HOWARD COUNTY, MD — Three Baltimore-area grapplers reached the finals of the 83rd National Preps wrestling championships at Lehigh University on Saturday, but all three fell short of winning titles.
In the tournament’s main event, St. Paul’s School junior Kurt McHenry, a two-time Freestyle Cadet World Champion and the No. 1 ranked wrestler in the country at 113 pounds, lost a 3-1 overtime decision to No. 2 ranked Trevor Mastrogiovanni of Blair. McHenry went 52-0 last season but didn’t wrestle at National Preps and he lost in the finals as an undersized freshman. He defeated Mastrogiovanni earlier this season in the finals of the Beast of the East tournament in Delaware.
“Kurt picks his game up each round and by the finals he’s at full speed,” said Crusaders coach Rob Eiter. “Today he was wrestling very well and I felt he wrestled well in the finals. There were a few things that we will go back and work on from this match.”
McDonogh senior PJ Mustipher (285 pounds) was the No. 1 seed but lost to Colin Lawler of Kincaid School (Texas) by fall, and freshman Cooper Flynn (106) dropped a 3-1 decision to Ryan Miller of Blair Academy (N.J), which won the tournament with seven champions and 345 points.
The Eagles, who lost to Mount Saint Joseph in the regular season and finished runner-up to the Gaels at the Maryland Independent Athletic Association tournament and Maryland Independent States tournament, edged the Gaels in the team race by a point. McDonogh finished fourth with 134 points, while Mount Saint Joseph finished fifth with 133. St. Paul’s placed seventh with 101 points, Archbishop Spalding snuck into the top-10 with 63 points, while Loyola Blakefield finished 24th (28.5), Archbishop Curley finished 41st (17) and John Carroll finished 47th (12) finished inside the top 50.
“We wrestled well. It was great to perform well at the end,” McDonogh coach Pete Welch said. “We had a couple matches throughout the tournament where we beat [Mount Saint Joseph] head-to-head and reversed some earlier losses.”
Mustipher, who won MIAA and MIS titles for the second straight year, finished fourth at National Preps a year ago but reached the finals with a pin and two decisions.
“PJ has just been a spark for our team,” Welch said. “He’s not just a football player. He’s a great football player, but he’s come along in wrestling. ... In the finals he ran into a kid who was just as athletic and strong and does a lot of wrestling and he was in a position to win but got caught. He did a great job getting there.”
Flynn, meanwhile, lost the MIAA title to St. Paul’s’ Will Guida but picked up his second win over him in as many weeks. The McDonogh freshman beat Guida, 4-0, in the semifinals but fell to Miller, who defeated the No. 1 seed in other semifinals.
“That was a great semifinal win and in the finals ... he has beaten that kid before in a tight match but didn’t get this one,” Welch said. “But 106 was a really tight weight. The top four seeds could’ve gone either way.”
Jack Wimmer (182) took fourth, Garrett Kappes (170) took fifth, Alex LaVeck (152) took sixth and Harrison Trahan (145) and Parker Robinson (220) placed seventh for the Eagles. Both Wimmer and Kappes defeated Gaels in the quarterfinals. Wimmer placed third at the MIAA and state tournaments but edged David Schultz, 6-4, while Kappes avenged his MIAA and state championship losses to the Justin Henry.
The Gaels had eight place-winners but none were able to reach the finals. Chris Barnabae (113) and Austin Stith (195) placed third, while Nathan Porter (126) took fifth, Connor Strong (132) and Schultz (182) finished sixth, Seth Fillers (138) took seventh, and Henry (170) and Clement Woods (120) finished eighth.
Stith, a state champion, and Barnabae, the MIAA champion who placed second at National Preps last year, reached the semifinals but lost to the eventual champions.
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“Overall I felt the team performed well,” Gaels coach Harry Barnabae said. “I was very encouraged by the number of All-American honors earned by our team.”
St. Paul’s had just four placers overall but all finished among the top four of their weight classes. Guida and state champion Jack Parr (182) finished third, while state champion Imran Heard (138) placed fourth after reaching the semifinals. Parr also
“I felt we wrestled OK this weekend,” Eiter said. “Obviously we would have liked a few matches back, but of course every team and coach can say that. We qualified nine and three of them, it was their first time at Preps so they gained valuable experience.”
The Cavaliers had three placers in state champion PJ Truntich (120), Garrett Fisk (152) and Sam Smirnoff (126).
Truntich reached the semifinals but suffered a wrist injury in his first consolation match and defaulted to sixth place but became an All-American for the third straight season. Fisk placed fourth after losing a one-point decision to the eventual champion in the quarterfinals, and Smirnoff avenged his state finals defeat to Lorenzo Lopez of Landon en route to an eighth-place finish.