St. Paul's coach Jay Braunstein has not shied away from putting his wrestlers in some of the most competitive tournaments in the nation.
The Crusaders have been tested at the Beast of the East Wrestling Tournament, POWERade Christmas Wrestling Tournament, Pittsburgh Central Catholic Wrestling Invitational and Cedar Cliff Duals, among others. Host St. Paul's used that experience to win the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference regular-season championship Friday night in dual meets that featured St. Mary's, Mount Carmel and St. Vincent Pallotti, the three-time defending champion.
"It makes them more aggressive," Braunstein said about his wrestlers competing in tournaments. "Sometimes, in national tournaments, you're two-and-out. You get to see how tough the kids are. If they go to a five-team, dual-meet tournament in Pennsylvania, in the very first period, you're in a war."
In the marquee matchup against Pallotti, the No. 4 Crusaders won 10 of 14 matches for a 54-18 victory. St. Paul's also got 12 pins in a 72-6 victory over St. Mary's and won, 62-6, against Mount Carmel, which is in only its third year of varsity wrestling.
The Crusaders returned three state champions this season in juniors Eric Friedman (119 pounds), Pete Galli (140) and Brad Mutchnik (152).
Friedman got pins against St. Mary's and Mount Carmel, and he dictated the match in a technical-fall victory over Pallotti's Nicholas Finnblade, 25-10.
Galli pinned Mike Richardson of St. Mary's in 1:22 and later dominated Pallotti's Joe Florezo in a 13-1 victory. Galli also won by forfeit against Mount Carmel.
Mutchnik won by a technical fall over Will Crane of Pallotti, 15-0. Mutchnik, who also picked up wins against St. Mary's and Mount Carmel, said the team's goal is making a run in the MIAA championships next weekend.
"It really means a lot to us," Mutchnik said. "Coach has always been aiming on building the team to eventually get to this point. It feels good to accomplish this. Even though we're a B Conference school, our goal is still to win the whole thing. We have the guys and, more importantly, the heart to do it."
Conner Clayton (130), freshman Connor Wagh (135), Nick Skudrna (145), Greg Louzan (160), Ryan Gary (171) and Jack Mutchnik (103) also won for St. Paul's against Pallotti. Mike Green also recorded a 55-second pin over Jordan Goodman at 189 pounds.