Mount St. Joseph sophomore Brandon Beall was set to wrestle in the biggest match of his life, in the season’s most highly-anticipated private versus public school dual meet, and was set to do so before a capacity crowd of more than 800 on Thursday night at South Carroll.
The top-ranked Gaels trailed the host Cavaliers by seven points with three bouts left when coach Harry Barnabae put his arm around Beall’s shoulders and told the 195-pounder to “get mean.”
“Whenever coach B talks to me before a match, I smile, but he told me to get mean because he wanted me to be aggressive,” said Beall, who competed in his first-ever varsity match. “Basically, he wanted me to realize how serious this match was, which I did, but I guess the smile made him think I didn’t.”
Beall showed he meant business with a fall in 2:47 over the Cavaliers’ Janero Marchany, representing the first of three consecutive wins in a come-from-behind, 36-25 victory as the Gaels (9-0) overcame the defending Class 1A state dual meet champion Cavaliers (26-1).
Following a decision by junior teammate Austin Lewis (182), Beall brought his squad to within, 25-24, of the Cavaliers, who then forfeited to junior Bryce Phillips (220) and senior Gavin Bage (285).
Phillips and Bage are both top-ranked, defending Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association champions.
“Coach B just told me to be smart and tough. I finished off [Marchany] with a half-nelson,” said Beall, who was embraced by his teammates. “When I looked up at the crowd and our bench, I saw my coach and my teammates cheering. I felt great.”
The third-ranked Lewis had earned a 9-4 decision over the sophomore Manny Rodrigues, ending a Cavaliers’ run of five straight wins that turned their 15-6 deficit after the first five matches into a 25-15 lead.
“Brandon has worked hard over the past two seasons to prepare for his time to break into the varsity lineup. His victory sealed the win for the team,” said Barnabae, whose Gaels are a private school state power. “Words of encouragement were provided before he stepped out on the mat, and he did not let his team down. I am very proud of him.”
A stalwart among public schools, South Carroll has earned Class 2A-1A state tournament titles in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 before the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association ceased scoring the state tournament in 2018.
The Cavaliers faced the Gaels a day after The Baltimore Banner confirmed that first-year coach Jay Braunstein has been placed on paid administrative leave to focus on family matters.
Braunstein has been replaced by Anthony Winfield, who said his Cavaliers were “laser-focused” in spite of the coaching change.
“If you look at our schedule for this year, we’ve wrestled one highly-ranked team after another,” said Winfield, a 2005 graduate of South Carroll. “So these kids are extremely battle-tested. They know that they have a target on their backs after they won the state duals last year, so they’ve embraced the pressure.”
The early score was 3-0, after the Gaels’ eighth-ranked Jo Jo Cooper (106) won a clash of freshman, 4-0, over the Cavaliers’ 10th-ranked Grayson Barnhill. Cooper built momentum following a scoreless first period. Cooper reversed Barnhill for two points in the second period before securing a takedown in the third.
“I felt like the pressure was on us being that we were at their home school and we didn’t want to lose, so we sort of came in with a chip on our shoulders,” said Cooper, who improved to 2-0 against Barnhill.
“I had wrestled Grayson one time before and I beat him, 2-1, with a reversal, so It was important for me to come out and to set the tone with a win. Considering how things turned out, my victory was very big.”
The Cavaliers tied the overall match at 3-3 in the next bout following a 2-0 victory over the Gaels’ seventh-ranked Jake Tamai by fourth-ranked sophomore Evan Owen. Their match was scoreless until the final 30 seconds when Owen cradled Tamai for two nearfall points.
That set up a clash between the Gaels’ top-ranked junior Carter Nogle (120) and fourth-ranked freshman phenomenon Jo Jo Gigliotti (120), a four-time junior league state champion.
Gigliotti dominated with four takedowns on the way to a 9-3 victory over Nogle, an MIAA champion who has committed to the Air Force Academy.
“Evan really got the ball rolling when he was in a tight match, 0-0, and he got that cradle and turned his guy. I felt like at the time, ‘we can really do this,’” said Gigliotti, who gave the Cavaliers a 6-3 overall lead.
