The plan for the Bishop Hendricken wrestling was to take a day off if they beat Cumberland in last Thursday’s season finale. Sure enough, the Hawks won in impressive fashion to finish off an unbeaten season, but Friday afternoon, they were right back on the mat.
“They asked us the other day, ‘If we beat Cumberland can we have a day off this week?’” said head coach Kevin Hennessey. “Before the match, I said, ‘Yeah, if we win, you get a day off.’ At the end of the night, I got them into a group and asked them what was going to separate us. They said, ‘Hard work, conditioning, dedication.’ I said, ‘You still want a day off this week?’ They said no way. That goes to show what this group is like.”
This weekend, that group will keep on working as they chase the ultimate prize at the state tournament. The defending state champion Hawks are the favorites again. Even after one of the most dominant dual-meet seasons the state has seen in years, another state title is all Hendricken wants.
“There might be a little bit of enjoyment tonight but I think when we wake up tomorrow and we’re ready to roll for practice, it’s go-go-go,” captain Hunter Boesch said after Cumberland win.
The quest begins Friday at 5 p.m., and continues Saturday at 10 a.m. The consolation and championship finals are set for 5 p.m. Saturday. All wrestling will take place at the Providence Career & Technical Academy.
Warwick Vets, Toll Gate and Pilgrim will also be looking to take home some hardware. Vets senior John Altieri is looking for his fourth consecutive state championship, Toll Gate has three Division II champions on the hunt for even bigger success and Pilgrim has several veterans hoping to be in the mix for medals.
When it comes to the team title, the discussion starts with the Hawks, who may be bigger favorites this year than they were last year. They were untouchable in dual-meets and had big tournament success as well this season. This weekend, they’ll have six No. 1 seeds.
“It’s good to know maybe the odds are in our favor,” Hennessey said. “Other people believe we’re going to win, not just us.”
At the same time, the Hawks know it’s a long road. Last year, they lost eight quarterfinal matches and needed strong performances in the consolation bracket to grab the title. They ended up winning eight medals.
This year, they’ll face challenges from the usual suspects. Cumberland, the 2012 state champ, is always tough, while D-II champion Exeter/West Greenwich is likely to win three titles and place several more wrestlers.
For the Hawks, their six No. 1 seeds will all have tough roads. Three of them are in brackets with wrestlers who have won state titles in the past.
“Cumberland is tough, EWG is tough, South Kingstown has some tough guys,” Hennessey said. “That’s why we wrestle it. You can’t award it just on what people think.”
Brothers Jon and Nick Celico give the Hawks medal potential in the low weights. Jon is the No. 2 seed at 106 and Nick – a third-place finisher last year – is the top seed and one of the favorites at 113.
At 120, senior Jason Davol, the Hawks’ only state champion last year, is the top seed but will have to go through Vets’ Altieri.
Jamie Swanson, Matt Jacobsen and Jon Arruda will be looking to break into the medal round after solid seasons, while Anthony DiMauro checks in as the top seed at 145. He’ll also have a tough path, with D-II champion Aaron Travers of Toll Gate, D-II runner-up Tyler Noury of Ponaganset and East Greenwich’s Ebed Jarrell, a state champ two years ago, all in the bracket.
Sophomore Steven Johnson will try to make noise as the No. 9 seed at 152, while junior Lewis Stewart comes in as D-I’s top seed at 160. His road goes through EWG’s Andrew LaBrie, a defending state and New England champion.
Sophomore James Sauro, a returning place-winner is the No. 3 seed at 170 and owns a win over Cumberland’s Chris Hayes, the top seed. Boesch is the No. 1 seed at 182 but that weight class includes D-II standout Michael Gallagher of Narragansett, a returning state champ.
Nick Martino will wrestle at 195 for the Hawks, with Pierre-Louis Arcand at 220. Senior Dallas Sauer rounds out the lineup as the top seed at 285.
“We’re going to the states to win the states,” Hennessey said. “That’s our goal – for all of our kids to wrestle to the best of our ability and get on that podium.”
The podium has been a familiar destination for Altieri, Vets’ senior star. He’ll try to become just the fourth Rhode Island wrestler to win four state championships, joining Coventry’s Dan Smith, Cranston West’s Shawn Giblin and his former Warwick Vets teammate Mike Meyers.
Altieri’s final quest has been his most challenging. He injured his shoulder in early January and hasn’t wrestled in a match since. He’s healthy now, though, and is ready to return to the mat. He’ll wrestle at 120.
“He’s been cleared by his doctors and he’s done a lot of physical therapy,” said Vets head coach Brendan Friel. “He practiced against some top guys in other weight classes this week. He’s looking good.”
Despite missing most of the season, Altieri will be the No. 2 seed thanks to a special circumstance provision in the tournament rules that allows exceptions for New England and state finalists. The goal is to avoid unfair match-ups, both for the wrestler in question and for strong wrestlers who might have to face him in an early round.
Altieri’s weight class includes Hendricken’s Davol, a returning state champ, and Cumberland’s Cody Beaudette, whom Altieri beat 2-0 in the 113-pound championship bout last year.
For his opponents, Altieri’s injury might have been the worst thing that could have happened.
“If having the chance to win four in a row wasn’t enough, the injury just took him to another level,” Friel said. “Even in the emergency room the night he got hurt, he was telling me he was going to be ready for states. He’s been incredibly focused. Not only did he come back in shape, he came back in better shape.”
Joining Altieri in the state title hunt is Vets junior Davin Lourenco, who will be the top seed at 132 pounds. Lourenco beat No. 2 seed Kris Nordby of Cumberland in the regular season, establishing himself as one of the favorites. He’ll face a challenge from the D-II ranks, though, with Moses Brown’s Andrew Howard, a state runner-up last year, also in the mix.
Sophomore Owen Amirault is seeded fifth for Vets at 152. Nick Thompson, Logan Amirault, Kendall Watts, Robert Thomas, Ronald Larocque and Aaron Hurst will also compete.
Coming off a third-place finish at the D-II championship, Toll Gate is looking to make some noise at states. The Titans could be poised for their highest finish since they took fifth in 2008.
Three D-II champions – Max Procopio, Travers and Ed Pierce – will be angling for state medals this weekend. Procopio will wrestle at 138, Travers will be at 145 after a runner-up finish at 138 last year, and Pierce will wrestle at 195. Seniors Dave Navilliat and Joe Brosnahan, runners-up at the D-II meet, hope to be in the mix at 160 and 170. The Titans also have Zach Caldarone, John DiGiuseppe, Joe Mercurio and Tim Warner set to go.
Pilgrim will send seven wrestlers to states. The contingent is led by D-II medalists Oluiwaseun Akinnusotu, Mike Turchetta and Griffin Potter, along with veterans Adam Landroche and Mike Pereira. Sophomore John Pierce and freshman John Castaldi are also in the tournament.