As a team that usually relies on its lighter wrestlers to lead the way to victory, Toll Gate got a nice surprise on Thursday against Hope.
Down 21-15 after the match at 152 pounds, the Titans flipped the script. They got four consecutive pins at 160, 170, 182 and 195 to clinch the 39-33 come-from-behind victory over the Blue Wave and improve to 5-0 in Division II-North. Hope fell to 0-2.
It was far from easy, but Toll Gate was happy to get a win and to see some of its heavier wrestlers rise to the occasion in a tight meet.
“I didn’t expect to be losing at that point in the match, but it was nice to see some new guys step up and do something positive and help contribute,” Toll Gate head coach Jerry Sabatelli said. “It’s the kind of team we’ve got.”
Up until Thursday, the wins had been fairly easy for Toll Gate in division action. It had defeated Moses Brown, East Greenwich, Barrington and Burrillville, and the team’s closest margin of victory was 15 over Barrington. Against the other three, the Titans won by a combined 131 points.
On Thursday, Toll Gate found out right from the start that it was in for a battle.
At 106, Colin Higgins fell behind 11-3 late in the third period to Hope’s Stanley Carter before catching Carter in an awkward position and pinning him to give the Titans a 6-0 lead.
Even though it got a pin, Toll Gate was fortunate to be in front.
“For some reason, Hope always gives us a tough time,” Sabatelli said. “You’re getting a bunch of tough kids over there. They don’t know the word quit on the mat.”
At 113, Hope got on the board with an 8-4 win by Ezekiel Mancini over Jake Jessop, and the Blue Wave took the lead at 120 when Darrek Kun pinned Christian Cusack 1:05 into the first period.
Hope added to its lead when Toll Gate’s Corey Longworth, wrestling in his first meet since suffering an early season concussion, retired with a 7-6 lead at 126. It was the safe decision, but suddenly the Blue Wave had opened up a 15-6 lead.
The Titans were undermanned without standout Austin Medeiros, but they still felt confident as they headed toward the strength of their team with Max Procopio and Aaron Travers at 132 and 138.
Procopio took care of business, pinning Hope’s Francis Soto at 1:31. Travers, though, couldn’t get a pin on Xavier Lopez, as Lopez played keep-away the entire match. Travers ended up with a 6-2 victory, tying the match at 15 apiece.
“They put a lot of pressure on themselves to get a pin,” Sabatelli said. “I try to tell them, ‘Just win. If you go out there and win, you’re doing your job.’”
Hope regained the lead with a tightly contested 6-5 win at 145 for Emmanuel Borsey over John DiGiuseppe, and the Blue Wave made it 21-15 at 152 when David Gonzalez outlasted Joe Martinez 3-0. Martinez was wrestling in his first meet of the season after battling mono all year.
But the Titans dug deep.
At 160, Joe Brosnahan battled with Hope’s Giovanni Chiossone and held a 2-1 lead before getting a pin with just 47 seconds remaining in the match. That was the springboard Toll Gate needed.
“Joe’s been wrestling really well,” Sabatelli said of Brosnahan. “Big surprise this year. First year in the varsity lineup. Working with guys like Dave [Navilliat] and Aaron [Travers] in practice, he’s only getting better. That’s helped his progression.”
Navilliat followed that up with a dominant performance at 170, ending in a pin at the 1:30 mark over Joshua Akindole. Next up was Joe Mercurio, and he pinned Steven Pena at 1:29 to put Toll Gate up 33-21.
Finally, Edmund Pierce completed the run of four straight pins when he took Isaac Maradiaga to the mat at 1:55 to put Toll Gate up 39-21 with just two matches remaining. That clinched the victory.
“Our upper weights came through,” Sabatelli said. “Usually our strength is down low with Aaron and Max. But it was nice to see the top of the lineup pick it up.”
Hope picked up a pin at 220 from Analdin Saldana over Matt Cullen and another at heavyweight from Corey Brinkman over Tim Warner to provide the final margin.
The victory for Toll Gate may have come, in part, due to a rigorous early-season schedule. To with the five league meets, the Titans have also wrestled five Division I opponents and competed in two tournaments.
Most recently, they took 10th place at the Marshfield, Mass. tournament out of 33 teams. They’re battle-tested, even though it’s only early January.
“Our guys are used to wrestling tough competition to help prepare us for matches like this,” Sabatelli said. “That’s one of the things that I look for when we come into these matches.”
There’s still plenty of work to be done, however, as Toll Gate has 11 dual meets remaining, including some tough ones later on in the season. On Wednesday, they’ll try to stay undefeated when they take on 2-1 Lincoln and 0-2 PCD/Juanita Sanchez at home at 4 p.m.
“We’ve still got some tough matches later on in the year with Narragansett and Exeter. They’re always tough opponents,” Sabatelli said.