Master of the MIAA mats

McDonogh crowns 6 champs, wins tour­na­ment team ti­tle

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - VARSITY - By Tim Schwartz

McDonogh coach Pete Welch feels he’s had teams ca­pa­ble of win­ning Mary­land In­ter­scholas­tic Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion ti­tles the last few sea­sons, but some­thing al­ways seemed to dis­man­tle the Ea­gles’ chances. Not this year.

McDonogh has put it all to­gether this win­ter, and the train kept on rolling Fri­day and Satur­day at Gil­man School dur­ing the 100th an­nual MIAA Tour­na­ment as the Ea­gles scored 279 points to beat out ri­val and three-time de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons Mount Saint Joseph (254) and Loy­ola Blake­field (242) for the team ti­tle.

It’s the un­de­feated Ea­gles’ first league cham­pi­onship since 2016.

McDonogh crowned a tour­na­ment-high six cham­pi­ons — ju­nior Cooper Flynn (120 pounds), fresh­man Clay­ton Gabriel­son (132) and se­niors Do­minic So­lis (182), Jack Wim­mer (195), Jack­son Bonitz (220) and Gar­rett Kappes (285) — while the run­nerup Gaels had four in fresh­man Cole­man Nogle (106) and se­niors Matthew Jun (145), Chris Roy­bal (152) and Connor Strong (160), who earned the Ed­ward T. Rus­sel Cup for scor­ing the most points for his team.

Arch­bishop Spald­ing, which fin­ished in fourth place with 169.5 points, had a pair of cham­pi­ons in sopho­mores Brady Pruett (113) and Joe Fisk (138), the lat­ter of whom earned the Charles R. Gam­per Out­stand­ing Wrestler Award for his come-from-be­hind vic­tory over Cle­ment Woods of Mount Saint Joseph.

Gil­man se­nior Andy Weinstein (126) and John Car­roll se­nior CJ Polesovsky (170) also won in­di­vid­ual crowns.

“We’ve won this tour­na­ment with six cham­pi­ons be­fore, but that usu­ally takes an effort of ev­ery­body else com­ing back and tak­ing third or fourth, and some of our younger guys even tak­ing fifth and sixth was huge for us,” Welch said. “The event it­self, ev­ery­body at this time of year has boo-boos and sick­ness, and ev­ery­body’s deal­ing with stuff.

“There’s a lot of luck in­volved to put it to­gether a few week­ends in a row. So I was pleased with the way our guys com­peted and just fin­ished strong in the end.”

If there was any doubt the Ea­gles wouldn’t win the team ti­tle, their string of up­per weights put that to rest. So­lis, Wim­mer, Bonitz and Kappes have car­ried the team from the start and it was no dif­fer­ent here as three of them won their cham­pi­onship matches by fall to earn the ex­tra team points.

So­lis (34-6) pinned Loy­ola’s Jeremiah Ay­bar in 55 sec­onds to cap­ture his third MIAA ti­tle; Wim­mer (33-5) took out the Gaels’ Parker Warner 6-1 to win the event for the first time; Bonitz (12-2) body-locked and pinned Gil­man’s Mattheus Car­roll in the sec­ond pe­riod; and Kappes (27-2) stuck Cur­ley’s Ju­dah Con­away in 1 minute, 16 sec­onds to get his sec­ond league crown.

“I wanted to win my third MIAA cham­pi­onship, but I re­ally wanted to win for the team,” So­lis said. “That’s my main goal. Just to dom­i­nate so I can get the max points for my team … We have Cooper, Wim­mer and all those guys, but it’s all about those other kids that put in all that ex­tra work af­ter prac­tice. They’re do­ing 50 pullups with me af­ter prac­tice ev­ery day, so I think that lit­tle stuff just men­tally gets you bet­ter.”

Flynn and Gabriel­son are “fun to watch,” Welch said, be­cause of their tech­ni­cal skills. Flynn (37-2) had six take­downs and cruised past Loy­ola’s Matty Walsh for his sec­ond straight con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship, while Gabriel­son (27-6) scored a slick third-pe­riod take­down to seal a 5-1 win over Mount Saint Joseph’s Nathan Porter, who was a two-time de­fend­ing MIAA cham­pion.

It’s the third time Gabriel­son has de­feated Porter this year.

“It’s hard to beat some­one three times, es­pe­cially some­one like Porter — he’s a great com­peti­tor,” said the fresh­man, who added he didn’t want to let the lead nearly slip away like it did against Porter in the teams’ dual meet on Jan. 31.

“This week I re­ally just worked on my con­di­tion­ing and stuff, and in the third he got in and I didn’t give up the take­down and scram­bled through it.”

The Gaels got a big boost with Strong, a se­nior cap­tain, re­turn­ing to his first com­pe­ti­tion since late De­cem­ber. Strong said he’s fully re­cov­ered from a knee in­jury, and he proved it by pin­ning Loy­ola’s Damon Nel­son in the sec­ond pe­riod, his fourth fall of the tour­na­ment, to cap­ture his third MIAA ti­tle.

“I’m just su­per grate­ful,” Strong said. “A lot of peo­ple helped me get back. This is my se­nior year, so I was think­ing I might have to miss it, which would have been un­for­tu­nate. But so many peo­ple helped me come back and I’m just try­ing to en­joy it all.”

Jun (25-8) built a big lead and held on to de­feat Sev­ern’s Brad LaBella 14-10, and Roy­bal (31-6) fol­lowed with a com­mand­ing 5-1 win against Loy­ola’s Josh Ay­bar. Nogle (34-7) has proved to be a pin­ning ma­chine in his first sea­son with the Gaels, and his 26th fall of the year came in just 1:04 against Gil­man’s Wil­liam Bress­ner in the fi­nals.

“Go­ing into high school I had big goals, and just to come out on top at some of these big tour­na­ments feels good,” Nogle said.

“I’m putting in the work, and see­ing it [pay off ] out on the mat feels good.”

Fisk (23-1) and Woods have had sev­eral bat­tles over the last two sea­sons, but Woods got his first head-to-head win and handed Fisk his only loss of the sea­son in the fi­nals at Mount Mat Mad­ness in De­cem­ber. It looked as if Woods was go­ing to win again Satur­day as he scored two first-pe­riod take­downs and es­caped early in the sec­ond to take a 5-1 lead.

That’s when Fisk turned it on. He cut the deficit to two with a late take­down in the sec­ond and then to one with an es­cape to start the third. He sealed the come­back with a blast dou­ble-leg take­down with about 30 sec­onds re­main­ing and to win 6-5.

“I knew I had had to just cre­ate my shots and just set them up so I can break him down and go from there,” said Fisk, who lost in the MIAA and state fi­nals last sea­son. “In my mind, the whole time I was ready for that match. I wanted it.”

Pruett (22-3) con­tin­ued his dom­i­na­tion of the 113-pound weight class by beat­ing McDonogh fresh­man Joel Brown for the sec­ond time this sea­son. He cruised to a 9-2 vic­tory in early Jan­uary, and this time the score was 5-0 as he net­ted points in each pe­riod to win his first league ti­tle.

“It feels sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­ent [than last year],” Pruett said. “All the work I put in in the off­sea­son with dif­fer­ent kids, I felt like I came in this sea­son pre­pared with all I’ve been do­ing and all the hard work I’ve put in the room.”

Weinstein (26-10) took ad­van­tage of in­juries that forced the top two seeds out of the com­pe­ti­tion and won his only MIAA cham­pi­onship. He cruised to a 6-0 vic­tory over McDonogh’s Connor Bollinger to win it.

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