For the local wrestling teams, the National Prep Tournament is more about individual accolades than teams scores. With the presence of four top 10 teams in the country, winning a team crown is just not realistic. Perhaps in the future, but for now the Maryland private schools play second fiddle to the national powers.
Area and state No. 1 Mount St. Joseph led the way for the Baltimore area teams in attendance this weekend at the Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro. The Gaels finished seventh with 123.5 points, pushing four grapplers to the podium.
No. 1 Coleman Nogle (126 pounds) failed to reach a tournament’s final for the first time this year when he dropped a heartbreaking 1-0 decision to Nikolaus O’Neill (Malvern Prep, PA) in the semis. Nogle is ranked No. 10 in the country by Scorebook Live, O’Neill right behind Nogle at No. 11.
The senior, who is now a three-time National Prep All-American, would suffer one more defeat in the third-place bout to nationally unranked Colin Kacena (Lake Highland Prep, FL), 4-2. No. 1 Bryce Phillips, who is No. 20 in the country, also tasted defeat twice, and also missed the finals for the first time this year. Phillip was sixth as a freshman during the COVID year, when the preps did an open tournament, and seventh last year.
In the consolation final, Josh Cordio (Wyoming Seminary, PA), who is honorable mention in the nation, edged the Gael, 3-2. Phillips dropped his semi final match to a post-grad from Green Farms Academy in Connecticut, Steven Burrell. Burrell went on to win the 215 title and outstanding wrestler honors after defeating No. 4 in the country, Carter Neves (Blair Academy, NJ), 5-2.
Heavyweight Gavin Bage (No. 1) was sixth at preps as a junior, and caps off his career with a fifth-place finish using a 1-0 win over Max Fisher (Montgomery Bell Academy, TN).
Freshman Jake Tamai (No. 5 at 113) reached the podium, taking seventh place with a 3-2 victory over Kody Tanimoto (All Saints Episcopal, TX).
“I didn’t do what I wanted to do,” Tamai said. “My goal for the season was top five. But we gotta keep working at it, you know. I’m just looking to come back next year, prove myself even more and try to get higher on the podium. I’m feeling good, though.”
Coming up one win shy from All-American status for St. Joe were No. 10 Joseph Cooper (106), No. 1 Nikolas Barnabae (165), and No. 3 Austin Lewis (175). No. 2 Carter Nogle (120) was two wins from placing. One of those losses was two previous prep placer Andrew Pimental (Belmont Hill, MA), 5-4.
Tyson and Emmitt Sherlock from No. 7 Gilman was their school’s lone place winners. No. 1 Tyson needed overtime to secure his bronze over Lake Highland Prep’s Zeno Moore, 3-1 at 132. Tyson was seventh last year and at the open two years ago.
No. 3 Emmitt also became a three-time awardee, third at the open and fifth a year ago, now tacking a sixth place finish to his resume. Emmitt, who is honorable mention at 138 in the country, met a familiar foe in the fifth-place match, Billy DeKraker. DeKraker won a state title at McDonogh in 2022, beating Sherlock two-times. Now at Blair, DeKraker kept the rivalry one-sided with a 3-1 decision.
No. 20 Archbishop Spalding had two wrestlers step on the awards stand, No. 4 Sean Garretson (7th at 120) and No. 4 Vincent Paolucci (5th at 126). Garretson won his final match by forfeit when Sulayman Bah (Kiski School, PA) could not compete.
Garretson’s placing was interesting because two guys he lost to at states, Cater Nogle and Tyler Wood (St. Mary’s-Ryken) did not gain All-American status. The sophomore met Pimental right after he defeated Nogle. A 2:16 pin in the blood round propelled the Cavalier to a second All- American showing (4th as a FR).
Paolucci failed to place at his previous trip to the preps, but changed that with a 5-1 win over Jay McDonnell (Haverford Prep, PA) in the fifth place battle.
“My coaches really, thanks to them,” Paolucci continued. “Everything they did for me. All the work that they helped me put in. Important practices in the off season and on the weekends. It really did help. I couldn’t have done it without them. I’m real happy. Last year I lost in the blood round, so it’s a big come-up since last year.”
No. 11 Loyola Blakefield had a single All-American in freshman Jayden Jackson (106, No. 5). Jackson fell in overtime of his seventh-place showdown with Oumar Tounkara (St. Benedict’s, NJ), 9-7.
“It’s a big accomplishment to be honest,” Jackson elaborated. “Not a lot of people do it. And a lot of the people that do it are really good. I knew I was good coming into high school. But I didn’t think I’d be able to be an All-American as a freshman. It’s a relly big thing and I’m looking to come and get first next year and get first at states next year.”
Calvert Hall (No. 17) was the final area team with a medalist. Sophomore Griffin Stewart (No. 6) landed in the seventh position when Kade Davidheiser (Hill School, PA) chose to forfeit their proposed encounter.
“It feels great,” added Stewart. “I’ve been putting in the work all season. And it’s just a cherry on top and it’s a great ending for the season. Honestly (my expectations) were pretty low. I just wanted to go two-and-two, but I got seventh and that’s a big bonus.”
No. 9 St. Frances Academy’s Camren Wright (No. 2 at 220) and McDonogh’s No. 2 Noah Onkst (190) were both a win away from placing after losing in the blood round.