“I’m a freshman and Carter has placed at big tournaments, so I think that I understand why people might have considered me to be the underdog. But I was very confident and sort of took a little offense to it. Everything went pretty much as I expected it to.”
The Gaels responded to go up, 15-6, on falls in the first and third periods by junior Max Conley (126) and senior MIAA champion Coleman Nogle (132).
“Right before me I saw that we were down, so my job was to go out there, work for the fall and to get the pin,” Conley said. “Coach Barnabae said this was our biggest duel of the year, so I had to go out and get it done. As it turned out, that was a major factor in the end.”
But the Cavaliers reeled off five straight victories for a 25-15 lead with four bouts remaining.
“I have to give credit to South Carroll,” Barnabae said. “They were well-prepared and came to battle. We were expecting momentum swings throughout the match.”
The run began with a fall in 4:59 by two-time Class 2A-1A state champion Mike Pizzuto (138) over Gaels’ freshman Jayden Diggs, and ended with a come-from-behind, 5-4 victory by senior Class 2A-1A state runner-up Rylan Moose (170) over Gaels’ sophomore Nicolas Barnabae, son of the Gaels’ coach.
Trailing 2-1 entering the second-period against the top-ranked Barnabae, Moose countered Barnabae’s takedown attempt with a cradle, scoring two points each for a takedown and a nearfall.
“I’m not going to let myself be beaten mentally when a guy gets a takedown in the first 15 seconds, so I escaped for one point and worked from there,” said Moose, who is ranked No. 2. “The second period started, he shot in again, but this time, he left his leg behind. I got the cradle, and once I got those points, it was technique from there.”
Senior two-time Class 2A-1A state champion Gage Owen (152) already had sandwiched an 11-2 major decision between close wins from a pair of Cavaliers’ siblings in freshman Anthony Rodrigues (145) and senior two-time Class 2A-1A state champion A.J. Rodrigues (160).
The top-ranked A.J. Rodrigues required an escape in the third overtime period to secure a 2-1 victory over the Gaels’ fourth-ranked sophomore Ben Smith.
“With Evan getting those nearfall points in the end to come out on top really helped to set the tone” said Gage Owen, whose Cavaliers won seven of the 12 bouts that were actually wrestled. “They were shocked at the momentum he and Jo Jo Gigliotti gave us for the rest of our matches, and I think we were mentally more prepared than them.”
Barnabae credited the Cavaliers’ effort.
“We were confident that Coleman Nogle and Max Conley were going to get falls, and we knew going into the upper weight that we would dominate,” Barnabae said. “Hats off to South Carroll’s top kids as they wrestled very well. The Rodrigues and Owens brothers, Jojo Gigliotti and Rylan Moose wrestled well. Hopefully South Carroll will travel to Mount St. Joseph next season. This was an exciting match for the sport.”
Mount St. Joseph 36, South Carroll 25
106- Jo Jo Cooper (M) d Grayson Barnhill, 4-0 (3-0, M)
113- Evan Owen (S) d. Jake Tamai, 2-0 (3-3)
120- Joseph Gigliotti (S) d. Carter Nogle, 9-3 (6-3, S)
126- Max Conley (M) p. Sean Hobbs, 1:15 (9-6) M
132- Coleman Nogle (M) p. Angelo Marchany, 4:55 (15-6, M)
138- Mike Pizzuto (S) p. Jayden Diggs, 4:59 (15-12)
145- Anthony Rodrigues (S) d. Marcello Procopio, 3-0 (15-15)
152- Gage Owen (S) mj. Cameron Cannaday, 11-2 (19-15, S)
160- A.J. Rodrigues (S) d. Ben Smith, 2-1, OT (22-15, S)
170- Rylan Moose (S) d. Nicolas Barnabae, 5-4 (25-15, S)
182- Austin Lewis (M) d. Manny Rodrigues, 9-4 (25-18, S)
195- Brandon Beall (S) p. Janero Marchany, 2:47 (25-24, S)
220- Bryce Phillips (M) by ff (30-25, M)
285- Gavin Bage (M) by ff (36-25, M)