Around 1:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, the Bishop Hendricken wrestling team reached 168 points at the state tournament, the mark that the Hawks won the title with in 2013.
And they weren’t even close to being finished.
The Hawks won 11 medals and surged to their second consecutive state title without a hint of drama, clinching it long before the medal round. They finished with 221 points, 74 more than second-place Exeter/West Greenwich.
It’s the ninth wrestling title in school history and it may go down as the most emphatic. Hendricken’s 221 points approached the rarefied air of the Warwick Vets’ 2011 championship team’s 239 points, and the Hawks’ margin of victory is the largest at the state tournament this century.
“The kids wrestled really well,” said head coach Kevin Hennessey. “All their hard work paid off. I told them coming in, ‘All year, we’ve worked hard and we’ve done all the preparation we can. Let’s just go and perform.’ And they did. I’m very proud of them. I think 11 medals is our record, since I’ve been here.”
Senior Dallas Sauer and junior Nick Celico won individual titles for the Hawks. Jon Celico, Jason Davol, Lewis Stewart and Hunter Boesch joined them in the finals and ended up with second-place finishes. Anthony DiMauro added a third-place finish, James Sauro took fourth, Nick Martino finished fifth and Pierre-Louis Arcand and Matt Jacobsen each grabbed a sixth-place medal.
“We worked really, really hard,” said Nick Celico. “Last year, we changed the world. This year, we started a tradition.”
Hendricken’s road to the title last season had more than a few speed bumps. The Hawks lost eight quarterfinal matches and had to fight through the consolation rounds to get themselves into contention.
They had no such trouble this year.
Hendricken put 12 of its 14 wrestlers into Friday’s quarterfinal round and then won nine of those matches, putting itself on the inside track before wrestling even began Saturday.
And when it did, the Hawks kept right on going with six semifinal wins. Jon Celico beat Moses Brown’s Nicholas Teves 5-2 at 106, Nick Celico pinned Woonsocket’s Julian Jerez at 113 and Davol made the Hawks 3-for-3 with an 11-2 victory over EWG’s Blake Stamas at 120.
Jacobsen was edged out by Johnston’s Mike Caparco in the 132-pound semis, but Stewart kept the Hawks rolling with a pin of Toll Gate’s Joe Brosnahan in the semis at 160. Sauro nearly upset No. 2 seed Dylan Dupre of Coventry at 170 before losing in the ultimate tiebreaker round.
Boesch made the 182-pound finals with a 5-0 win over La Salle’s Onassis Valerio before Arcand was pinned by Mt. Hope’s Tyler Fenwick in the semis. Sauer became the sixth Hawk to make the finals with a pin of South Kingstown’s Spencer Winn in the 285-pound semis.
“Everybody was just working hard individually, shooting for bonus, trying to help the team,” Sauer said.
The Hawks picked up five medals in the consolation finals, with DiMauro’s third-place finish leading the way. He beat La Salle’s Aaron Wolfang 9-1 for the medal, which comes with a berth at the New England championship.
Sauro fought into the third-place bout, where he got pinned by Ponaganset’s Joshua Noury. Martino shut-out Mt. Hope’s Dominic Lombardo for fifth at 195. Arcand fell to Vets’ Devin Hurst 5-2 in his fifth-place match, while Jacobsen lost to North Providence’s Shawn McCarron by a 4-2 score.
At that point, the Hawks were well on their way to the team title, and they turned their attention to the championship matches.
Nick Celico gave the Hawks their first crown when he beat Moses Brown’s Abraham Bloom 5-0 at 113. Celico, the top seed, scored the first takedown of the match and was never threatened. He took Bloom down again in the second period then added a third-period escape point on his way to the championship.
“I was reminding myself of how hard I worked all year,” Celico said. “I know what I’m capable of. I knew if I wrestled to my capabilities, I would have no problem.”
Celico was a third-place finisher as a sophomore last year. This season, he went undefeated in regular-season matches and established himself as the favorite.
“It’s great for him,” Hennessey said. “He’s such a hard worker and he deserved it.”
In the last match of the tournament, Sauer grabbed another championship for the Hawks. Facing Mt. Hope’s Jared Sousa, Sauer fell behind 1-0 on a second-period escape but tied the match with an escape of his own in the third period.
After a scoreless overtime, Sauer took control in the first 30-second tiebreaker when he not only got out of Sousa’s grasp, but reversed him for two points. In the second tiebreaker, Sousa would have to score two points to stay alive, and Sauer didn’t let it happen. He stayed on top of Sousa the whole way to clinch the state title.
“I was just thinking, ‘I’ve got to win,’” Sauer said. “That was it.”
It was the first state title for Sauer, who was a third-place finisher last year.
“It was a pretty exciting heavyweight match,” Hennessey said. “They went after it. Fortunately, we came out on top.”
The other Hendricken finalists all ran into heavy favorites and couldn’t spring upsets. Mt. Hope’s Collin Cardosa beat Jon Celico 7-1, Warwick Vets John Altieri beat Davol 7-2 for his fourth state title, EWG’s Andrew LaBrie pinned Stewart for his third title and Narragansett’s Mike Gallagher beat Boesch 15-5 to capture his second championship.
Still, there was no shame in second place – those four tallied 91 of Hendricken’s 221 points.
“Everybody we had in the finals wrestled really well,” Hennessey said. “Great tournaments.”
Jamie Swanson, John Arruda and Steve Johnson also chipped in for the Hawks but did not medal.
Hendricken had some celebrating to do Saturday night, but seven of their 14 wrestlers will be back at the Providence Career & Technical Academy this weekend for the New England championship.
“We’re bringing half our team to New Englands,” Hennessey said. “We’re excited.”