No matter how dominant the Hendricken wrestling team had been during its first 14 regular season meets, the Hawks knew it was their 15th and final meet against Cumberland that would truly define their success.
And on Thursday, the Hendricken was able to get a pretty good definition. It did what no other team around the state could do against the Clippers for the past four seasons – win.
With both teams coming in to the meet unbeaten, it was a de facto division championship, but it never came close to living up to that billing. After the Hawks lost the opening match, they rattled off seven wins in a row en route to a dominant 47-9 victory.
The Clippers hadn’t lost since the 2008-09 season, and they’re the defending state champions. They beat the Hawks by a point in last year’s dual meet, and then went on to beat them at the state meet by one point as well.
Hendricken wanted this one. They got it – and made a statement in the process.
“It left a bad taste in our mouth last year losing by a point in the dual meet, losing by a point in the state tournament,” Hendricken head coach Kevin Hennessey said. “Honestly, Cumberland was our motivation.”
The Hawks finished the regular season 15-0, claiming the Division I-North title. It’s the program’s first division crown since the 2003-04 season – which is also the last time Hendricken won the state championship.
Cumberland, which had only maintained its unbeaten record during the season thanks to two ties, ended up in second place in D-I-North at 12-1-2.
“We knew we had to wrestle a perfect match to win,” Cumberland head coach Steve Gordon said. “We’ve been watching them. And we’ve been struggling all year. We got tied twice. I’ve got some really skilled kids, but I give away too much up top.”
Initially for the Clippers, everything went according to plan. Starting at 152, standout Erik Travers escaped from Hendricken’s Jimmy Sauro to start the second period, and then no other points were scored for the rest of the bout. Travers earned the 1-0 win, and Cumberland took a 3-0 lead.
That was the high point, though, for the Clippers.
It was all Hendricken from there on out.
Senior Chris Barone – celebrating Senior Night as one of only four seniors in Hendricken’s lineup – got the Hawks on the board at 160. He dominated Cumberland’s Cooper Paesang, eventually winning 17-0 and picking up five points for the tech-fall win. That made it 5-3, Hendricken.
“You have to get the team motivated,” Barone said. “If I don’t win there, the team’s in a slump. You have to get it rolling.”
It got rolling. Lewis Stewart held on for a hard-fought 6-5 win at 170 against Kyle Szumita, and Hunter Boesch beat Chris Hayes 6-1 at 182. Chris Storti outlasted Nick Girogio at 195, putting Hendricken in front 14-3.
Three close matches had all gone Hendricken’s way.
“If you win a close match, it’s a battle,” Hennessey said. “What happens is you get the momentum going and then no one on the team wants to be the guy to lose or wants to be the guy who doesn’t perform well. Winning is contagious.”
Dallas Sauer kept up the intensity, winning by way of pin of Cumberland’s Dylan Herrera at the 3:06 mark. Heavyweight Kyle Brichetto followed that up with a pin of his own at 1:46 over Matt Riley. At 106, the Hawks got a pin from Jason Davol over Kyle Creamer at the 1:30 mark.
Those three consecutive pins put the Hawks up 32-3. Cumberland had bumped some of the wrestlers in the top part of its lineup in hopes of keeping up with Hendricken there and then out-lasting the Hawks down low. It didn’t play out that way.
“We had to adjust our lineup,” Gordon said. “We couldn’t match them in certain weight classes. I bumped guys up at the top part of my lineup, and it didn’t work.”
The Clippers did manage a win at 113 when Cody Beaudette beat Nick Celico 4-2, but even that was a solid showing by the Hawks. Beaudette finished third at states last year.
“Every single kid wrestled tough,” Hennessey said. “In one of our losses at 113, Nick Celico against Beaudette – last year, he beat us up. This year, it was a couple point match. We’re closing the gap, and that’s what it’s all about.”
That win kept Cumberland mathematically alive, but any hopes of a huge comeback went by the wayside when Rob Lanni won 12-7 over Kris Nordby at 126. That made it 35-6 and clinched the victory for Hendricken.
“Kids who were here last year, we wanted it,” Barone said. “We were hungry for it. We lost to Cumberland by a point last year. We really needed this one.”
The Hawks finished strong, getting a 6-3 win in overtime from Matt Jacobsen at 126, a third-round pin from Nick DiMauro at 132 and a 4-3 win from John Arruda at 138. Cumberland’s Jon Maccini nipped Anthony DiMauro 4-3 at 145.
All in all, Hendricken won 11 of 14 matches, and the three it lost were by a combined four points.
“Our boys were ready to wrestle,” Hennessey said. “There’s no doubt about that. Every single one. Even the matches we lost, we fought the entire time. They were ready.”
Hendricken will now turn its attention to the state meet, where it is the favorite to claim its first championship in nine seasons. The meet will be held at the Providence Career & Technical Academy this weekend on Friday at 5 p.m. continuing at 11 a.m. on Saturday.
“I’ll enjoy this tonight,” Hennessey said. “Tomorrow morning we’re back focusing on the state tournament.”