Thursday night’s dual between Mount Saint Joseph and South Carroll was about more than just wrestling. It was about respect, atmosphere and, most importantly, competition.
Despite the fact that the No. 1 Gaels overcame a 10-point deficit to defeat the No. 2 Cavaliers, 36-25, the night showed that without a doubt iron sharpens iron, as the “underdog” Carroll County school once again proved it can compete with the best the state and the nation have to offer.
“I thought it was huge for Maryland because the best need to see the best,” Anthony Gigliotti said. “That’s the only way everybody gets better.”
Gigliotti, who is a fixture at South Carroll matches cheering on his son, Jojo, and the rest of the team, was just one of more than 1,000 fans who showed up for the sold-out match. After making the drive to South Carroll, the Gaels were met by a sea of black.
With the student section packed and parents like Gigliotti doubling as South Carroll super fans, the community proved they not only have top-level wrestlers but can provide a college-like atmosphere for big-time wrestling in Maryland.
“It was loud,” Stephen Lawrence, an MSJ fan said looking around the gym before the dual began. “They pulled out all the stops for this one, it felt like a big-time match from the second I walked in here.”
“I had so many thank-yous coming my way. And I just was like, ‘Man, all I did was send an email.’ Then I saw the ticket sales just exploding.”— South Carroll athletic director Tim Novotny on scheduling a dual against Mount Saint Joseph
For South Carroll athletic director Tim Novotny, scheduling the Gaels back in December was all about providing the Cavaliers, last year’s Class 1A state dual champions, with a tough schedule that would challenge them. But even he was surprised by how big an event the match became.
“I had people reaching out to me, thanking me,” he said. “I had so many thank-yous coming my way. And I just was like, ‘Man, all I did was send an email.’ Then I saw the ticket sales just exploding.”
South Carroll assistant coach Brian Hamper’s face beamed with pride as he looked around at the gym, still packed even after the final match of the night.
“To be able to have 1,000 people in our gym, this was a really big thing for the community, so I’m glad everyone came out,” the South Carroll alum said.
Facing tough competition is the norm for South Carroll. The team has traveled to Pennsylvania this season to take on some of the best teams in one of the premier wrestling states in the country. MSJ wasn’t even the first private school South Carroll welcomed into its gym.
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Earlier this year, the Cavaliers hosted then-No. 3 Gilman and one of West Virginia’s top teams, Spring Mills, to compete in a tri-meet that featured some of the nation’s top wrestling prospects.
“It’s pretty cool,” South Carroll freshman Jojo Gigliotti said. “No other school is doing this in the state. We’re just proving that we’re trying to be the best.”
Despite losing in terms of the final score, South Carroll won seven of 12 contested bouts. With a strong showing, South Carroll represented Carroll County well, once again proving that the county’s quality of wrestling is just as strong as anywhere in the state.
Along with the No. 2 Cavaliers, the county boasts a second top-10 ranked team in The Baltimore Sun polls with No. 7 Manchester Valley.
“I think our wrestling stacks up against almost anyone across the state,” Michael Duffy, supervisor of athletics for Carroll County Public Schools said. “The fact that they’re challenging themselves and getting outside, the exposure is certainly good for our students across the county.”
That exposure is set to continue as both teams are eager and ready to run it back in the very near future. It has been confirmed that there are already discussions about the Cavaliers traveling to Baltimore and squaring off with the Gaels.
“Very thankful to have South Carroll High school bringing us in,” MSJ coach Harry Barnabae said. “It’s terrific for wrestlers, terrific for Maryland wrestling, and they need more of it. We would like to do something like this every year.”