By MIKE CLARK
Who needs the regular season? Not Brad Gross apparently.
The two-time state placer from Marmion had been sidelined all season by a right shoulder injury. But he had an impressive return on Saturday, rolling to the 170-pound title in the Catholic League Tournament at Mount Carmel.
Montini was dominant in the team race, beating runner-up Mount Carmel 344.5-265.5 behind nine individual winners. Defending champ Marmion (204), Providence (195) and St. Rita (113) rounded out the top five teams in the 16-school field.
Gross returned to practice over the holiday break in anticipation of getting back to competition at the conference tournament. He pinned his first two opponents before beating Montini’s Anthony Geraci 7-1 in the final.
“It’s good to get those nerves out,” said Gross, who noted his conditioning still needs work.
“Definitely not where (it) was this time last year. But I still have a couple weeks till regional, sectional and state comes around.”
Gross coming out of the gate and earning a title didn’t surprise Marmion coach Don Reynolds.
“He wins matches just on toughness a lot of times,” Reynolds said. “He’s stubborn. If he thinks he should go out there and win the match, he’ll go out there and find a way to win it.”
Gross wasn’t the only one with that mindset on Saturday.
Montini’s Matt Ortiz (34-5) avenged a loss in last year’s Class 3A state quarterfinals by beating Providence’s Cole Smith 7-3 for the 160 title.
“I had to fine-tune my technique and just get back at him,” Ortiz said. “It really means a lot. I worked really hard to get my goal right here, a Catholic League championship. But this is not the end for me. My goal is to be a state champion, and eventually the best in the country.”
Ortiz’s Montini teammate Real Woods (28-1) is No. 3 nationally, according to Intermat, with his only loss coming to top-ranked Joey Silva of Lake Highland Prep (Fla.) in overtime in the Ironman Tournament final.
That “little stumble,” as Woods refers to it, still gnaws at him.
“I have a set of goals on my phone and (going undefeated) was one of them,” Woods said. “It sucks that you can’t check that off. But you know, you keep going in life.”
Woods rolled to the 132 title with three first-period falls, the last in 1:57 over Marmion’s Ryan Fleck.
Another wrestler with a national profile is Mount Carmel’s Kendall Coleman (30-4), who is 10th at 145 according to Intermat. Despite that, he was seeded fourth for the Catholic League and faced top-seeded and Intermat No. 9 Jake Stiles of Montini in the semifinals.
Coleman rode out Stiles to win a 4-3 overtime tiebreaker and then scored a 19-4 technical fall at 2:47 against Loyola’s Sean Cloherty in the final.
“I was pretty shocked,” Coleman said of the seeding. “I don’t know how that could even happen. (But) I couldn’t really change it. I just accepted it.”
He broke through against Stiles, who won a pair of their head-to-head matches earlier this season.
“That’s pretty much how all of our matches go,” Coleman said. “They’re close, no takedowns really.”
Providence 220-pounder Logan Anderson (23-4) gave retiring Celtics coach Keith Healy his final Catholic League champ, edging St. Francis’ Danny Skold 6-5 in the final.
“It feels good to finally be at the top of the podium,” said Anderson, who had three other top-four finishes at the conference meet.
He is not feeling good otherwise, coping with shoulder and hip injuries in what will be his final wrestling season. The three-sport athlete (football and baseball are the others) almost was done a lot sooner.
“Last year I wasn’t going to wrestle and Healy talked me into it,” Anderson said. “This year toward the end of the football season, he pulled me and a couple other students into his office and said that this was his last year. So I couldn’t not wrestle his last year.”
Montini also had titles from Nain Vazquez (31-5) at 106, Dylan Ragusin (34-1) at 113, Joey Melendez (33-1) at 120, Dylan Burnoski (34-5) at 126, Will Lewan (32-1) at 152, Trevor Swier (29-6) at 182 and Pete Christensen (32-3) at 195.
Marmion was the only other team with multiple winners, as Trevor Chumbley (35-2) took first at 138. Brother Rice’s Myles Ruffin (29-3) won at 285.