The character instilled in Mount St. Joseph wrestlers is such that Jay Braunstein, despite suffering a severe back injury as a freshman, was tough enough to post a winning record over four scholarship seasons at Clarion University.
"Our wrestling room [at St. Joe] had some of the toughest guys around. Yet, most of us were at the top of our class academically," said Braunstein, a 1977 Gaels graduate and former Maryland Scholastic Association champ.
Braunstein was one of five Gaels to earn Division I scholarships during his senior season.
"Coach [Neil Adleberg] accepted no less than your best on the mat and in class. They started the Wall of Champions when I was there, and I was around No. 4 or 5 listed."
Since then, there have been countless others, including Danny DeVivo, winner of his second straight National Prep title this year, and David Inkman, winner of his first this year. They will join coach Paul Triplett and their teammates from a 12-0 squad to be recognized at 10 a.m. today at the State House in Annapolis.
"Coming to St. Joe's was the best decision I ever made," said Inkman, an A student who can take his pick from a number of Division I programs. "There's a lot of pride in the tradition that started with those guys up on the Wall, and it continues with the guys who want to get there."
The tradition is symbolized by 19 straight Maryland Scholastic Association crowns, in addition to this year's equivalent, the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association title.
At the State House, the Gaels, winners of the inaugural Independent Schools state crown, will be presented with a resolution before the members of the Senate. A tour of the facility will follow as Sen. Christopher McCabe, a 1974 St. Joseph graduate who arranged the affair, meets the Gaels.
"The recognition is well deserved," said McCabe, a former Gaels golfer. "My last two years at St. Joe were the genesis of their wrestling program, but it's since become a national power."
Certainly, no other Maryland high school has achieved the Mount's level of dominance -- its most successful alumnus, 1982 graduate Rico Chiapparelli, earned an NCAA title at Iowa in 1987.
Since 1976, the Gaels have captured 10 National Prep titles and won 19 MSA dual-meet crowns. Their four coaches in that span -- Adleberg (1975-78), Allen Smith (1978-84), John Hefner (1984-88) and Triplett -- have a combined 291-20-3 record.
The Gaels went 45-0 during Adleberg's tenure, with 19 earning individual MSA crowns and five grabbing National Prep titles.
"What some don't realize is that St. Joe's hadn't won an MSA tournament until 1976. Before that, it was always City, Gilman, Poly, Mervo, teams like that," said Adleberg, 46, now a small business owner.
"We were blessed with a lot of talented kids, and I think 11 wrestlers I coached ended up with scholarships to Division I programs either while I was there or after I left. We emphasized daily that wrestling should be taken to the next level."
Many of Adleberg's former pupils, such as Braunstein and ZTC Triplett, have retained their ties with wrestling. Braunstein, 36, who operates his own business in Glen Burnie, assists Old Mill coach Mike Hampe -- winner of six of the last seven 3A-4A state championships.
Triplett came back to Mount St. Joseph, where he is 96-3. A former two-time MSA champ, Triplett was twice an Atlantic Coast Conference runner-up and twice placed third as a University of Maryland wrestler.
"Being a part of the program as a wrestler and a coach, it's a special feeling to step back and look at what's been accomplished," Triplett said. "Of course next year, we'll have to come back and uphold the tradition."