The Warwick Vets wrestling team was cautiously optimistic heading into last Wednesday’s dual meet season finale with unbeaten Cumberland.
The ’Canes thought they matched up well with the Clippers, who were riding a 55-match win streak entering the meet. Early on, Vets opened up a 15-0 lead, and it looked like the ’Canes had every reason to be optimistic.
But very quickly, Cumberland righted the ship. Wins in five consecutive matches from 126 to 152 turned the momentum, and the Clippers rolled from there. The outcome was clinched before the final match, as Vets became victim No. 56 with a 44-29 defeat.
“The wheels fell off the bus,” Vets coach George Schmeider said. “You can’t have a bad night anywhere and beat Cumberland.”
Vets finished its dual meet season at 9-6-1 in Division I-North, while Cumberland finished at 16-0 for the third consecutive season.
Both teams are expected to be in contention at this weekend’s state meet, and the rivalry between the two showed in the intensity on Wednesday.
The match started at 103, and Vets’ Davin Lourenco fought off what looked like a sure-fire pin from Cumberland’s Dylan Bross to get a pin of his own at the 5:18 mark.
That sent the ’Canes bench into an eruption, and put the Clippers on alert that it wasn’t going to be easy.
“He knows what it’s like to go down and keep wrestling,” Schmeider said. “He never got frustrated. He just kept wrestling and he ended up coming out on top.”
At 113, John Altieri extended Vets’ lead to 9-0 with a dramatic, 13-12 overtime win over standout Cody Beaudette. Nate Colicci kept the ’Canes rolling with a pin of Kyle Durkin at 120, giving Vets the 15-0 lead.
Then came the turning point.
At 126, Vets sent out freshman Thomas Galligan against Cumberland’s Nick Tribelli.
The match was only 2-0 in favor of Tribelli when Galligan was taken down and pinned at the 2:49 mark, getting Cumberland on the board. Tribelli yelled to his team, and it was clear that the Clippers were far from done.
“126 was the match,” Schmeider said. “We knew it coming in. We have a kid who just got eligible. We knew that whoever won that probably would be in the driver’s seat.”
In the next few matches, Vets set out simply to avoid pins against some of Cumberland’s big guns.
It was able to at 132, where Andres Sarza fell to Sean Creamer by tech fall, but Diego Martinez was pinned by Jon Maccini at 138 to give Cumberland its first lead at 17-15.
A first-round pin by Erik Travers over Vets’ Kam Boyajian extended the lead at 145, and Cumberland’s Max Carlsten pinned Vets’ Anthony Lonczak at 152 for a 29-15 advantage.
“We struggled in the middle just not getting pinned,” Schmeider said. “Bottom line is we just didn’t have enough through the middle to keep the point total down.”
The ’Canes were hoping from a pin from Schmeider’s son, George, at 160, but the Clippers’ Aaron O’Toole kept him at bay. Schmeider won only by a 5-2 margin, giving Vets three points instead of the six it would have received with a pin.
“My son goes out there and doesn’t have his best match,” coach George Schmeider said. “He barely beats the kid – the kid did a great job controlling him. He wasn’t trying to score, he was just hanging on.”
Cumberland’s Chris Hayes then just tried to avoid getting pinned by Vets’ Devin Hurst at 170, leading to a third-round tech fall victory for the ’Canes. That made the score 29-23 Cumberland.
Nick Salois evened the match up at 29 with a dominating pin just 44 seconds into his match with William Spaziano at 182, but the ’Canes knew they were still in trouble.
They had only two wrestlers left for three weight classes, and they lost the coin toss at the beginning of the meet. That meant that Vets would have to send its wrestler out first.
Because of that, there was no way for the ’Canes to avoid Cumberland star Tommy LaCroix.
At 195, where LaCroix normally wrestles, Vets sent in a forfeit. Cumberland didn’t take the bait, sending out Barrett Bernier to collect the six points while saving LaCroix for a match at 220.
And it worked, as LaCroix easily pinned Vets’ Aaron Hurst to clinch the match.
“We didn’t win the coin flip, to get the kid Aaron away from LaCroix,” Schmeider said. “That really hurt.”
At heavyweight, Vets’ Casey Beauregard fell 2-1 to Cumberland’s Cameron Williamson to round out the scoring.
Next on the docket for the ’Canes is this weekend’s state meet, where they’ll try to defend their title.
The meet is at the Providence Career and Technical Academy, and it begins on Friday at 4 p.m. It then continues on Saturday at 11 a.m.
To prepare, the team went up to Connecticut for a few team-building activities and some fine-tuning before this weekend.
It’s a tactic Vets has used in the past, and it’s hoping it pays dividends again.
“We’ve got a little team-building going on,” Schmeider said. “Every time we do really well at states, it’s because we get our heads out of here.”