He had some bruises and a bloody nose, but 152-pound junior Kevin Neville walked off the mat a champion after defeating Southwestern's muscular Joe Gamble, 8-4.
Neville, who is top-ranked by the Maryland State Wrestling Association, was the fourth champion for No. 2 Mount St. Joseph -- and one of eight who finished in the top four of their respective weight classes -- as the Gaels scored a tournament-record 239 points to win their fourth team crown in the sixth annual Cougar Invitational. Host Chesapeake AA was second in the 16-team field with 204 points.
The defending National Prep Tournament champs also had titles from sophomore Paul Scott (125), senior Chad Votta (140) and sixth-ranked freshman Danny DeVivo (145). Finishing second were sixth-ranked junior Shane McCarthy (135) and freshman David Inkman (103). Junior Joe Aiosa (130) was third and junior heavyweight Dave Sunderland was fourth.
Coach Paul Triplett says the victory shows that despite his squad's youth, it is capable of winning its 17th Maryland Scholastic Association crown.
"This was good for the team's morale. It shows they're starting to learn St. Joe's tradition," said Triplett, a onetime Gaels wrestler. "Only one guy has been on the team for three years, so the team is still trying to find itself."
After tying Prince George's County's Riverdale Baptist at the Curley tournament two weeks ago and finishing third at Annapolis High last weekend, this year's Gaels -- with just two seniors -- looked vulnerable compared to past teams.
But in the Chesapeake tournament, the Gaels, and Neville in particular, looked more than ready for their league opener Wednesday against St. Paul's.
"My guy was coming after me like a nut, but I just kept my cool," said Neville, who beat Gamble, 10-6, in an equally grueling battle last year.
Neville (11-0, nine pins) remained St. Joe's only unbeaten wrestler. But Scott and Votta also won consecutive tournament crowns. Scott pinned Southwestern's Montez Shelton, and defending MSA champ Votta (11-1, eight pins) had a 23-5 technical fall over Frederick's Matt Carroll.
McCarthy, the MSA champ at 119 last year, failed to win a third crown, losing, 7-1, to Archbishop Curley's No. 4 Gary Mryncza (10-0), who also dethroned him at Curley.
Chesapeake also placed eight wrestlers in the top four, including champions Shawn Somers (171) and heavyweight Kevin Sellers, whose second-period pin overcome a 9-3 deficit against Southwestern's Donnell Jones.
The Cougars' Doug Horton (130) lost his title bout, 8-2, to Eleanor Roosevelt's state runner-up Kenny Cooper, but not before pulling an upset, 5-2, in overtime over Northern's No. 4 Tony Lignelli, who was fourth in the state last year.