Every year, Hendricken wrestling coach Kevin Hennessey has winning the state championship as one of his team’s goals.
This year is no different except for one thing – the Hawks are also trying to defend the title.
Hendricken used its incredible depth to go 15-0 in dual meets last season and capture its first state crown since 2003-04, capturing eight medals en route to first place.
The Hawks never sneak up on anybody – they’re almost always one of the state’s top teams – but this year they’ll be on the radar a little more. With six of those eight medal winners back in the fold, Hendricken is the likely favorite again. The goal, and the expectation around the state, is for the Hawks to repeat.
For Hennessey, the added bull’s-eye on his team’s back doesn’t change how it approaches the season one bit.
“It’s nice to know that everyone is going to be gunning for us, but I don’t know – I haven’t put too much thought into it,” Hennessey said. “I just want to continue wrestling well and everything will work out.”
Only four regulars graduated from the Hawks’ title-winning starting lineup last year, with Rob Lanni and Chris Barone leaving the two biggest voids. Those two each captured third place at states, with Lanni at 120 pounds and Barone at 160. Hendricken also lost Nick DiMauro, who was a standout at 132, and Kyle Brichetto, who qualified in the heavyweight class.
“Most of the guys are back,” Hennessey said. “We’ll be in great shape.”
Hendricken’s most decorated returner is senior Jason Davol, who was the team’s only state champion last season, capturing the 106-pound title. He’ll wrestle at 120 this year and is serving as a captain.
The team’s other three captains are also accomplished.
Senior Hunter Boesch was a state finalist at 182 last year, while senior Dallas Sauer finished in third place at 220. Pierre-Louis Arcand took part in a number of dual meets.
Boesch will reprise his place at 182 this season, with Sauer moving up to heavyweight. Louis-Arcand is wrestling at 195.
Those three, plus Davol, are setting the tone in what has been a hard-working room so far.
“It’s just a big snowball effect,” Hennessey said. “They’re all fighting for spots. It’s a tough room. The best guy gets the spot. We don’t allow them to become complacent.”
Hendricken has plenty other accomplished wrestlers in the fold. Junior Nick Celico is reprising his spot at 113 after a third-place finish last season, and junior Anthony DiMauro will be at either 145 or 152 after taking third at 145 last year. Sophomore Jimmy Sauro, a fourth-place finisher at 152 a season ago, is moving up to 170.
Four other wrestlers who qualified for states are also back. Junior Matt Jacobsen, who qualified at 126, is wrestling at 132, while junior John Arruda, who qualified at 138, will likely wrestle at 145.
Junior Lewis Stewart was a qualifier at 170 last season, and he’ll wrestle somewhere near that weight again. Sophomore Chris Storti, a 195 qualifier from last year, is wrestling at 220.
“The goal is to place them,” Hennessey said. “Last year I think we took eight medals. Maybe this year I’ll set a goal to take 10 medals, which is kind of a lofty goal, but you’ve got to shoot high right?”
There are also some newcomers to the lineup. Sophomore Jonathan Celico is taking over at 106, sophomore James Swanson is handling the duties at 126, freshman Marc-Oliver Arcand is competing at 138 and junior John Grasso is at 160.
A few freshmen, outside of Arcand, have also come on strong early in their careers. Nick Berling will compete at 106, with Anthony Lanni doing the same at 120, Nick Martino fitting in at 195 and Frank Cole trying his hand at heavyweight.
“They’re fitting in really well in the room,” Hennessey said.
So far, Hendricken has had only one competition, as it went up to Maine to take on five out of state teams, where it went 5-0.
The Hawks are hoping that’s a sign of things to come, but they don’t have any illusions that it’ll be easy.
State championships never are.
“Cumberland is always a tough team,” Hennessey said. “You can never count them out. They’ve got great coaching and huge numbers. Even though some of the names on the roster might not be familiar, they’ll still be tough. Exeter-West Greenwich has a tough team this year, Mt. Hope has a tough team this year, Johnston, just to name a few. They’re out there. There’s five or six tough teams.”
Hendricken will get tested right away. It has its first dual meet of the season today at home against Mt. Hope at 7 p.m. The Huskies took fourth place at states last year and are considered one of the top contenders this season.
After that, Hendricken will compete in the North Providence Invitational over the weekend and then have a tri-meet with East Providence and New Bedford on Monday. Then it’s some time off for the holidays until the next dual meet, on Jan. 8.
The Hawks won their eighth title in school history last year. To win a ninth, they’ll have to go back-to-back for the first time since 1979-80, 1980-81.
As always, that’s the goal.
“Our goals don’t change, just the years,” Hennessey said. “As a coach, the goal is always to win a state tournament, go undefeated in dual meets, place high in the New Englands.”