No. 2 St. Mary’s-Ryken paced the Maryland contingency overall with six All-Americans. No. 1 Mekhi Neal (150) was in a standoff between two nationally ranked wrestlers in the finals. Neal carried the No. 15 ranking; his foe Lake Highland Prep’s Claudio Torres, was No. 21. It came down to the wire, but Torres edged the Knight, 9-8.
In addition to Neal, No. 2 Austin Wood (6th at 106), No. 3 Clayton Gabrielson (4th at 144), No. 3 Mason Buckler (5th at 157), No. 4 Will Buckler (7th at 165), and No. 1 Gerard Johnson (7th at 190) were placers for Ryken. Mason Buckler and Johnson are now two-time placers.
Gabrielson’s third trip to the prep podium includes an upset win over Blair’s Logan Rozynski (No. 22 nationally), 2-1, in the consolation semi-finals. No. 3 Tyler Wood and No. 7 Josh Strong (132) fell in the blood round for the Knights.
No. 8 Landon saw No. 1 Joel Brown (HM in the nation) replicate his third place finish from a year ago with a 6-3 win over Gabrielson. No. 4 David LaPrade (190) needed one more win to place.
No. 1 Ellis Kirsch (106) is now two-for-two in prep placings for Bullis. After being sixth, he was fifth this year, beating Austin Wood, 8-5. Teammate Sepanta Ahanj-Elias (No. 6 at 150) came up one win short of a medal.
Two guys with Maryland ties compete for Blair and found their way to hardware. Paul Ognissanti (157, No. 15 by SBLive) placed for the third time, third at the open, fifth as a sophomore and now third as a junior.
Peter Snyder, a Berlin native, won the 165lb title with a 3-1 overtime victory against Xavier Giles (Green Farms Academy). A takedown in the first overtime frame sealed it.
“I’m super amped,” Snyder exulted. “At the beginning of the year, it was not really on my goal sheet. (I wanted) just to place. Then later on through the year, I kept working hard. I knew I could win it. As soon as we went into overtime, I was like this kid’s gassed. I may be a little tired but I’m not as tired as him. I shot and took him down.”
No. 24 Derrick Grant (165) came on strong at the end of the season with a fifth place showing at states. He parlayed that momentum into a pin over the No. 5 seed from Malvern Prep, Brian Chamberlain, 4:56, in the round of 32. His mojo wore off shortly after, though, as he could not navigate to a placement position.
at Show Place Arena
Team Scores: (Top 15 + Maryland schools)
1 - Blair Academy (NJ )333
2 - Lake Highland Prep (FL) 286.5
3 - Malvern Prep (PA) 280
4 - Wyoming Seminary (PA) 253
5 - Green Farms Academy, CT
6 - St. Mary’s-Ryken 126.5
7 - Mount St. Joseph 123.5
8 - St. Christopher’s (VA) 119.5
9 - Northfield Mount Hermon (MA) 111.5
10 - Baylor School (TN) 97
11 - Belmont Hill (MA) 93
12 - St. Benedict’s (NJ) 71
13 - Wesetrn Reserve (OH) 70.5
14 - Archbishop Spalding 60
15 - Haverford Prep (PA )59
16 - Gilman 55.5
19 - Landon 49.5
25 - Calvert Hall 35
26 - Bullis 34
31 - Loyola 26.5
24 - St. Frances Academy 25
46 - John Carroll 14
51 - McDonogh 12.5
FINALS (Marylanders only)
150 - Claudio Torres Orlando, FL (Lake Highland Prep) DEC Mekhi Neal Leonardtown, MD (St. Mary’s Ryken), 9-8
126 - Colin Kacena Orlando, FL (Lake Highland Prep) DEC Coleman Nogle Bowie, MD (Mount Saint Joseph), 4-2
132 - Tyson Sherlock Linthicum, MD (Gilman School) DEC Zeno Moore Orlando, FL (Lake Highland Prep), 3-1 SV
144 - Joel Brown Bethesda, MD (Landon) DEC Clayton Gabrielson Chesapeake Beach, MD (St. Mary’s Ryken), 6-
215 - Joshua Cordio Lancaster, MA (Wyoming Seminary) DEC Bryce Phillips , MD (Mount Saint Joseph), 3-2
106 - Ellis Kirsch Chevy Chase, MD (Bullis School) DEC Austin Wood White Plains, MD (St. Mary’s Ryken), 8-5
126 - Vincent Paolucci Severn, MD (Archbishop Spalding) DEC Jay Mcdonnell Broomall, PA (The Haverford School), 5-1
138 - Billy Dekraker Blairstown, NJ (Blair Academy) DEC Emmitt Sherlock Linthicum Heights, MD (Gilman School), 3-1
285 - Gavin Bage Baltimore, MD (Mount Saint Joseph) DEC Max Fisher Nashville, TN (Montgomery Bell Academy), 1-0
113 - Jake Tamai Columbia, MD (Mount Saint Joseph) DEC Kody Tanimoto Fort Worth, TX (All Saints Episcopal), 3-2
120 - Sean Garretson Severn, MD (Archbishop Spalding) FOR Sulayman Bah Saltsburg, PA (Kiski School)
126 - Griffin Stewart Baltimore, MD (Calvert Hall) FOR Kade Davidheiser Barto, PA (The Hill School)
165 - Will Buckler Owings, MD (St. Mary’s Ryken) FOR Colby Isabelle Pottstown, PA (The Hill School)
190 - Gerard Johnson Owings Mills, MD (St. Mary’s Ryken) DEC Ruben Karapetyan Washington DC, DC (St. John’s College), 4-1