A year after Warwick Vets steamrolled the competition at the state wrestling tournament, the race for the 2012 title figures to be a lot tighter. Three teams – Vets, Bishop Hendricken and Cumberland – have emerged from the pack as favorites, but picking one frontrunner out of those three is no easy task.
“I think it’s a three-team race, and it’s just going to depend on how everybody wrestles,” said Vets coach George Schmeider.
The tourney gets underway on Friday at 4 p.m., at the Providence Career & Technical Academy. It continues Saturday at 11 a.m., with the championship round slated for Saturday night.
And it could be a wild weekend.
Handicapping the race is even tougher because of the profiles of the three favorites – and the differing paths they’ll be taking.
Vets has five wrestlers who expect to be in the finals but not much depth beyond that. Hendricken figures to have the most place-winners but may not be in the mix for many golds. Somewhere between them sits Cumberland, with decent depth and a few favorites.
Throw in a few other strong teams that could make some noise like East Providence, Coventry and North Providence, and it all adds up to an interesting weekend.
The ’Canes will be shooting for back-to-back championships, a feat the program has accomplished twice before – in 1967 and 1968 and in 2000 and 2001. Unlike last year, when Vets had the title clinched before the championship round, the ’Canes know winning this one won’t be easy.
“I think we’re ready to do our best,” Schmeider said. “If our best is enough, we’ll just have to see.”
Schmeider is more hopeful now than he was this time last week, when the ’Canes didn’t have their best showing in a dual-meet loss to Cumberland. Since then, the ’Canes have put in a lot of work.
“I’m more optimistic,” Schmeider said. “We’ve done a lot of tough work and I think our guys our ready. It’s open and my guys know that.”
The ’Canes have five wrestlers who could be labeled as favorites in their weight classes. Sophomore John Altieri is the returning state champion at 103 and he’s the top seed at 106; senior Nate Colicci, a state runner-up last year, is the top seed at 120; junior George Schmeider, a fourth-place finisher last year, checks in as the top seed at 160; senior Devin Hurst, a three-time state medalist, is the top seed at 170; and senior Nick Salois, a defending champ, is seeded first at 182.
“Those guys are looking good,” coach George Schmeider said. “I think they’ll be ready.”
But the key for the ’Canes may be everybody else. Getting five finalists would be good for about 125 points. Schmeider figures 150 will be the magic number, meaning the ’Canes will need some of their less-heralded wrestlers to come up with key points.
“I just think it’s going come down to the Tony Lonczaks and the Casey Beauregards,” Schmeider said. “Those guys have to wrestle as hard as they can and see if they can place.”
If that happens, the ’Canes will have a good shot, but the challengers will still be nipping at their heels.
Hendricken will have a wrestler in every weight class, and the majority of them figure to be in the mix for medals.
But the Hawks will also be looking for a lot of them to take things to another level. The Hawks have seven wrestlers seeded in the top four in their weight classes, but only one – Billy Stewart at 220 – is a top seed.
With a few big performances, the Hawks could translate their depth into a lot of points. Jason Davol, Rob Lanni, Nick DiMauro, Chris Barone, Mike Gelardi and Dallas Sauer are the other top-four seeds, but wrestlers like Lewis Stewart, Anthony DiMauro, Nick Parente and Dylan Bessette will be looking to take a leap.
Whatever happens, the Hawks will be geared up to make a run.
Vets will just try to hold them off.
“Hendricken and Cumberland are going to be right there,” Schmeider said. “Our guys know we have to wrestle real well to win.”
Pilgrim and Toll Gate aren’t likely to be in the mix for the team title, but both will be looking for strong performances.
The Pats have seven wrestlers ready to compete, led by Mark Lenz, who’s seeded third at 138. Jordan DeSisto will wrestle at 120, Mark Tomaselli at 145, Chad Jackman at 152, Nathan Brice at 170, Michael Turchetta at 195 and Gage Potter at 220.
Fresh off a fourth-place finish at the Division II tournament, Toll Gate will send nine wrestlers to states. The contingent will be led by Austin Medeiros and Dante Procopio, who each won first-place medals at the D-II meet. Medeiros will wrestle at 106 and Procopio at 132.
The Titans also have Corey Longworth at 113, Max Procopio at 120, Aaron Travers at 126, Joe Martinez at 138, John DiGiuseppe at 145, Dave Navilliat at 152 and Ed Pierce at 182.