Host Mount St. Joseph found itself in unfamiliar territory yesterday at the inaugural Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association Tournament, starting the semifinal round in third place.
Once the action resumed, however, it took a matter of minutes for the top-ranked Gaels to return to the top of the pack.
St. Joe won 13 of 14 bouts in the final two rounds, claiming six individual titles en route to a come-from-behind team victory over Boys' Latin and Gilman.
The Gaels finished with 166 points to beat out Boys' Latin (130), Gilman (109.5), Calvert Hall (84) and McDonogh (82.5).
It marked the 20th straight year they've won their conference tournament -- the other 19 coming in the Maryland Scholastic Association.
But this one didn't come easily.
It took a stellar all-around effort -- which included a few surprises -- to top a strong performance from the Lakers.
"Our kids really stepped up in the semifinals and the finals," said Mount St. Joseph coach Paul Triplett, whose team trailed Boys' Latin by 11 1/2 points entering the day, mostly due to a scoring system that awards the majority of points in the later rounds.
"Frankly, I was a little concerned. I figured we'd be trailing by four or five, but 11 1/2 is a lot of points to make up."
But his team made the task seem simple, thanks in large part to victories by 103-pounder Jon Pitonzo and heavyweight Kenny Hunter as well as a surprise trip to the finals for third-seeded Danny Mattson.
As expected, Jake Lissau (125), David Inkman (140), Tyran Dungee (145) and Danny DeVivo (160) had little trouble winning titles.
Despite a stellar effort from Boys' Latin, the Gaels' effort was too much to overcome.
"I couldn't have asked for much better," said Lakers coach Jim Currie, whose team placed eight of its 11 wrestlers in the top four, including 135-pound champion Timmy Berger. "St. Joe is probably more vulnerable than in the last two years, but when half of their team wins in the finals, it's pretty hard to beat."
Other champions were Gilman's Maakan Taghizadeh (112), Calvert Hall's Gino Amasia (119) and Brian Kapp (130), Friends' Ethan Goldberg (152), McDonogh's Martius Harding (171) and John Carroll's Greg Stotler (189).
But the day belonged to the Gaels.
Among their success stories was Lissau, who pinned Loyola's Keith Lilly in the finals after losing in that round by a point each of the past two years.
Another big performance came from Hunter. After losing to McDonogh's J. R. Plienis three times this season, the senior stepped up to beat his rival, 6-5.
The most exciting match of the finals, however, went against the host team.
In the 130-pound class, Calvert Hall's Kapp ran out to a 5-0 lead before Mattson caught him with an acrobatic "elevator" takedown and turned it into a pinning combination.
The move stunned Kapp, but the senior regained his composure. Tied at seven in the final period, Kapp, who was named the tournament's most outstanding wrestler, scored a takedown with 1:01 left and held on for the 9-7 victory.
"I've never been pinned in my high school career, so when he put me on my back I didn't know what to do," said Kapp (36-1), who had beaten Mattson three times before. "I knew if I kept myself on my feet . . . that I could hang on."