Winning a “B” Division State Title in 2009, the St. Paul’s Crusaders have been quietly building a monster squad to take on all comers. And this year, they unleashed the beast on the 2010-2011 wrestling season.
Outscoring all their MIAA “B” competition by at least double-digit margins and being ranked above numerous “A” Conference teams, the Crusaders went undefeated through the “B” Conference and finished third at both the MIAA Tournament and MIS to take eight wrestlers to the National Preps.
The Crusaders crowned four champions in the MIAA Finals, seeing freshman Jack Mutchnik win his first, and adding titles with Eric Friedman (119), Peter Galli (140) and Brad Mutchnik (152).
One week later, St. Paul’s found itself again fighting for tournament honors, placing third at the MIS, with Friedman and Brad Mutchnik repeating as state champions.
“They did the schedule,” Crusader coach Jay Braunstein said. “It was a really tough schedule, so when they got into really tight, close matches, they were able to win a lot of them.”
Friedman earned his third MIS title at 119, taking his opponent down and working points to throughout his 11-2 major decision, and teammate Brad Mutchnik claimed his second crown, using a 6-5 decision at 152.
“When he was a freshman, one of the things we wanted to do was make him more social and more of a team member,” Braunstein said of Friedman. “He works out three times a day and he’s always on his own.
“This year, he pinned all three very good opponents and was crushing Xavi. He just decided, ‘I am going to start pinning people because I want to stat scoring points for the team.’”
Friedman scored 33 team-points in pinning his way to the finals and claiming a 119-pound title.
“Everywhere I have been this year, he has been patting a kid on the back telling them they are doing a good job,” Braunstein explained of his molded leader. “He has really taken a step. It’s like a light bulb went off and he thought, ‘I can be a leader.’”
Cruising through the season with impressive in-conference wins, the Crusaders also did a bit of work outside the state, heading to Pennsylvania, Virginia and Delaware to take on some of the East Coast’s top talent.
Placing in the top third at the Beast of the East, Peter Galli led St. Paul’s by placing fifth next to four-match winner Mike Green, while other multi-match winners included Brad and Jack Mutchnik, and Eric Friedman. St. Paul’s finished just one team-point behind McDonogh, 17 spots ahead of Mount St. Joe and 19 ahead of John Carroll.
But that wouldn’t be the only time St. Paul’s would place higher than an MIAA “A” Conference team, as the Crusaders again outranked the Gaels in the POWERade Wrestling Tournament, placing 31st.
Galli, again, was among the top winners for St. Paul’s, going 4-2 in the tournament, while Brad Mutchnink went 4-3 in the tournament to finish eighth at 152 lbs.
“Brad has learned how to dictate matches,” Braunstein explained. “That kid took him down [in the state finals], Brad hit a ‘gramby’ and got right back on top and shrugged it off. Brad just learned how to be a wrestler. This year for him was one of those light bulb years, too.”
The team took to Pittsburgh in late January for the Central Catholic Wrestling tournament, placing in the top spot with five second-place finishers and Matt Green’s crown, before the team went 4-0 at North Stafford High School in Stafford, Va.
Friedman and Galli were named outstanding wrestlers of the tournament, while teammates Jack Mutchnik, Austin Sauter, Connor Wagh, Nick Skudrna, Brad Mutchnik, Greg Louzan, Ryan Gary and both Matt and Mike went undefeated.
In addition to the Mutchniks, Friedman and Galli, Crusader teammates Wagh, Skudrna and the Greens will be headed to the National Preps for St. Paul’s.
Jack Mutchnik’s 39-9 season has seen a lot of success on the mat, but there is a transition that all freshmen must go through, according to Braunstein:
“He’s a freshman, and all freshmen need to get meaner.”