Three-way battle expected between defending champ Mouny St. Joseph, McDonogh, and St. Paul’s

by Billy Loverocket

Defending MIAA A Conference dual, tournament, and state champions Mount St. Joseph return all but two wrestlers from the team that went wire-to-wire as the No. 1 team in the state last year.

“We are approaching this season, as we have, every other season,” Gaels coach Harry Barnabae said. “Our team goal is to stay focused and healthy, and finish number one in the state of Maryland. Although we graduated two of our state champions, Shawn Orem (132) and Neil Schuster (160), we are a much stronger and seasoned team.

Led by returning state champion, Connor Strong, and state finalists Austin Stith, David Schultz, Justin Henry and Chris Barnabae (second at National Preps) we are positioned to make another run for the state title with McDonogh and St. Paul’s hot on our heels.”

Strong moves into Orem’s spot at 132lbs. Barnabae takes over the 113lb slot. Frank Antonelli, a freshman, will be at 106lbs. Schuster’s 160lb position is now Jonathan Short’s.

Other than that, all of St. Joe’s state placers will be back in their same weight classes; Matthew Jun (120), Nathan Porter (126), Seth Fillers (138), Chris Roybal (145), Zach Phillips (152), Justin Henry (170), David Schultz (182), Austin Stith (195), Keagan Rill (220), and Paul Warner (285).

McDonogh is in the same boat as St. Joe, in that they bring back most of their lineup. The only big gun the Eagles lost to graduation was Quinn Devaney.

“We are still a relatively young team that is well balanced with experience,” McDonogh coach Pete Welch said. “If we can keep everyone healthy and improving throughout the season, we hope to finish strong in February.”

Highly touted freshman Cooper Flynn from Tennessee will man the 106lb weight class. Sean Scott (126), two-time state runner-up Ray Kable (132), and fellow state runner-up Caden Mareno (138) return in the lower weights. Ryan Leventhal, Grant Gorvett and freshman Harrison Trahan figure to work into the lower weights as well.

From 152lbs to heavyweight, McDonogh’s lineup returns intact, lead by state champion PJ Mustipher (285). The other returnees and state placers are Alex LaVeck (152), Dominic Solis (160), Garrett Kappes (170), Jack Wimmer (182), Cody Williams (195) and Parker Robinson (220).

St. Paul’s lost a few of their state champions from last year, but still return plenty of firepower in two-time Cadet World Champion Kurt McHenry (113) and state champion Jack Parr (195). Both grapplers are ranked nationally by FloWrestling, McHenry is No.1, while Parr is No. 12 at 182.

“I believe our team is more solid throughout the lineup than last year,” said Crusaders coach Rob Eiter. “Yes, we lost some really good wrestlers, but I believe we have a more balanced lineup this year.  I expect great things from some of our newcomers in Nasir (Wilkerson) and Gene (Quobala). Max Hammond has been a great addition to our program. We obviously expect to challenge both McDonogh and MSJ for the dual meet and tournament titles. This will be a very exciting year as I think all three schools are very evenly matched.”

Returning for the Crusaders are Will Guida (106), Nick Dintino (132), state champion Imran Heard (138), Dylan Blau (160), Everett McDuffie (152), Dominic Piazza (170) and John Urban (220). Guida, who was second in the state at 113lbs last year, captured a Fargo Junior National Freestyle title over the summer.

St. Paul’s also benefitted from the move of former Sparrows Point assistant coach Kramer Whitelaw into the fold, as he brings along 2A/1A state champion Max Hammond. Hammond is likely to fill the 145lb weight class for the Crusaders.

The teams that make up the next tier in the conference are John Carroll, Loyola, and Archbishop Spalding. John Carroll and Spalding will be battling the numbers game and will likely be better tournament teams than dual, but Loyola typically has fewer holes and could therefore emerge as the “best of the rest,” especially in dual meets, after the big three.

Spalding, no doubt, will be a tough tournament team. Every one of their returning starters is a state placer with the exception of Sam Smirnoff, who was ranked in the top five in the state when his season ended due to injury last year.

PJ Truntich (120) is a two-time state runner-up. He is joined in the lineup by three-time state placer Ryan Garretson (145). Garrett Fisk (152) and Tyler Savage (160) are two-time state placers. Filling out the starters are Mitch Garretson (113), Dean Laumann (126), Rick Couch (132), and Dustin Radford (170).

John Carroll is much like Spalding in that the kids they have are state level wrestlers headed by the return of two-time state placer Luke Strappelli (138). Strappelli was well positioned to place for a third time last year until his season was derailed by injury. The senior looks to join his brother Scott as a state champion for the Patriots.

Cole Jones (126) was another promising grappler whose season was cut short by injuries.  Matt Mitrega (132) and CJ Polesovsky (152) reached the state podium as freshmen last year. Adam Berg (220) is a two-time state placer. Jerry Rosser (170) was seventh last year. Drew Van Der Werff is manning the heavyweight spot and freshman Constantinos “Staki” Gourgoulianis will be at 106.

Loyola is led by state placers DeShawn Strand (113), Ryan Thomas (132), Josh Aybar (145), Taylor Randolph (170), Jason Litvak (182), Ian Takas (195), and Will Maigetter (220). Ben Breschi (126) placed at the MIAA Tournament, but couldn’t push through to the state podium. Sophomore Dominic Dinoto looks to build on a promising freshman season.

Curley’s Josh Laubach begins the year as the top ranked 160lber in the state and looks to build on previous state placings and bring home his first state championship. Mike Vargas (220) was eighth in the state for the Friars.

Gilman has returning state placers Jeremy Cranston (170) and Andy Weinstein (106). Cole Brown (152) missed the podium last year but has placed in the past. Alex Slodzinski (195) was one win from placing last year. David Gushue (152) and Kevonte Beard (182) are other Greyhounds to watch.

Other conference standouts to keep an eye on:

Boys’ Latin
Jamie Rice (145)
Mac Alban (195)

Calvert Hall
Vince Thuman (145)
Mike Edwards (195)
Jarrell Mayo (220)

Lance Kevin (145)
Skyler Kessenich (220)

Glenelg Country School
Rey Robinson (160)
Vinny Tomarchio (220)

Mt. Carmel
Timothy Le (113)
Billy Trout (126)
Tyler Trout (120)
Jerold Gaither (285)

St. Vincent Pallotti
Newt Davis (145)

Sam Bruce (120)
Brad LaBella (138
Peter Jensen (152)
Jacob Jarosz (182)

St. Mary’s
Patrick Ruland (113)