MILLVILLE - The St. Augustine Prep wrestling team looked strangely comfortable trailing Millville by three when its lineup turned over Wednesday.
Former Prep standout and current assistant coach Mike DiGalbo turned to the Hermits still warming up to wrestle, clapped confidently and said, "Now, we go to work."
And that's just what the Hermits did.
The Prep won six straight matches in the lower weights to put the match out of reach en route to a 38-28 win.
St. Augustine, No. 6 in The Press Elite 11, is now comfortably in control of the CAL American and can officially clinch on Saturday against Absegami in a quad at Middle Township. Millville is No. 9.
The Prep won the CAL National Conference title in 2011 before switching to the CAL American.
Colin Donahue's come-from-behind 8-4 decision against fellow freshman standout Joham Garcia at 113 pounds highlighted the Hermits' run.
"I was just trying to wrestle my best," Donahue said.
Donahue trailed 4-2 after two periods.
Garcia had choice of position in the third. He's been wrestling well from the bottom this season so he chose down.
Little did he know that Donahue has been even better on top.
"I liked my chances better on top," Donahue said. "I feel like I've been tilting people all year so I knew I was going to be able to tilt him."
Donahue tilted Garcia twice in the third to pull away.
"That sparked the momentum," Prep senior captain Tom Gattinella said. "That changed the whole match around."
Gattinella followed Donahue with the team's first pin of the night at 120 to give the Prep a 22-12 lead.
Ed Donahue received a forfeit at 126, Jarred Hodges pinned at 132 and Nick Clark officially put the match out of reach with a major decision for a 38-12 lead.
The Hermits won an 8-6 bout split and picked up bonus points in seven of the eight wins.
"That's just the way coach Bill (Ward) wants us to wrestle every day," Gattinella said. "Go hard, non-stop six-minute wrestling and do your job."
Millville freshman Keith Mahoney won a major decision at 138 pounds.
Rico Rivera and Jose Soto closed the match out with back-to-back first period pins for the Thunderbolts, but it was too little, too late.
Tyler Sentman received a forfeit to open the match at 170 pounds.
From there, Millville coach Scott Stay surprised just about everyone outside of his wrestling room when he bumped up a number of his upperweights. Javier Colon-Rivera won a forfeit at 195. Obi Kali took a 4-3 decision at 220 and then Ed Shockley bumped from 195 to heavyweight to pick up a 3-1 win against Tom Lynd.
"We pulled out all the stops," Millville coach Scott Stay said. "We did what we thought was best. We got the wins at 195, 220 and heavyweight.
"We took our chances. They wrestled better and they won."
Shockley is the top 195-pounder in The Press' individual rankings. Lynd is No. 1 at 285 and outweighed Shockley (who wrestled last season at 152) by 58 pounds.
Shockley took Lynd down in the first and then traded escape points in the second and third for the 3-1 win.
"I was more concerned about not giving up bonus points in the upperweights," Prep head coach Ward said. "I figured if we came out of there tied or a little bit behind we would be all right."
Ward was right.
"It's great," he said. "The kids really wanted the CAL championship. We haven't had it in a couple of years."
There was a large crowd at Wednesday's match.
The school band even played, something Donahue and the Hermits may not see the rest of their high school careers.
"That was pretty cool," Donahue said. "But it was even better to get the conference championship."
Contact John O'Kane:
106-Reid White SA md. Josh Forand 11-1; 113-Colin Donahue SA d. Joham Garcia 8-4; 120-Tom Gattinella SA p. Frankie Clemons 1:15; 126-Ed Donahue SA by forfeit; 132-Jarred Hodges SA p. Joe Heaton 3:10; 138-Nick Clark SA md. Chad Kahn 10-1; 145-Keith Mahoney M md. Aaron Denesevich 10-1; 152-Rico Rivera M p. Jose Tabora :26; 160-Jose Soto M p. James Brady :52; *170-Tyler Sentman SA by forfeit; 182-Cory Pietrzyk; 195-Javier Colon-Rivera M by forfeit; 220-Obi Kali M d. Justin Welsh 4-3; 285-Ed Shockley M d. Tom Lynd 3-1.
Records-St. Augustine Prep 13-7; Millville 14-3.
*Match started at 170