Bishop Hendricken was the favorite, but after the first day of wrestling at the state tournament, the Hawks were looking far from invincible. They lost eight quarterfinal matches and found themselves in fifth place.
But there was a lot of wrestling left - and the Hawks never stopped.
Five of the eight wrestlers who lost in the quarterfinals - and another who lost in the semis - came back through the consolation bracket to the medal round. Coupled with a second place finish by Hunter Boesch and the 106-pound championship for Jason Davol, the Hawks were back in business. With eight place-winners and 168 points, they clinched the school's first state wrestling title since 2004.
"When we left yesterday, we were in fifth place, lost seven or eight matches," head coach Kevin Hennessey said. "But the kids showed their true character today. They knew that they were prepared physically. We just had to get our minds right. We said, 'We can't finish like this.'"
Exeter/West Greenwich and Johnston tied for second with 133.5 points. Warwick Vets finished 10th but had three wrestlers - John Altieri, Nate Colicci and George Schmeider - win individual state titles. Altieri won his third straight title, while Colicci and Schmeider each won their second in a row.
Aaron Travers led Toll Gate with a runner-up finish at 138, while Jordan DeSisto paced Pilgrim with fourth place at 120. Lincoln's Alex D'Aloisio won Outstanding Wrestler honors.
For Hendricken, the championship was won in Saturday's early action. Rob Lanni, Anthony DiMauro, Jimmy Sauro, Chris Barone and Dallas Sauer - all of whom had lost in the quarterfinals - each won three straight matches in the consolation bracket to get a shot at third place. Nick Celico, who lost in the semis at 113, also came back to get into the third-place bout. Lanni, DiMauro, Barone, Sauer and Celico then won their third-place matches.
"A lot of people lost in the quarterfinals," said Barone, who took third at 160. "We just had to come back strong as a team. We knew what we had to do. We knew we were in a tough spot, but we knew there was a chance to come back. We just had to wrestle."
The six wrestlers who got into third-place bouts were responsible for 110 points, most of which were accumulated after the Friday losses.
"Having that many guys come through the back is basically what won us the tournament," Hennessey said. "They worked hard."
Hendricken essentially clinched the title before the medal round and officially put it on ice with the parade of third-place victories.
In the championship round, Davol put the cherry on the sundae with an 8-2 victory over East Providence's Collin Cardoso. Davol, a junior, scored a takedown late in the first period to take control and never looked back.
"I had to score first and keep up a good pace throughout the whole match," Davol said. "It felt really good. That was the second goal for me. First was the team. Second was for me to win the individual championship."
The Hawks had a chance for another title at 182, but North Kingstown's Justin Zeramby held off Boesch for a 6-1 victory. Zeramby got the first takedown then picked up near-fall points in the second period. Still, it was a strong performance for Boesch, another junior.
"That's great for him," Hennessey said. "He worked hard. He had a good spot in the bracket and he kept performing."
That was a good theme for all the Hawks - they kept performing. In the process, they ended an eight-year title drought that included two second-place and three third-place finishes. Last season, Cumberland edged the Hawks by a single point.
"We're always right there, and we've had quite the drought," Hennessey said. "I'm just happy to get another one under our belt."
Warwick Vets wasn't in the mix for the team title, but the 'Canes matched runner-up EWG with three individual championships. Vets has now won 11 titles in the last three years and has captured at least one for six straight seasons.
Altieri started this year's run with the championship at 113. He won his first two matches by pin and posted a 15-1 victory in the semis. In the finals, he matched up with Cumberland's Cody Beaudette, a familiar foe.
"This is my seventh time facing him in my high school career," Altieri said. "We've always had good matches but I've never lost to him, so I felt pretty confident going in."
After a scoreless first period, Beaudette started down in the second but Altieri wouldn't let him out. Altieri started on bottom in the third and reversed Beaudette 15 seconds in. He stayed in control the rest of the way and won 2-0.
It's the third state title in three years for the junior. He'll now turn his attention to this weekend's New England Championships, which will be held at the Providence Career & Technical Academy.
"My goal is to win it," Altieri said. "That's what I've been working for all year. Last year, I came up short. This year, I want to get it."
Colicci will also have his eyes on a New England title, but he had a big hurdle to clear before he could look ahead. After two pins and a 13-2 victory, Colicci matched up with Moses Brown sophomore Andrew Howard in the finals and found himself in a battle. Howard reversed Colicci to take a 2-0 lead in the second period, before Colicci escaped to make it 2-1. Colicci started down in the third and tied the score with an escape.
From there, nobody could score a point. The match went through a one-minute overtime period before heading into the tiebreaker. In the last of three 30-second periods, Colicci held Howard down to win by ride-out.
The match was voted as the best of the final round.
"I felt good when I was on top," Colicci said. "He got out once but I felt like that was a fluke. I knew I could hold him."
Schmeider won the third title for Vets when he captured the crown at 160. Last year, Schmeider posted a dramatic overtime victory to capture the crown. This year's final match was nip-and-tuck, but Schmeider scored a second-period escape against Mt. Hope's Bailey Ziobro and stayed in control through the third period to clinch the 1-0 win.
"My first focus was to get the first takedown," Schmeider said. "When that didn't happen, I knew he was going to end up on the mat. On bottom, I knew I was going to get out. On top, I was very busy and I worked hard. That was where the match was won."
Like his teammates, Schmeider will now gear up for New Englands, with a goal of winning a title.
"My real goal is New Englands, and I'm hoping to do something there," he said. "I didn't do anything there last year and this is my last year. This is it."
Toll Gate took home one medal thanks to a second-place finish by Travers at 138. The junior won close matches in the quarterfinals and the semis to grab a spot in the finals opposite Scituate's Serge Bouyssou. It was a rematch of the finals at the Division II sectionals, which Bouyssou won 4-1.
This time, the match was scoreless after the first period. In the second, Travers started down and tried to roll through a hold. Bouyssou caught Travers on his back and pinned him with 1:06 left.
"We wanted to keep it 0-0 or 2-0 in our favor in the first period," Sabatelli said. "We did that. We got the choice. We took bottom. The goal was to get one. That's what we wanted. He tried to roll out of it. It's one of those things. You go high-risk and it doesn't always pay off. Unfortunately, Serge caught him at the right time and the rest is history."
It was still a strong performance by Travers, who qualified for New Englands for the second straight year.
"Still a great run," Sabatelli said. "He had a good tournament."
The Titans were hoping to take home a few more medals. Dave Navilliat got the farthest of Toll Gate's other competitors. He lost in the quarterfinals at 170 then dropped his first bout in the consolation bracket. Max Procopio picked up two wins for the Titans. Toll Gate finished 21st.
DeSisto was the top performer for Pilgrim, grabbing fourth place at 120 for the second year in a row. DeSisto was on the verge of the first championship appearance of his career when he posted a pair of pins on his way to the semis. Wrestling Cumberland's Kris Nordby there, DeSisto lost a hard-fought 9-7 decision. He came back strong to pin Cranston West's Max O'Connell in his first consolation bout before getting pinned by Hendricken's Lanni in the third-place match.
Mark Lenz also had a strong tournament for Pilgrim. After a loss in the quarterfinals at 138, Lenz won two straight matches before an overtime loss to Ponaganset's Daniel Petronelli. That put Lenz into the fifth-place match, but he responded with a 5-4 victory over East Providence's Mark Weeden.
Also for Pilgrim, Gage Potter made the quarterfinals at 220, and Michael Pereira made a strong run through the consolation bracket at 195, just missing the medal round after two straight wins.
The Pats finished 18th.