Wrestling season started more than a month ago, but like several teams around the state, Warwick Vets didn’t get its first taste of dual-meet action until last week.
It wasn’t the best start, as Cranston West picked up five pins on its way to a 45-36 victory on Thursday night. The ’Canes have already made some waves in tournaments this year, but their dual-meet debut was a reminder of what it’ll take for overall team success this season.
“For a lot of these new guys, this was their first time wrestling a dual meet,” said head coach Brendan Friel. “A lot of these guys don’t have that experience yet where they learn how to wrestle smart. In a tournament, if you’re down, you go for the win. They’ve got to learn, if they make a mistake out here, it’s not just that their day at the tournament is over; it’s going to ultimately affect the team.”
That knowledge should come in handy as the ’Canes try to mold themselves into a contender over the next few months. Vets has just two seniors in the lineup, and a few key injuries have left the team with some holes.
But the ’Canes now have some experience to draw on as they move forward.
“We only have two seniors on this team, and we’ve had some injuries,” Friel said. “We’re trying to make this not only a learning experience for them but a chance to get better.”
Cranston West is a similar team, with a few standouts but mostly a young roster, and Thursday’s match was close every step of the way.
After a pin by West’s Casey O’Connor at 106, Vets junior John Altieri – one of three returning state champions on the roster – notched a second-period pin at 113. Vets’ Davin Lourenco then won by forfeit at 120. Nathaniel Colicci – another defending champ – pinned Ryan Gomez with 34 seconds left in the second period of their match at 126, staking Vets to an 18-6 lead.
The next match was one of the most hotly contested of the night, with Vets sophomore Tom Galligan going up against West sophomore John Petrocelli. Galligan took an early lead thanks to a technical violation by Petrocelli and a first-period takedown. He then made it 5-0 with near-fall points early in the second period. But as Galligan pushed for a pin, Petrocelli reversed him then took him to his back, tying the match with two for the reversal and three near-fall points.
In the third, Petrocelli started on bottom, reversed Galligan again and then pinned him with one minute left. That turnaround made the score 18-12 in favor of Vets.
The ’Canes came back strong at 138, with sophomore Mickenzey Pacheco rallying from a 2-0 hole to pin Albert Renzi in the second period, making it 24-12.
That match was one of the biggest bright spots for the ’Canes.
“Mickenzey is one of my young guys,” Friel said. “He’s only a second-year wrestler. He works hard in the room every day. When he goes on the mat, he’s got to get that confidence. We told him to wrestle his stuff and his offense, and he did it.”
Unfortunately for the ’Canes, Pacheco’s pin was one of the last bright spots. With two 145-pounders ready to go and nobody in the 170, 182 and 195-pound weight classes, Friel opted to bump one of his 145-pounders to 152 and have everybody after that move up one spot as well. It didn’t work out, though, as West won three of those four matches.
Nick Almonte pinned Kam Boyajian with just 24 seconds left in their match at 145. At 152, Armand Vaziri held off Owen Amirault for a 5-3 win. At 160, Vin Mizzoni picked up another pin for the Falcons, giving West the 27-24 lead.
Vets came back with a pin by George Schmeider at 170, but the damage had been done.
“I made a decision today and it didn’t work out the way we wanted it to,” Friel said. “Had it worked out, that score would have been reversed. It was a choice I made and this was our first match. We didn’t have that run in December like a lot of other teams had so we had to base it off tournament experience. It didn’t work out for us, but hopefully we learn from it and turn those into victories later in the season.”
Vets forfeited the next two matches and Nick James clinched the victory for the Falcons with a pin of Aaron Hurst at 220. James Golen gave Vets a strong finish with a pin at 285, making it a 45-36 final.
“The young guys have to learn,” Friel said. “Tonight, we had a pin with 25 seconds left. We saw some guys rushing things and getting reversed to their backs when they had a lot of time. It’s learning that mat awareness and what we need to do in a match to win.”
While the young Vets wrestlers are learning the ropes, the team’s veterans are already putting together strong seasons. Both Colicci and Schmeider won championships at the annual Lowell, Mass., tournament, an event that is usually a good predictor of New England success.
In terms of the bigger picture, the goal is to have those standouts serve as an example.
“We’re trying to get those guys to step up as leaders in the room and say, ‘Hey, if you want to get to this level, this is what you have to work on,’” Friel said.
Vets returned to action Monday for a meet with Johnston and Westerly. Results were unavailable at press time. On Thursday, the ’Canes will visit defending state champion Cumberland.