forfeit, and a decision to make the score 27-11 in their favor. In this run, Chris Barnabae (No. 2 at 113) pinned Mohammed Ndiaye in the first period (1:13), No. 8 Clement Woods received a forfeit at 120lbs, and No. 3 Nathan Porter handed No. 9 Sean Scott a 12-6 loss.

McDonogh was not going to roll over though, and they went on their own three-bout run to get back in the match. No. 3 Ray Kable won an overtime thriller with No. 8 Connor Strong, 3-1. Caden Mareno (No. 2) downed No. 3 Seth Fillers, 10-4, at 138lbs. No. 3 Grant Gorvett (145) exacted revenge on Chris Roybal with a 5-1 win. Roybal beat Gorvett in last year’s league clash.

The lack of bonus points in this run hurt McDonogh as they were still seven points behind St. Joe, 27-20.

Keegan Rill (left) decisioned McDonogh’s Parker Robinson, 3-1, in another pivotal victory for the Gaels.

This setup a showdown at 152lbs that would play a big factor in deciding the winner of this meeting. Despite having a career 2-0 edge over No. 4 Alex LaVeck, St. Joe’s Zach Phillips (No. 8) was the underdog in this match due to a few early season losses.
This encounter proved to be the most exciting one of the night as there were multiple lead changes and plenty of action. When the final whistle blew, Phillips (despite an intercostal strain) was the victor, 11-10. The result put a halt to McDonogh’s momentum, and put the Gaels back in the win column, pushing the lead to ten, 30-20.

“(I was thinking) don’t let him get the cradle,” Phillips continued. “(I wanted to) do my best to not stall and make this my match and wrestle how I wanna wrestle. I had to stay in control. I knew I had an injury, so I had to do what benefits me. I wrestled like crap. I need to get my cardio up and stop taking people lightly because he almost had me. It feels good to help my team get the victory. That’s what we came here to do.”
With two matches left, the Eagles could still come out on top, but they would need bonus points and an upset win to do so. When it was all said and done, neither of those things happened. No. 3 Dominic Solis was only able to tally a regular decision, 7-5, over No. 9 Jonathan Short at 160lbs. That result sealed the win for St. Joe.
At 170, Justin Henry (No. 1) added to the Gaels team points when he edged No. 3 Garrett Kappes, 3-2. The win made the final score, 33-23.

When the win was sealed Barnabae took a moment to reflect.

“I felt our wrestlers showed a lot of heart in every match, and you can’t take anything away from the McDonogh wrestlers either as they came in well prepared. Every match was important. I was most impressed with our team’s resilience, even in the close matches we lost.

“Frankie Antonelli, is a competitive monster, Connor Strong continues to improve every week, and, of course Zach Phillips, with his multitude of injuries, fought back in an exciting victory over Alex LaVeck. LaVeck is always a threat to cradle any opponent and Phillips did an outstanding job in winning one for the team. I’m sure McDonogh will stay hot on our heels going into the end of the season tournaments. We have to be prepared, and I’m certain, that it will be exciting.”

McDonogh coach Pete Welch echoed those sentiments regarding another classic bout in the rivalry.

“Some places we did really well, some places we could have done better. We won six bouts. On paper I had one scenario with them blowing us out. Another scenario with us blowing them out. And I had another one, seven and seven. I think I had an eight and six too. You never know when these two teams meet what’s gonna happen, who’s gonna perform. We had a 10 to 11 bout at 52, that could have gone either way, which was pretty amazing. That was a big swing. We started off a little rough then we battled back. It’s at that point of the season where you see both teams are a little banged up and hopefully we can all piece it together and have a good tournament at the end.”

(match started at 182)
182-David Schultz (MSJ) pinned Jackson Bonitz, 2:22
195-Austin Stith (MSJ) dec Jack Wimmer, 3-1
220-Keagan Rill (MSJ) dec Parker Robinson, 3-1
285-PJ Mustipher (McD) won by forfeit
106-Cooper Flynn (McD) tech-fall Frankie Antonelli, 16-0
113-Chris Barnabae (MSJ) pinned Mohammed Ndiaye, 1:13
120-Clement Woods (MSJ) won by forfeit
126-Nathan Porter (MSJ) dec Sean Scott, 12-6
132-Ray Kable (McD) dec Connor Strong, 3-1 OT
138-Caden Mareno (McD) dec Seth Fillers, 10-4
145-Grant Gorvett (McD) dec Chris Roybal, 5-1
152-Zach Phillips (MSJ) dec Alex LaVeck, 11-10
160-Dominic Solis (McD) dec Jonathan Short, 7-5
170-Justin Henry (MSJ) dec Garrett Kappes, 3-2

Video of All matches:
182-Schultz vs Bonitz

195-Stith vs Wimmer

220-Rill vs Robinson

106-Flynn vs Antonelli

113-Barnabae vs Ndiaye

126-Porter vs Scott

132-Kable vs Strong

138-Mareno vs Fillers


145-Gorvett vs Roybal

152-Phillips vs LaVeck

160-Solis vs Short

170-Henry vs Kappes