Mason Horne could feel the difference the first day he took a stroll around the Christian Brothers College campus 10 years ago.

“To be brutally honest, one of the things I noticed, the culture of the school was compete, compete, compete,” Horne said. “There’s just a feeling and an aura, a spirit in that building.”

As baseball coach, Horne has harnessed that spirit, piloting the Cadets to Missouri state championships in 2010 and 2015, and a runner-up finish in 2013. Those were just the peaks in a decade that’s seen several conference and district titles.

Horne’s most recent team went 21-8, won a district title and was the first Missouri program to play in the National High School Invitational (NHSI) in North Carolina. What his 2019 team didn’t do, however, was play for a state championship — which made it a rare exception at CBC during the 2018-19 school year.

With state titles in football, boys soccer and wrestling and a state runner-up finish in boys basketball, CBC is the STLhighschoolsports.com large schools program of the year for 2018-19, repeating its feat from 2017-18. 

Missouri Class 2 swimming and diving championships - finals

CBC's Brooks Cosman points to the crowd after winning the 50-yard freestyle in a Class 2 state-record time of 20.86 at the Missouri swimming and diving championships on Friday, November 9, 2018 at the Rec-Plex in St. Peters, Mo. Paul Kopsky, STLhighschoolsports.com

The Cadets also boasted a pair of individual state champions in swimming. Brooks Cosman won both the 50- and 100-yard freestyle titles at the Class 2 state meet. His teammate, August Brandt, took state in the 100 butterfly and picked up a third-place medal in the 100 backstroke.

In tennis, senior A.J. Woodman went undefeated without losing a set to claim the Class 2 singles title at Cooper Tennis Complex in Springfield. Woodman was one half of a CBC state title-winning doubles team as a sophomore.

“The culture of winning, of wanting to compete to be the best, is just so strong at the school,” Horne said. “It oozes out of the walls.”

State Tennis Semifinals

CBC's A.J. Woodman won the Class 2 boys tennis singles state title May 25, 2019, in Springfield, Mo. Woodman is the Post-Dispatch All-Metro boys tennis player of the year. Michael Gulledge, Special to STLhighschoolsports.com

This is the fourth time CBC has taken the crown for overall sports achievement in the St. Louis metro area. CBC also won the honor in 2009-10 and 20014-15.

CBC athletics director Rocky Streb knows it’s a special run for the private, all-boys school in Town and Country.

“We in the athletic department talk about this a lot,” Streb said. “We feel blessed. We remind ourselves quite often that this is not normal.”

It’s becoming normal — the winning, that is — but the state titles and stellar individual performances at CBC are byproducts of an extraordinary culture that is equal parts selfless camaraderie and relentless ambition.

CBC soccer championship

It’s a CBC thing. Other schools might not understand.

“It’s competition at everything,” Streb said. “These kids will compete against each other wholeheartedly. They’ll fight each other, but if somebody else steps in and tries to fight their brother, then it’s war.”

Expectations of excellence drive an ultra-competitive mentality in both the sports arena and the classroom, while an overarching sense of brotherhood encourages sacrifice for one’s teammates.

On one hand, there is football coach Scott Pingel extolling the grace of a star athlete like senior Elijah Robinson giving up a spotlight position on offense to strengthen a less-experienced defense.

“It really speaks to the culture at CBC,” Pingel said. “Nobody is bigger than anybody else. I think our whole mission is, what can you do to make someone else’s life better? The kids realize it’s bigger than themselves.”

Missouri Wrestling Championships - boys finals

CBC's Wyatt Henson celebrates winning the Class 4 championship at 138 pounds at the Missouri Wrestling Championships on Saturday, February 16, 2019 at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Mo. Paul Kopsky, STLhighschoolsports.com

On the other hand, it’s wrestling coach Cornell Robinson dispelling complacency with pure alpha-male voracity.

His Cadets wrestlers will be going for their third consecutive Class 4 team title in 2020.

“We’re not defending anything. We’re taking everything,” Cornell Robinson said. “We don’t look at ourselves as being on the defensive. We’re out there to take everything you’ve got.”

