With one weight class left in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association wrestling tournament, host Mount Saint Joseph held a half-point lead over McDonogh.
With neither school featured in the 285-pound championship bout, won by St. Vincent Pallotti’s Mansur Abdul-Malik, all the drama fell to the third-place match that pitted McDonogh sophomore PJ Mustipher against John Carroll’s Druw Van Der Werff and the fifth-place match between Mount Saint Joseph’s Tommy Luc and Mount Carmel’s Jerold Gaither
When Mustipher pinned Van Der Werff and Gaither pinned Luc, the Eagles soared in front with four extra points to win the team title with 245 points while the Gaels finished with 241.5.
The tension was so great that even McDonogh coach Pete Welch had to peek behind him to the far outside mat to see what was going on in Luc’s match.
"I tried so hard just to focus on my kids, but it’s almost impossible when you’ve got three matches going on and everything played into it,” Welch said.
The Gaels came into the final round with 212.5 points and McDonogh trailed with 204.
But once McDonogh took the lead early in the round, the match see-sawed with every weight class.
The Gaels took a 241.5 to 238 lead when Logan Rill pinned St. Paul’s Noah Kalishman with seven seconds left in the third period.
Rill had led 3-0 early in the third period when he was forced to use injury time to take his brace off his right knee.
“I just tweaked it a little, but I knew I had to tough it out,” said Rill, who improved to 27-5 on the season. “The team needed points.”
McDonogh pulled within a half point of the Gaels at 241.5 to 241 when Brandon Shure scored a 15-4 major decision over John Carroll’s Jerry Rosser at 195 pounds.
Logan Rill’s younger brother, Keegan Rill, nearly extended the lead in the 220-pound title match when the second-seeded sophomore took top-seeded John Urban, of St. Paul’s, into overtime.
Urban won a 3-1 decision with a takedown with eight seconds left in extra time.
Logan Rill conceded he was more nervous watching his younger brother than he was for his own match.
“He was a little upset, but he wrestled hard and I’m very proud of him,” Logan Rill said.
That set the table for the heavyweight matches and McDonogh’s Mustipher delivered in his first season wrestling for the Eagles.
“This team is such a family,” said Mustipher, who didn’t wrestle as a freshman. “I used to wrestle, but I came back. The coaches are just so great. What got me through was I wanted to help my family win and I love these guys.”
Leading 2-0, he got a jolt when Van Der Werff tied it at 2.
He immediately got the escape and takedown, and followed with the pin.
“I knew the score and I knew my surroundings and I knew what I had to do, and I just went out and got it done,” Mustipher said.
McDonogh, which had four finalists, compared to Mount Saint Joseph’s five and St. Paul’s seven, produced a trio of champions.
Junior Quinn Devaney (138 pounds) and senior Sam Martino (145) won MIAA tournament titles for the second straight year and freshman Ray Kable (113) won his first crown.
Devaney, a Catonsville resident who has committed to wrestle at Maryland beginning in 2017, scored a 6-0 decision over Archbishop Spalding’s Nick Goray (31-5).
“I was just trying to score points and not let anyone back in the match,” said Devaney, who improved to 22-4. “I had a little fluke in the semis. I was dominating 12-0 and I just kind of let off of my guard a little bit. I tried to get a turn and go for the attack and it ended up being 13-6.”
Martino (29-5), the only senior in McDonogh’s starting lineup, scored an 11-4 decision over Boys’ Latin’s Kahlan Lee-Lerner and Kable (21-4) won 16-5 over John Carroll’s Luke Strapelli.
Also placing for McDonogh were: Andrew Hurdle (second, 160), Ryan Leventhal (third, 106), Caden Mareno (third, 126), Alex LaVeck (third, 132), Parker Robinson (fourth, 220), Travis Crawford (fifth, 120), DeAndre Tackett (fifth, 152), Christian Brown (fifth, 170) and Shure (fifth, 195).
“We tried to tell the kids it’s not about you anymore,” Welch said. “It’s about us. If you are tired, you better fake it and get going. It worked out for us today.”
The coach also praised the competition.
“Our league is awesome,” he said. “The competition is great, it’s exciting, it’s nerve-wracking and I was really proud of our kids. In that last round, we had 13 kids still in it and still contributing and taking us from behind and putting us ahead.”
In addition to Logan Rill, Mount Saint Joseph’s Cody Trybus (120), Shawn Orem (152) and Neil Schuster (152) won titles.
Schuster (43-4) had three pins and won his title bout, 10-2, over John Carroll’s Andy Milner.
“My goal was to dominate the tournament,” Schuster said. “I was hoping to get pins all the way through and not allow any points, but I gave up a reversal in the last match against a tough kid.”
Pinning his way to the title was heavyweight Abdul-Malik (36-2), who scored four falls.
He shared the Edward T. Russel Cup award for scoring the most points for his team with St. Paul’s Daniel Planta (45-5), who scored a 3-1 overtime decision over top-seeded Michael Doetsch (44-6), of Severn.
It was the third MIAA tournament title for Planta and third runner-up finish for Doetsch, who has a career record of 162-27.
Planta, a two-time Maryland Independent Schools state champion, improved to 135-17 in his career.
Third-place St. Paul’s (181 points) crowned three champions in Kurt McHenry (106), Dale Tiongson (160) and Urban (220).
McHenry defeated Spalding’s PJ Truntich, 8-5, in a battle of freshmen.
Spalding coach Mike Laidley considers Truntich (32-2) the best freshman he has ever coached.
Loyola Blakefield’s Nick Moreno remained unbeaten (34-0) when he won at 170 pounds.
Reid Chaconas (37-2), of Glenelg Country School, had the quickest pin in a title match when he stopped Gilman’s Jake Brummett in 37 seconds at 195 pounds.
But it was Mustipher’s final pin for third place that cemented McDonogh’s latest MIAA title.
“That was unbelievable. It was very gutsy,” said Welch, whose squad last won a tournament title in 2014.
106: Kurt McHenry (SP) dec. PJ Truntich (AS) 8-5
113: Ray Kable (McD) maj. dec. Luke Strapelli (JC) 16-5
120: Cody Trybus (MSJ) maj. dec. Nick Dintinio (SP) 13-4
126: Daniel Planta (SP) dec. Michael Doetsch (SV) 3-1 OT
132: Shawn Orem (MSJ) maj. dec. Braeden Alevizatos (G) 12-4
138: Quinn Devaney (McD) dec. Nick Goray (AS) 6-0
145: Sam Martino (McD) dec. Kahlan Lee-Lerner (BL) 11-4
152: Neil Schuster (MSJ) maj. dec. Andy Millner (McD) 10-2
160: Dale Tiongson (SP) tech fall Andrew Hurdle (McD) 18-3
170: Nick Moreno (LOY) inj. def. Jack Parr (SP)
182: Logan Rill (MSJ) fall Noah Kalishman (SP) 5:53
195: Reid Chaconas (GCS) fall Jake Brummett (G) :37
220: John Urban (SP) dec Keegan Rill (MSJ) 3-1 OT
285: Mansur Abdul-Malik pin Vinnie Shaffer (AC) 1:40
Team scores (top 10)
- McDonogh 245
- St. Joe 241.5
- Paul’s 181
- Spalding 144.5
- Loyola 139
- John Carroll 136.5
- Gilman 118
- Curley 70
- Severn 65
- Calvert Hall 63