Wrestling is all about matchups, but when it’s McDonogh lined up on the other side of the mat, pick your poison.
The No. 2 Eagles this season proved in December that they can compete among the best of the best, as they placed 12th at Walsh Jesuit Ironman and 10th at Beast of the East — two of the nation’s toughest tournaments — and placed four wrestlers at each. They were the state’s best tournament team in December.
But as the calendar turns to January and the dual-meet season arrives, McDonogh proved Thursday in a 47-24 road win against Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association rival No. 3 Archbishop Spalding that they are still nearly as dangerous.
“We’re a really, really good tournament team. We’ve got some hammers,” Eagles coach Pete Welch said. “We’ve got some really experienced kids that are doing well, and then we got some a blend of some really young kids that are trying to feed off that experience.”
In duals, those hammers play just as big a role as the inexperienced grapplers. It showed early on, as the Cavaliers (1-1) jumped out to 15-6 after sophomore Joe Fisk (138) won by fall, Nick Paolucci (145) secured an overtime win against Matt Lawrence, and Mitch Garretson (152) got a pin in consecutive bouts to answer a fall by McDonogh freshman Clayton Gabrielson (132) in the meet’s first match.
And then came murderer’s row for the Eagles. Harrison Trahan (160) scored eight points in the first minute before pinned Zeke Bowen in 1 minute, 7 seconds. Aidan Hurdle (170) won a 5-1 decision, and Dominic Solis (182) needed only one second more than Trahan to win by fall to give McDonogh (2-0) a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
Jack Wimmer (195) beat National Preps placer Dustin Radford, 3-1, and the Eagles kept the momentum as Jackson Bonitz (220) and Garrett Kappes (285) both added falls to build a 36-15 lead.
The Cavaliers’ wrestlers combined to score seven points in the matches between 160 and 285 and five came via one-point escapes.
“I would have liked to see my seniors step up a little bit more,” Archbishop Spalding coach Mike Laidley said, “but some of my young guys showed some good stuff.”
Those aforementioned young guys helped keep the score close. John Gibbs (106) had an 8-0 lead when he pinned Amadou Ndiaye in the third period, and Cavaliers sophomore Brady Pruett (113) kept his big week going with a commanding 9-2 win over McDonogh’s Joel Brown. Pruett, an MIAA and state finalist last year as a freshman, won the Mount Mat Madness tournament at Mount Saint Joseph on Dec. 28, and Brown is one of the Eagles’ highly touted freshmen.
“We’re young and we’re excited,” Laidley said. “We got a lot of freshmen and sophomores — got a lineup full of sophomores — and we only graduate five seniors, but they may or may not make the state finals. My sophomores were the ones who were in the state finals last year, so we’ll see.”
Flynn cruised to win by fall and sophomore Richard Fedalen (126) closed out the 23-point dual-meet victory with a 19-3 technical fall. McDonogh defeated Archbishop Spalding by just four points last year, 39-35.
The Eagles are full of confidence, and understandably so. Gabrielson, Wimmer, Solis, Kappes, and Flynn are the top-ranked wrestlers in the state at their respective weight classes, and five others are in the top 10. Welch said his guys are continuously trying to match one another in the room and it shows on the mat.
“When you’re surrounded by good people, all boats rise,” he said. “The guys tend to elevate themselves and want to emulate each other and pick each other up, and we’ve got a few that are ranked really high that have a really good shot, but we have a few others that are chasing them and want to be just like them and be right on their heels as well. So, it should be exciting.”
They have fallen short of defeating rival Mount Saint Joseph four straight years in MIAA dual meet competition, but Solis believes this may be the year they get it done. McDonogh hosts the Gaels on Jan. 31.
“I think if we wrestle our match,” the senior captain and defending MIAA and state champion said. “I think we’re the hardest working team in Maryland, honestly, so I think if we get that mindset and everyone gets that confidence, we can definitely beat them in the duals and the tournament.”
No. 2 McDonogh 47, No. 3 Archbishop Spalding 24
132: Clayton Gabrielson (M) pinned Drew Baublitz (AS), 3:04 [6-0]
138: Joe Fisk (AS) pinned Gerrard Johnson (M), 1:21 [6-6]
145: Nick Paolucci (AS) dec. Matt Lawrence (M), 3-1 OT [6-9]
152: Mitch Garretson (AS) pinned Tripp Stone (M), 2:28 [6-15]
160: Harrison Trahan (M) pinned Zeke Bowen (AS), 1:07 [12-15]
170: Aidan Hurdle (M) dec. Dylan Lewis (AS), 5-1 [15-15]
182: Dominic Solis (M) pinned Matt Parker (AS), 1:08 [21-15]
195: Jack Wimmer (M) dec. Dustin Radford (AS), 3-1 [24-15]
220: Jackson Bonitz (M) pinned Bryce Purnell (AS), 2:40 [30-15]
285: Garrett Kappes (M) pinned Chase Lusk (AS), 1:30 [36-15]
106: John Gibbs (AS) pinned Amadou Ndiaye (M), 5:41 [36-21]
113: Brady Pruett (AS) dec. Joel Brown (M), 9-2 [36-24]
120: Cooper Flynn (M) pinned Cristian Rodriquez (AS), 1:49 [42-24]
126: Richard Fedalen (M) tech fall Gabe Foster (AS), 19-3 [47-24]