The CBC wrestlers took that attitude to the mat February 17, when all four of their individual state title contenders — Vinnie Zerban (132 pounds), Wyatt Henson (138), Kyle Prewitt (145) and Joshua Saunders (152) — won their final matches to slam the door on second-place Liberty of Kansas City.

“The thing about CBC is we have to stick together,” Cornell Robinson said. “Ain’t nobody else going to cheer for us, so we've got to cheer for ourselves.”

A few weeks after the wrestlers secured their state title, the boys basketball team got hot. Led by quick guard Caleb Love (19.4 points per game) and forward Joshua Wallace (12.3 points, 6.3 rebounds per game), the Cadets drove and scored their way to the Class 4 state title game at John Q. Hammons Arena in Springfield but fell to Rock Bridge in a 63-59 nailbiter.

Last autumn, soccer coach Terry Michler’s squad secured its second Class 5 state title in three seasons. Senior center back Nolan DeWeese led a quick, effective defensive unit that posted 18 shutouts and yielded only 16 goals in 29 contests.

“I think the main reason we had a lot of success this year was most of the starters were seniors and we all wanted to go out as champions,” said DeWeese, the Post-Dispatch All-Metro boys soccer player of the year.

The Cadets went 25-2-2 and defeated Metro Catholic Conference rival De Smet 1-0 for their 10th state title. CBC went 2-0-1 against its MCC rival in 2019.

“We pride ourselves in our conference being so strong,” said Michler, who is the nation’s winningest single-gender soccer coach and is set to surpass the 1,000-win mark next season. “Even if one team (in the MCC) has a rare off year, you know they’re going to be back the next year.”

CBC's soccer program bounced back from "only" finishing third at state in 2017. But its success helped fuel the football Cadets to the 2018 Class 6 championship, and the first back-to-back title run in program history.

“When you see one team winning, you want a part of that for your team, too,” senior Elijah Robinson said. “Like, when we saw the soccer team win state, we were like, ‘There is no way we’re not going to win state.’ ”

Robinson was recruited after his junior season to play running back for the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

Missouri Class 2 swimming and diving championships - finals

CBC's August Brandt competes in the 100-yard backstroke championship final at the Missouri Class 2 swimming and diving championships on Friday, November 9, 2018 at the Rec-Plex in St. Peters, Mo. Paul Kopsky, STLhighschoolsports.com

He was primed for a big season as a ball carrier for CBC but switched to linebacker to shore up a defense that lost key starters from the 2017 title-winning unit. He logged 52 tackles and eight quarterback sacks as the Cadets overwhelmed 12 of their 13 opponents in 2018.

“I did what was best for the team and not necessarily what was best for me,” Robinson said. “We are there not just to win championships but to be brothers to our teammates.”

That dedication can also be seen in CBC’s coaches, who put in extraordinary amounts of time both with and away from their student-athletes.

Michler, for example, has written three books about the sport he coaches at CBC. "Coaching Soccer Champions," "Full Season Training Program" and "Dutch Total Football" are all available at Amazon.com.

Wrestling coach Cornell Robinson is equally passionate about his sport.

“Personally, I’m obsessed,” he said. “Right now, I’m at the University of Illinois and I’m helping run a coaches camp for them, and I’m also learning.”

Next week, Cornell Robinson will fly to Mexico to coach the U.S. Wrestling Team at the Pan-Am Games. It will be his fourth trip abroad to coach the Americans.

“It doesn’t feel like work when you love it,” the coach said.

Horne is now just another part of the competitive, high-achieving culture that wowed him the first time he experienced it a decade ago. It’s an environment that attracts competitors and winners, but he cautions, it’s not for everybody.

“It definitely takes a certain mentality to play here,” Horne said. “I think that personality is somebody who wants to work really hard, who is passionate about what they want to do. And at CBC, there is literally an army of teachers, coaches and support staff who want to help these kids succeed at whatever they want to do.”

Large school finalists

Champions list 2018-2019

Champions list: 2018-19

For additions or corrections, please email Chris Gove at cgove@stltoday.com. Thank you.

STL High School Sports e-newsletter

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.