Hawks fall one point shy of Cumberland for title; Vets takes third, wins five classes
Bishop Hendricken didn't leave the Providence Career & Technical Academy with the state championship trophy on Saturday night, and neither did Warwick Vets.
But the Hawks and Hurricanes sure left with a lot of hardware.
Hendricken took home seven medals and racked up points in the consolation rounds, while Vets had five wrestlers win state championships, all in impressive fashion.
Ultimately, that wasn't enough for the team title. Cumberland got some late heroics to edge Hendricken by a point and Vets by 4.5 points, but both the Hawks and 'Canes had little else to complain about.
"The kids really left it all on the mat," said Hendricken head coach Kevin Hennessey. "Cumberland did a great job. It's just going to give us motivation for next year. We're still hungry."
The 'Canes, meanwhile, knew they'd have a tough time turning their strength at the top into their second consecutive team championship, but they actually out-performed their expectations, even without getting the big trophy. John Altieri, Nate Colicci, George Schmeider, Devin Hurst and Nick Salois all won championships, the most by one school in many years.
"We're a little disappointed that we didn't win the team title, but we did better than we expected," said Hurst, a senior. "We had a pretty good idea we were going to have five finalists and a couple of our guys did a really good job underneath. We just fell a little bit short."
Hendricken led Cumberland by four points heading into the championship round. The Hawks had only one wrestler in the finals, while the Clippers had three. When Altieri beat Hendricken's Jason Davol at 106, it meant the Hawks would have to wait and hope.
Vets also still had an outside shot if it could win all its championship matches by pin or tech-fall, but that path proved too tough. It would come down to the Clippers and Hawks.
Cumberland's first two finalists, Jon Maccini and Max Carlsten, both lost, which put everything in the hands of senior Tommy LaCroix, the top-ranked wrestler at 195. If he won by straight decision, the Hawks and Clippers would finish in a tie. Anything better, and the Clippers would win.
LaCroix responded, jumping out to a 9-1 lead and almost pinning South Kingstown's Ryan Smith before the action was stopped because of an illegal hold. Smith came back to make it 9-4 in the third period, before letting LaCroix escape with 50 seconds left in an effort to give himself a chance at a takedown and more points. Instead, though, LaCroix came up with a takedown with 41 seconds left and held Smith down to seal the 12-4 major victory. That was enough to give Cumberland the team title, as it edged Hendricken 171.5-170.5.
"Tommy is good on his feet," said Cumberland head coach Steve Gordon. "He's unbelievable. Everything just worked out. It's very exciting. It was just a great team effort."
With such a small margin, the Hawks were left thinking about what might have been,
"There's a million ways to look at it – it's one point," Hennessey said. "It could have happened at any time. We had some bumps in the road, but guys came back in the consolation rounds and wrestled really tough."
The Hawks were led by Davol, who scored a big win in the semis over West's Max O'Connell before losing to Altieri in the finals. Nick DiMauro was also a top-three finisher for the Hawks. He almost beat Colicci in the semifinals at 120 then bounced back with two wins to grab third.
The Hawks did much of their damage in the matches for fifth and sixth place, where they got pins from Rob Lanni, Dallas Sauer and Nick Parente, plus a dramatic one-point win by Anthony DiMauro.
"There's always disappointment when you don't win, but we're going to take the positives out of this and move on," Hennessey said.
Five 'Canes win gold
Vets had a similar perspective to Hendricken – and the positives were huge for the 'Canes. They had no other place-winners outside of their five champions, but several wrestlers scored key team points in the consolation rounds.
And even though the team wasn't in the mix at the end, the Vets finalists still took center stage.
Altieri, a sophomore, won a state championship for the second year in a row after taking the title last year at 103. This time around, Altieri had two pins and a major victory on his way to the finals, where he steadily took control against Davol on his way to an 11-0 win.
"I felt pretty confident," Altieri said. "Of course, I get a little nervous before every match, but I knew what I wanted to do. I had pretty good matches all the way through."
Colicci, a senior, was a state finalist last year. The favorite at 120, he faced a stiff challenge from Nick DiMauro in the semis and had to fight off his back in the third period. He eventually got out of trouble, held on for the 9-6 win, and then beat Lincoln's Alex D'Aloisio 9-1 in the finals.
"It felt great," Colicci said. "I worked really hard for it. Two practices a day. It worked out."
The next Vets finalist was Schmeider, who was about to be part of the most memorable match of the night. Facing Narragansett's Mike Gallagher, Schmeider took a 3-0 lead in the second period before Gallagher came back with a takedown and a third-period escape to tie the match. After a scoreless overtime period, the match went to a tiebreaker. Schmeider started down in the first 30-second period and couldn't escape, meaning Gallagher could win with an escape in the second tiebreaker.
