Last Thursday, the Toll Gate wrestling team suffered a disappointing loss to Narragansett in a key Division II match.
But two days later, the Titans were riding high.
Toll Gate took home the championship at the annual Smithfield Invitational on Saturday. It was an impressive bounce back, a nice feather in the cap and – the Titans hope – a springboard for the postseason.
“It was exciting,” said head coach Jerry Sabatelli. “It’s always a good tournament up there, a lot of the D-II teams. Our guys wrestled well.”
Leaving the Narragansett loss behind was the first step, and it wasn’t easy. The Titans came in with a 12-2 record and Narragansett was 10-2. With Barrington also owning two losses, the top of the Division II-North standings is crowded. The Titans needed a win to keep pace, but the Mariners prevailed 48-30.
“It was a tough loss,” Sabatelli said. “That probably puts us out of the division title rice. The kids were down and out, but they regrouped quickly.”
The result was an impressive performance in Smithfield. The Titans had eight place-winners en route to the championship.
“Going in, I definitely thought we could compete,” Sabatelli said. “Our goal was just to have a good showing. Around two o’clock, we looked up and said ‘Hey, we’re in first place. We’ve got a chance here.’”
And the Titans finished strong, with six wrestlers winning their medal-round matches.
Ed Pierce was Toll Gate’s top finisher. He delivered some of the best performances of his career en route to a first-place finish at 182.
“He wrestled great,” Sabatelli said.
Aaron Travers advanced to the finals at 138, where he lost a close 5-1 decision to Serge Bouyssou in a meeting of potential state meet contenders.
Six other Titans were in the consolation finals, and five of them posted victories. Colin Higgins took third at 106, Max Procopio finished third at 132, John DiGiuseppe grabbed third at 145, Joe Brosnahan had a big win over Moses Brown standout Andrew McCahill for third at 160 and Dave Navilliat finished third at 170. Joe Martinez added a fourth-place finish at 152.
“The kids were really excited at the end,” Sabatelli said. “I brought 10 guys and eight of them placed. Those 10 guys have really worked hard all year. We’ve had injuries and ups and downs, but those guys have been there every day, working hard. They deserved it.”
The Titans will try to build on the championship with a strong finish. They were scheduled to wrestle Smithfield on Wednesday, with results unavailable at press time. The regular season finale is Monday at 7 p.m. at Cranston East.
After that, the Titans will set their sights on the Division II sectionals, which are slated for Feb. 15 and 16 at Ponaganset High School.
“I think EWG is the team to beat,” Sabatelli said. “You’ve got Narragansett, Lincoln – a lot of good teams. It depends on where our guys fall in the bracket but I think if we wrestle like we did in Smithfield, we can finish top five.”