The McDonogh Eagles had just dug themselves out of an early deficit to get back in last night's match against No. 1 Mount St. Joseph when Mack Lewnes took the mat for the visiting Gaels.
Who better than Lewnes to restore order? The sophomore standout needed 3:07 to put Bryn Holmes' shoulders on the mat for six points at the 160-pound class. Two bouts later at 189, Kevin O'Connor came away with a first-period pin against Cory Haugh to clinch the Gaels' second straight Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference regular-season title, 34-27.
Early pins from Greg and Andrew Gold at 103 and 112, respectively, helped stake the visiting Gaels (16-1, 6-0 league) to a 22-0 lead before the Eagles (17-5, 5-1) won five straight bouts - Ricky Tippett's third-period pin of Jake Bohn at 145 the highlight - to cut the lead to 22-18.
Lewnes, top-ranked at 152 but bumped up to 160 to take on the third-ranked Holmes, was patient and persistent in getting the momentum back for his team. After getting two headlocks to build a 12-2 lead, he found his answer with a cradle in the second period to push the lead to 28-18.
"I was hoping I could get a win to help get the team some points because we weren't doing so hot at that point," said Lewnes, who improved to 35-2 on the season. "This is a great rivalry, and it's always fun to come in here and wrestle. And the matches always seem to end up awesome."
Mount St. Joseph's fourth-year coach, Jay Braunstein, has seen it before from Lewnes.
"Mack's always in control," he said. "He got the headlock and Holmes was able to come out, but he didn't panic. Getting him out of position is really tough."
The Eagles came out on top of most of the tight decisions but couldn't match the Gaels' pinning ways.
Cam Watkins scored a third-period escape to claim a 3-2 decision over David Dulski at 135, and then Luke Rebertus (140) got a reversal in the third period against Brandon Probst to take a 4-2 win that cut the Gaels' lead to 22-9.
Tippett decked Bohn early in the third period of a scoreless bout, and when Mark Lyon-Vaiden earned a 4-1 decision against George Boarman, it was 22-18. Lewnes and O'Conner, however, would have the final say for the Gaels.
"It was two great teams and both came out fired up," Tippett said. "We matched up well and knew it would be tight, but in the end it didn't work out. We're going to keep pushing and working hard, and we'll see them again."
Said Braunstein: "The score shows we're a good team and they're a good team. I should be happy we won, but I'm always looking for more, always looking for perfection."