Tom O’Connor wasn’t happy with the way his Pilgrim team wrestled against Barrington on Thursday, but the day wasn’t done yet. With another match against East Greenwich looming, O’Connor’s group made amends in a big way.
The Pats redeemed themselves after a 67-12 loss to the Eagles, defeating the Avengers 40-39 to split their two matches at their Division II tri-meet. Senior Adam Landroche lifted Pilgrim to the victory, winning a major victory in the final match of the day at 113 over East Greenwich’s Adam Sullivan to give the Pats four points and the one-point win. They were trailing 39-36 entering Landroche’s match.
“I was very happy to see it was Adam and not one of my freshmen,” O’Connor said. “With only two seniors, it’s usually not them. Adam’s a gamer.”
Pilgrim improved to 2-2 in D-II-South, while East Greenwich – which also lost to Barrington earlier in the day – fell to 0-3. Barrington is 7-0.
“I was very proud of the effort we put forth in that second match,” O’Connor said.
It was quite a turnaround. Against Barrington, Pilgrim got pins from Landroche at 113 and Griffin Potter at 182, but lost every other match. The Eagles registered seven pins and cruised to the win.
Then the Pats sat back and watched East Greenwich wrestle Barrington. When it was time to take the mat again, they were ready.
“I think we just tried harder to get the win,” Landroche said.
The match started at 120, where freshman James Kozosko – one of eight freshmen in the starting lineup for Pilgrim – pinned East Greenwich’s Neal Glennon.
After a Pilgrim forfeit at 126, freshman Jacob Zuller got the ball rolling again with a pin at 132.
But the Pats then fell behind. Peter Brouillard registered a pin over Pilgrim’s Jacob McNamara at 138, and a forfeit at 145 and a pin by Ebed Jerrell over Tyler Parton at 152 gave East Greenwich at 24-12 lead.
At 152, freshman Garrison Potter held off East Greenwich’s Dan O’Hara into overtime, where he eventually lost 4-3. Though those points put the Avengers up 27-12, it was an important moment for the Pats, who could very easily have given up six points there but only gave up the three.
“Little Potter, instead of giving up six, wrestled hard and went into overtime,” O’Connor said. “That was pretty much the match right there.”
A forfeit by the Pats at 170 gave East Greenwich a 33-12 lead, limiting Pilgrim’s margin for error, but the team regrouped.
Griffin Potter registered his second pin of the day at 182, and Oluiwaseun Akinnusotu followed that with a pin at 195.
In the next two weight classes, O’Connor made a change. After using Mike Turchetta as his heavyweight against Barrington and Mike Pereira as his 220, those two switched spots against the Avengers.
“Just because of Pereira’s size, to go against the heavyweight,” O’Connor said. “With his height, we think that’s an advantage.”
The plan worked. Turchetta picked up a quick first-round pin at 220, and Pereira put the Pats in front 36-33 with a first-round pin of his own.
With two matches to go, both teams were close. East Greenwich sent out Andres Naranjo at 106 against Pilgrim’s John Castaldi, and Naranjo earned a first-round pin to put the Avengers back on top, 39-36.
It all came down to Landroche and Sullivan.
“Just got to work, work the whole match,” Landroche said of his mindset before he took the mat.
He dominated. He went up 4-0 after the first round, then 9-0 after the second. When time ticked out in the third round, he had won 16-2 and earned four points by virtue of a major victory. Pilgrim had a dramatic, one-point win.
“A pin is better, but I’ll take it,” Landroche said.
That win gave the Pats some much-needed confidence, especially for a young team.
“I’m starting eight freshmen right now, but we might be up to 10 when everyone is healthy,” O’Connor said. “You don’t expect to win with 10 freshmen, eight of which have never wrestled before.”
And though the team is already exceeding O’Connor’s expectations, the Pats want to keep it going and keep improving. They travel to 4-2 Lincoln on Wednesday at 7 p.m., and then travel to 1-1 Hope on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
Next week, they’ll see how they stack up with their chief rivals in the Warwick City Championship against Toll Gate and Warwick Vets on Thursday, Jan. 23 at 4 p.m. at Toll Gate.
“We’re just looking to get better a step at a time,” O’Connor said.