It had been several years since McDonogh won the Ray B. Oliver Invitational Championships, the tournament it has hosted at the start of the season for 40 years. But Saturday night, the Eagles left no doubt they could soar this season.
The Eagles won six weight class titles and won the overall championship with 239.5 points, beating Georgetown Prep (177.0). Archbishop Spalding (168.5) was third, and Archbishop Curley (160.0) was fourth. Smyrna, Del., (157.5) rounded out the top five among the 20 schools. Gilman finished ninth with 91.0 points, and Severn was 18th with 27.5 points.
"We have a great, up-and-coming team," McDonogh senior Roman Braglio said after winning the 285-pound class. "We've got a lot of young kids breaking into the lineup and a lot of returning starters who are stronger. Our team is going to do well this season."
One of the up-and-comers, freshman Myles Martin, the third seed in the 152-pound class, beat Archbishop Spalding sophomore Logan Breitenbach, the No. 1 seed, 6-3. The win didn't surprise Martin, who is from New Jersey and chose to wrestle for McDonogh because he was impressed by the school.
"I was trying to win, and I thought for sure I would," Martin said. "I thought that because I work harder than most of these kids, our wrestling room is amazing and I've got a lot of experience."
Spalding coach Mike Laidley, whose team was perfect in dual meets last season and returns as the No. 1 team in The Baltimore Sun's preseason poll, was not discouraged by his team's third-place finish.
"It's early in the season, and we weren't as sharp as we wanted to be," Laidley said. "Will Switzer got hurt [and defaulted in the 145-pound semifinals], our 120-pounder didn't make weight and our heavyweight is still involved in football. Given that, I feel good about what we did here. I'm very happy with the way some of our younger kids wrestled. We're a younger squad this season, and we're going to have growing pains."
Curley coach Greg Kessler was also pleased with his team's balanced performance.
"We improved our finish here from about 13th to fourth," Kessler said. "McDonogh is going to be a force this year. But that just makes it a real challenge. They're setting the bar really high."
After watching Jack Clark (145), Martin (152), Toby Hague (160), Tyler Patrick (170), Kevin Marvel (195) and Braglio take titles, McDonogh coach Pete Welch said the season has just started and his team has a lot of hard work ahead.
"It's a long season, and there will be a lot of ups and downs," Welch said. "All the other teams will take this and figure out how to beat us, and we'll figure out how to get better. Next week, we'll be at the Ironman Tournament in Ohio and then the Beast of the East. We'll get humbled at those two events, and then we'll come back and start building back up."