Instead, Schmeider caught Gallagher in a spladel and took him to the mat for near-fall points to win the title.
"When I didn't get one, I just kept telling myself, 'I'm not out of this match,'" Schmeider said. "Starting on top, I just went out there and said, 'Go big or go home.' I had to put it all on the line. I hit my move, and from there, I was so surprised and so amped, it was crazy."
Schmeider's match was voted as the best of the finals, and it created a special moment for the wrestler and his father, coach George Schmeider.
"That was awesome," said coach George Schmeider. "It's funny. I've told him 100 times that the spladel is garbage wrestling. You don't catch good kids with that. He said to me after, 'Dad, you can never say that again.'"
Vets kept the good times rolling in the next two matches. Hurst controlled North Kingstown's Justin Zeramby to post a 10-0 win in the finals at 170. It was an especially satisfying victory for Hurst, who had been a finalist as a freshman but had been unable to get back to the championship round.
"I'm just glad my senior year I was able to finally win it," Hurst said. "I've been working hard for four years and it's great that the hard work paid off."
Salois followed with Hurst with another dominant performance as he beat North Providence's Mike Massotti 9-1 at 182. It was the second championship in a row for Salois, who won the 171-pound title as a junior.
"It means everything to me," Salois said. "I've been working my butt off, wrestling all year round. Hard work pays off."
All the Vets champs could say the same thing, even if it didn't lead to the team state championship.
"I can't be disappointed in the team," coach George Schmeider said. "I have five kids who are all-year wrestlers. I explain to my kids that if you're willing to put in the time, you're going to win. I'm very happy that we were able to have five champions."
Amazingly, that could be just the beginning for the 'Canes. Their five champions are expected to do well at next weekend's New England championships – which also be held at the PCTA – and the 'Canes have the potential to win the team title there.
"A week from now, if we wrestle as well as we did tonight, we could win the New Englands," Schmeider said. "It only takes three medals. I have four No. 1 seeds at the New Englands. We could do it. We'll see what happens."
Titans, Pats get good showings
Sophomore Aaron Travers grabbed a third-place finish to lead Toll Gate, while junior Jordan DeSisto took home a fourth-place medal for Pilgrim. The Titans tallied 47 points and finished 19th in the team standings. Pilgrim was 24th with 30 points.
As the tournament approached, Travers was hoping to be on the opposite side of the bracket from East Providence standout Joao Vicente. That didn't happen, and Vicente beat Travers in the semis on his way to the 126-pound title and outstanding wrestler honors, but Travers still made the best of his situation. After his semifinal loss, he outlasted Coventry's Christian Botella 4-2 in the consolation bracket then faced Middletown's Jaxon Thibeault for third place. With the match tied at 2-2 heading into the third, Travers got near-fall points to go up 5-2. After Thibeault reversed him, Travers escaped then got a takedown with 20 seconds left to clinch the 8-4 win.
"It came right down to the end again," said Toll Gate head coach Jerry Sabatelli. "He doesn't match up well with Thibeault. We said going in, 'You've got to do something different.' That's what he did at the end when he rushed him a little bit and got the shot. That was the difference right there."
The victory earned Travers a berth in the New England championships and capped off a strong tournament run. On his way to the semis, he beat Cranston East's Damon Raposa, whom he had lost to at the Smithfield Invitational.
"Tremendous tournament for him," Sabatelli said.
The Titans didn't have any other place-winners. Austin Medeiros made the quarterfinals at 106, while Max Procopio, Dante Procopio, John DiGiuseppe, Dave Navilliat and Ed Pierce each won a consolation match after an early loss.
"It's a little disappointing for my juniors, [Joe] Martinez and Medeiros," Sabatelli said. "They had great seasons. It just wasn't their weekend, but hopefully that's the fuel that lights the fire for next year. Hopefully we can continue doing what we did this year."
DeSisto brought home a fourth for Pilgrim at 120 despite losing his first match of the tournament. He came back after that with four consecutive wins, including a tough 4-2 victory over Cranston East standout A.J. Collum and a pin of Mt. Hope's Alan St. Vincent.
Also for the Pats, Mark Lenz made the quarterfinals at 138 before losing to eventual champ Christian LaBrie of Exeter/West Greenwich. Lenz came back to win his first consolation match before losing to Hendricken's Nick Parente. Chad Jackman dropped his first match but came back to win two consolation bouts at 152. Mark Tomaselli won a consolation bout at 145.