Mount St. Joseph wrestling coach Paul Triplett and his Gaels silenced naysayers when they won their 17th MSA A Conference dual meet crown.
Today at Gilman, they'll try to quiet them again as the Gaels begin their three-day quest for a 17th MSA tournament championship.
"It's going to be tough," said Triplett. "But I think our kids can rise to the occasion. They usually do."
Four of Triplett's best wrestlers have a shot at titles, but their roads won't be easy.
Sixth-ranked Shane McCarthy (135 pounds, 22-6 record), Chad Votta (140, 25-3) and Danny DeVivo (145, 27-4) will likely have to dethrone defending champions. Top-ranked Kevin Neville (152, 26-2), meanwhile, is likely to meet his toughest rival.
McCarthy, last year's 119-pound MSA champ, dropped a 3-1 regular-season match to Gilman's top-ranked John Kim (27-0), but may have to beat Kim to win a second title. Also lurking is Walbrook's Leonard Parker (20-1), who lost a 5-0 match to McCarthy.
Sixth-ranked Votta (20 pins), last year's 135-pound champion, should do battle with Archbishop Curley's third-ranked Gary Mryncza (22-0, 11 pins), who pinned Votta during their dual-meet match.
And if fifth-ranked DeVivo, a freshman, is going to win a title, he'll likely have to dethrone last year's champion from Friends, third-ranked Tod Helman (25-0).
Neville (21 pins) was a 152-pound runner-up a year ago and placed third in last year's National Prep tournament. This year's 152-pound final should be a rematch with Southwestern's fourth-ranked Joe Gamble (34-1), whom Neville has beaten in the last two Chesapeake tournaments, winning by four points each time.
Regardless of how the Gaels' top guns do, Triplett is still going to need big points from others like freshman David Inkman (103, 23-7), sophomore Paul Scott (125, 20-10) and junior heavyweight Dave Sunderland.
Inkman was a runner-up in each of this year's Annapolis, Curley and Chesapeake tournaments. His only loss to a conference foe came against Calvert Hall's fifth-ranked Greg Knox, who will wrestle at 112 pounds this weekend.
Knox is likely to do battle with Gilman's fourth-ranked Gerard Har
rison (25-4) for the 112-pound crown.
Scott, a champion at Chesapeake and a runner-up at Curley, has lost one conference match to Loyola's fifth-ranked Ian Robbins, and Sunderland has split bouts with St. Paul's defending champion Troy Thinglestad.
Loyola, which finished at 12-2 (7-1 in the MSA A), could play the spoiler role.
For the Dons, 125-pound senior Robbins (25-1, 18 pins), 119-pound junior Tim Spielman (21-3, 11 pins) and 189-pound junior Dave Daniecki (21-2, 13 pins) are all unbeaten against MSA opponents. Spielman, ranked No. 4, was last year's 103-pound champion, and both the fifth-ranked Robbins and fourth-ranked Daniecki were runners-up. Carver's sixth-ranked, unbeaten junior Edward Overton should challenge Daniecki.
The Dons also have junior Al DiPietro (171, 17-5), who has just one conference loss, and senior Andy Smith (20-5), who has lost only close decisions to Friends' Helman and Mount St. Joseph's DeVivo.
"We had a good dual-meet season," said Loyola coach Dennis Frazier. "But I think we've got some quality wrestlers for a better tournament team."
Three quality wrestlers will be trying to defend MSA crowns. They are Mryncza, Helman and Thinglestad.
"You know everybody's trying to knock you off," said Mryncza, who notched one of his 21 pins of a year ago over Kim for last year's 130-pound crown. "I've just got to stay focused and just take it one match at a time."
Thinglestad (20-2, 12 pins) is unbeaten in dual meets against league foes and avenged one of his losses -- an 6-4 overtime setback against Sunderland -- by pinning Sunderland in the rematch.
The top two wrestlers vying for the 130-pound title will be St. Mary's sixth-ranked Phil MacWilliams (22-3) and McDonogh's Mark Wilson (14-1, seven pins), who was third last year. McDonogh's sixth-ranked Brian Antonelli (160, 15-2) and his 152-pound teammate Chris Abramson (14-4) were runners-up last year.
"We'll need to get a big jump and have a successful semifinal round, but most of the bigger tournaments are won in the wrestle-backs," said Triplett. "Hopefully, the finals will be the icing on the cake."
The following is the top four seeds in each of the 13 weight classes of the MSA wrestling tournament, listed in order, 1 through 4.
103--David Inkman (23-7), Mount St. Joseph; Tim Berger (21-5), Boys Latin; Bruce Pendles (14-0), Dunbar; Mike Saunders (13-11), Gilman.
112--Gerard Harrison (25-4), Gilman; Greg Knox (17-1), Calvert Hall; Steve Truitt (16-3), St. Paul's; Lamont Gibson (14-2), Forest Park.
119--Tim Spielman (21-3), Loyola; Montez Shelton (15-4), Southwestern; Chris Weimer (16-5-1), St. Paul's; Mike Harrison (16-3), Boys' Latin.
125--Ian Robbins (25-1), Loyola; Paul Scott (20-10), Mount St. Joseph; Brendan James (12-4), Calvert Hall; Damon McDowell (12-1), Frederick Douglass.
130--Mark Wilson (14-1), McDonogh; Phil MacWilliams (18-2), St. Mary's; Shawn King (14-4), Calvert Hall; Shane Marques (23-4), Boys' Latin.
135--John Kim (27-0), Gilman; Shane McCarthy (22-6), Mount St. Joseph; Leonard Parker (20-1), Walbrook; Greg Smith (21-5), Loyola.
140--Gary Mryncza (22-0), Archbishop Curley; Chad Votta (25-3), Mount St. Joseph; Joseph Collick (12-5-1), Poly; Matt Gilner (13-6), St. Paul's.
145--Tod Helman (26-0), Friends; Danny DeVivo (27-4), Mount St. Joseph; Andy Smith (20-5), Loyola; Kier Hicks (16-5), Southwestern.
152--Kevin Neville (26-2), Mount St. Joseph; Joe Gamble (35-1), Southwestern; Chris Abramson (14-4), McDonogh; Chris Elliott (12-7), Calvert Hall.
160--Brian Antonelli (15-2), McDonogh; Harvey Chalmers (16-2), Southwestern; Jamie Biddison (14-12), Gilman; Kinte Thompson (13-3), Poly.
171--Omar Zillanona (9-1), Edmondson; Bobby Giles (10-0-1), Mervo; Al DiPietro (17-5), Loyola; Chris Smith (21-7), Boys' Latin.
189--Dave Daniecki (21-2), Loyola; Ed Overton (14-0), Carver; Jake Hollin (12-4), John Carroll; Anthony Heath (10-2), Edmondson.
Hvy--Troy Thinglestad (20-2), St. Paul's; Dave Sunderland (22-7), Mount St. Joseph; Donnell Jones (36-2), Southwestern; Dwight Deyampert (8-6), Poly.