'Goose' flying high after capturing first MIAA wrestling crown

Pallotti junior heavyweight Antonio Santoro picked up the nickname "Goose" because of his resemblance to former Baltimore Ravens defensive lineman Tony Siragusa.

Santoro also has Siragusa's dry whit and winning personality.

"He is a kid you always want to see," first-year Pallotti coach Andrew Lacroix said. "He has such a positive attitude and he keeps the mood lighthearted. He is very funny. He likes to crack jokes."

On the mat, Santoro shows nothing but seriousness and intensity.

And his career is just starting to take off.

Santoro won the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association wrestling tournament title at 285 pounds on Feb. 9 at Mount St. Joseph in Baltimore, beating the host's Shane Lowman, 3-2, in triple overtime.

"I haven't stopped smiling since I won," said Santoro, who also captured the Lackey Wrestling Tournament title in mid-December. "It was a pretty big win and I feel it's a stepping stone."

Santoro, who boasts a 47-9 record, hopes it leads to a top finish at the Maryland Independent Schools State Tournament at McDonogh School in Owings Mills on Feb. 15 and 16.

He's also eyeing a strong effort at National Preps at Lehigh University on Feb. 23.

"I think he can place pretty high at both," Lacroix said. "At the state tournament, he will see a lot of the same guys. He is looking to make the finals at national preps. There, there are two nationally-ranked guys. Outside of that, it's anybody's game."

The top-seeded Santoro looked awfully strong at the MIAAs.

He pinned St. Paul's Garrett Mullin in 1:43 in the quarterfinals, then decked Archbishop Spalding's Melvin Gowl in 3:14 in the semifinals.

"He is extremely difficult to score on," Lacroix said of Santoro. "No one has held him down this entire year. He has a really high motor and he doesn't get tired."

Of course, the final against the junior and second-seeded Lowman (40-11) was much tougher.

The pair spent most of regulation locking heads as Lowman matched Santoro's escape with one of his own to start the third period.

In the first overtime period, Lowman earned another escape with 26 seconds left in the 30-second period to take a 2-1 lead.

In the second overtime, Lowman was unable to prevent the Pallotti junior's escape with seven seconds left to force another overtime period.

Santoro won the toss, chose the bottom and wiggled free for the winning escape 10 seconds later.

It was the third time Santoro beat Lowman this season, scoring a 4-0 decision in the Lackey Tournament final and winning by technical fall in a dual-meet.

"I am doing things that I have never done before," Santoro said. "It's giving me a massive amount of confidence. During the tournament, I know I was the first seed, but I had a feeling that I wasn't going to win it."

Santoro placed fourth in the MIAAs last year. He came up from the junior varsity half way through the season and replaced the injured Yamil Cristobal in the starting lineup.

Santoro finished 16-18 on the varsity after going 20-0 on the jayvee.

"He has gotten so much better so quickly," Lacroix said. "I think that's something that would excite college coaches."

Two other Pallotti wrestlers, sophomore Justin Chenault (113, 49-9) and Cristobal (220, 32-10), a senior, finished as runners up in the MIAAs.

Chenault had a first-round bye, pinned McDonogh's Alexander Kline in 5:25 in the quarterfinals, then beat John Carroll's Austin Smith, 7-4, in the semifinals, before losing to two-time champion Ryan Friedman (42-5) of St. Paul's, 9-1, in the final.

Cristobal opened the tournament by pinning Archbishop Curley's Scott Landess.

He followed that up by recording a 6-1 win over Mount St. Joe's Alex Bamabae and cruising past Loyola Blakefield's Sam Roberts, 11-4.

Cristobal lost the title bout, 12-2, to two-time champion and Gilman senior Shane Cockerille, a University of Maryland on a football scholarship in the fall.

Cockerille owns a career record of 155-27.

"He tried the close the gap a little bit, but the other kid is a little more athletic," Lacroix said. "We will see him again (at states) and will try to modify our attack and be more offensive."

Pallotti senior Griffin McWilliams (36-14) placed third at 120.

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