Loyola Blakefield wrestling coach Steve Truitt says it's unlikely his Dons will win the MIAA A Conference. Still, Truitt is fine with a top-four finish, because the league includes the top three teams in the Baltimore Sun's high school wrestling poll — McDonogh, John Carroll and Mount St. Joseph.
"Any time you can finish in the top three or four in the league, you should be proud of that," Truitt said. "If you can do that with the amount of talent and resources a lot of these teams have, you are doing all right."
Truitt considers the 2015 Dons to be one of the best squads he has coached in 13 years.
Led by seniors Jake Nordhausen (220 pounds, 19-1) and Austin Hurdle (285, 12-4), junior Nick Moreno (160, 21-1), sophomore Dominck Reyes (126, 12-1) and freshmen Ryan Thomas (106, 17-5) and Jason Litvak (145, 14-5), Loyola could finish the regular-season with an 11-2 dual meet record.
"We have a couple of studs and a lot of strong, consistent wresters," said Truitt, whose team won the 23-team Knightmare Invitational at Parkville High last month. "We have some pretty good senior leadership. The guys are very coachable and work very hard."
Loyola closes the dual-meet season with two Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference matches: a road contest at Calvert Hall (Jan. 28) and a home match against Boys' Latin (Feb. 4).
In between, the Dons travel to Georgetown Prep on Jan. 31.
Three straight victories would give the Dons momentum headed into the MIAA tournament Feb. 13 at Mount. St. Joseph.
They currently have an 8-2 dual-meet record.
"The conference matches are always exciting and good tests," Truitt said. "But you really want to see where you are at the end of the year. You are striving to be the best. You want to be peaking at the right time."
Nordhausen has been wrestling at a high level all season. He ranks as the Dons' top wrestler, having won the Knightmare Invitational and placing second in the Mount Mat Madness. He has a four-year record of 128-33.
Nordhausen, who is going to play lacrosse at West Point, would like to break the school record of 142 wins, which is held by former practice partner, Conan Schuster, a 2012 Loyola graduate.
Nordhausen is also chasing David Mohler's school record of 32 pins in a season. He has 16.
"He is kind of like a freak because he is really tall and wrestles like a lightweight," Truitt said. "He is athletic, tough and strong. He's certainly a handful."
Nordhausen had a stellar 2013 season, winning the MIAA tournament at 195, taking third in the Maryland State Independent Tournament and seventh in National Preps while going 45-5. Truitt said Nordhausen is capable of more.
"He is stronger and more confident," Truitt said.
Moreno finished third in the Mount Mat Madness and won the Knightmare Invitational.
"He has gotten a lot stronger and really dedicated himself in the weight room," Truitt said. "He was there almost every day. It shows. He's a pinner and very technically strong."
Truitt says Reyes is a strong contender for MIAA and state titles. He was fourth in the MIAAs last year and sixth in the state at 120.
"There's no doubt he could," Truitt said. "If he wrestles his style and type of match, he is tough to beat."
Hurdle placed sixth in the state last year and is poised for a higher finish in February.
"He had a breakout year last year," Truitt said. "He's only been wrestling for three years, but he's right up there with some of the best heavyweights in the state."
Loyola's lineup also features seniors Marcellus Brown (138, 16-6) and Matthew Callahan (120, 12-8), juniors Alex Caltrider (195, 14-3), Cody Schumaker (132, 12-7), Greg Amaral (170, 16-5), Taivon Bowell (152, 7-7) and Danny Gilmore (182, 8-5) and sophomore Alex Feurer (113, 7-11)
"We are pretty solid from top to bottom," Truitt said. "I think we are a really good team and will be for years to come."