Facing off against a Cranston East wrestling team with one of the best records in Division II, Pilgrim put itself in a position to pull out an impressive victory on Thursday night.
Unfortunately for the Pats, it fell one match short of the win.
Pilgrim stayed close the entire night and trailed just 33-31 heading into the heavyweight match. The Pats were forced to bump one of their top wrestlers, Gage Potter, up from 220 to face East stand-out Greg Scott. A hard-fought match was tight the whole way, but ended in a Scott win, a 37-31 victory for East and a tough loss for the Pats.
East improved to 7-2-1 in Division II-North while Pilgrim – on the heels of a 64-18 victory over Central Falls – fell back to .500 at 6-6 in D-II-South.
“We wrestled straight up, except for the last match,” Pilgrim head coach Tom O’Connor said. “That was the only one we bumped. We could have bumped earlier, and we chose not to, to see some of the better matches. A couple went our way, a couple didn’t.”
The ’Bolts actually led 33-19 with just three matches to go, but without a wrestler at 195 or 220, they forfeited both matches, giving Pilgrim 12 points and setting up the showdown between Potter and Scott.
Scott, who has wrestled in the heavyweight spot all year, had a sizeable weight advantage.
“We felt pretty good because he had a definite weight advantage over the kid,” East head coach Glenn Castiglia said. “That kid, I give him a lot of credit. He’s a good wrestler. He didn’t let his weight bother him.”
Potter battled, and the first period ended with the score tied at four. A quick escape from Potter to open the second period gave him a 5-4 lead before Scott regained the advantage with a takedown. A reversal from Potter and an escape from Scott knotted the score back up at seven.
By the time the second period ended, Scott had a slim 10-9 lead.
“Gage always gives you a shot,” O’Connor said. “He’s got a devastating roll he can roll from anywhere. He always gives you a shot.”
In the final period, Scott finally took control. Nursing a 12-10 lead, he took down Potter then grabbed three near-fall points. Potter escaped for a point, but Scott took him down one more time to grind out a 19-11 win.
“Finally, he regained his composure at the end and he became the regular Greg – aggressive,” Castiglia said.
The entire meet was close for the majority of the night, with East taking a 6-0 lead initially when Pilgrim had to forfeit the first match of the day, at 106. The Pats immediately tied it back up on a pin by Adam Landroche of Justin Buth in the second period at 113.
The match-up at 120 was a big one, featuring Pilgrim’s Jordan DeSisto and East’s A.J. Collum. DeSisto came in fourth in last year’s state meet in the same weight class, and he eliminated Collum – a wrestler with hopes of placing – with a 4-2 victory along the way.
This time it was a little different, as Collum got out to a 3-2 lead after one and held off a DeSisto charge to pick up a 6-3 win.
“He wrestled extremely well,” Castiglia said. “I was very pleased with the way he wrestled. I thought he did a great job. That kid, DeSisto, took fourth in the state last year. He just did a great job against him.”
Kevin Lau followed up Collum’s win with a pin of John Pierce at 126, putting East up 15-6. But the Pats came right back, as Steve Johnston fought hard for a 5-3 win at 132 over Alex Guerra, and then Mark Lenz dominated Estevie Hidalgo at 138 before eventually pinning him at the 3:52 mark. That tied everything up at 15.
“Lenz is unorthodox, but he wrestles hard,” O’Connor said.
East opened up a lead again at 145, where Ryan Jackson pinned Hysom Sabet in the first period. At 152, Danny Tejeda picked up a late pin of Alex Seubert for a 27-15 ’Bolts’ advantage.
Brett Prescott temporarily stemmed the tide for Pilgrim with a 12-1 win over Grant Scott at 160 to get the score back to 27-19, but Andrew Baylouney beat Griffin Potter 6-3 at 170 to make it 30-19. A 4-1 win for Derek Mott at 182 over Pilgrim’s Oluiwaseun Akinnusotu made it 33-19 before the two forfeits and the fireworks in the last match.
“Cranston East wrestled hard,” O’Connor said. “They wrestled until the end. They’re well-coached, and they worked hard for it.”
The match was the latest in a busy stretch for Pilgrim, and O’Connor thought the fatigue showed at times.
Luckily, the Pats will have a little time to rest before another meet. They wrestle next at 2-6-1 West Warwick on Thursday for a 7 p.m. match.
Then, they’ll have three more meets and the Smithfield Invitational before the regular season comes to an end.
“We look tired,” O’Connor said. “We’ve had 15 matches in the last 12 days. It shows. We’ve been going hard. We’ll have a nice little break, a couple days off here, then we’ll get back at it.”