BASCOM - The start was slow. The finish - and finishing statement - was dominating.
Carey overcame a four-point deficit heading into the final round Saturday to roar past Hopewell-Loudon and claim its fourth-straight Midland Athletic League crown, the last in the league's 29-year history.
"The last one to me, I put it way up there. Football won it, wrestling won it, the boys basketball [players] are on a path to win it," Carey coach Ryan Pratt said after his Blue Devils beat H-L 185-169 1/2. "I think we're going to leave a statement. A couple years ago (2011), we had a statement called 'Creating a Legacy.' And with the MAL ending, I'd say we fulfilled that and we did it."
The Blue Devils went 10 for 13 in the finals, which included a 5-0 showing in the title matches.
"We were down by four going into finals, we told the kids to wrestle hard, don't give up, keep moving and first and foremost, Carey pride. We don't quit," Pratt said.
"And, wow. All I can say is wow," he said. "It's emotional because being a coach here at Carey for so many years and the group of kids I've got, the heart of these kids; I've got three seniors in the lineup and the rest are all underclassmen, they're all back next year, 24 on the roster. It's tough. It's kind of amazing; very amazing."
The final round started at 160 pounds, and the Blue Devils got right to work, using thirds by a decision by 160-pounder Seth Rehus and a pin from 182-pounder Brady Mullholand to counter Hopewell-Loudon getting a title from 170-pounder Zach Clouse, beating North Baltimore's Tristan Fagan 12-3. Carey's Adric Stombaugh added a fourth at 170.
Jon Racheter and Zach Sauber then followed with championships for Carey, with Racheter pinning Mohawk 195-pounder Derrick Sowers (4:23) and Sauber doubling up Fremont St. Joe 220-pounder Bobby Mancha 10-5.
Marcus O'Flaherty followed that up by taking third at 285 pounds by pinning North Baltimore's Kaleb Andrus (1:22), and Jevyn Pratt flattened St. Wendelin's Nick Dehaven (2:48) for the 106-pound championship.
Dylan Kincade ended fourth at 113 pounds, but 120-pounder Deryk Sammett pinned Calvert's John Brodman (1:20) for a championship.
The Blue Devils had no one advance to the final round at 126 pounds, but they got two thirds via pin in the next two weight classes - 132-pounder Kyler Dyer over Lakota's Brendon Biddle (1:44), and 138-pounder Dylan Pratt over Mohawk's Haydon Tiell (:58).
Zach Brodman then outlasted Fremont St. Joe's Sean Vasquez for the 145-pound crown, and Cody Ferguson ended fourth at 152 pounds.
While the Blue Devils found success in the finals and consolations, Hopewell-Loudon did not.
After powering their way to the top of the standings in the early part of the tournament, the Chieftains ran into trouble in the final round when a combination of tough foes and a lineup change - two Chieftains moved up two weight classes and five more went up one - caught up with them.
"We tried to put kids in a place where we could score a lot of points. That being said, sometimes when you have most of your lineup up a weight class, you run into an issue with just wrestling bigger guys - you're late in the tournament, tougher competition and we're dropping matches late in the tournament," H-L coach Travis Traxler said. "You kind of get found out being 15 pounds, 10 pounds lighter.
"My guys wrestled hard today, and we can't point a finger at one kid. They all worked their butts off. We got nickle and dimed [by opponents' scoring], and don't take anything away from Carey because they had a fantastic finals round," he said. "That being said, we kind of wanted some help [when others wrestled Carey] and we didn't get help."
The Chieftains went 4 for 8 in championship matches, but ended just 5 for 11 in the final round overall. Clouse's crown was H-L's lone match win over the first seven weight classes in the finals.
Lakota 160-pounder Madison Jaso beat Bryce Steinhauser 7-3 in one title match and Mohawk 182-pounder Cole Draper defeated Tristan Myers 9-4 in another, with Elijah Bustillos losing by pin in the 195-pound consolation.
The Chieftains returned to team scoring when Chet Swarztmiller got a 13-2 major decision over Lakota's Levi Beckford for the 113-pound title, and 120-pounder Dylan Hammonds edged Lakota's Dakota Kroeger 4-3 for third.
The Chieftains suffered back-to-back losses in the next two championship bouts, with Mohawk's Chet Margraf beating Braxton Young 12-3 at 126 pounds, and St. Wendelin 132-pounder Cole Williams pinning Vollie Brock (1:37).
Hopewell-Loudon captured titles in two of the remaining three weight classes, but Carey's lead was too much to overcome by then.
Alex Brock beat Seneca East's Elliott Hoepf 7-1 for the 138-pound crown, and Damion Vitt scored an 8-0 major decision over Mohawk's Kevin Lonsway for the 152-pound title. Mateo Muniz added a fourth at 145 for H-L.
Mohawk took third with 110 points, followed by Lakota (87 1/2), St. Wendelin (60 1/2), Fremont St. Joe (52 1/2), North Baltimore (46), Seneca East (27 1/2) and Calvert (16 1/2).
The only weight class at which neither Carey nor H-L competed for a title came at 285 pounds, where Fremont St. Joe's Cory Durbin pinned Mohawk's Arin Mullins in 4:24.
Mullins was later awarded the MAL's career outstanding wrestler award, with the outstanding tournament award shared by Brodman from Carey and Vitt of Hopewell-Loudon.
Pratt took home the coach of the year honor, his fourth-straight and his fifth in six seasons.
"I'm emotional. It lets you know your peers, the coaches from other schools, they must think something of me," Pratt said. "I respect each and every one of those coaches and I respect the sport, and to have them vote me coach of the year, I'm at a loss for words.
"It means a lot to me," he said. "I have those plaques on display at my house because I take it seriously."