Hendricken wrestling takes gold

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The Bishop Hendricken Hawks took first place in the 2019 Rhode Island Interscholastic League Wrestling State Championship Tournament on Saturday at the Providence Career & Technical Academy.

Finishing in second place, out of the 35 schools that participated, was last year’s champion, Ponaganset, who finished with 190 points.

Junior Andrew Fallon, senior Nathan Williams, and sophomore Nick Fine, each earned goal medals for Hendricken, while Cameron Bailey, a junior, brought home silver after reaching the 220-pound title match.

Hendricken earned ten medals in total during the tournament on its way to the top spot.

The team victory gives the Hawks their 12th state title, which is the sixth championship for Hendricken head coach Kevin Hennessey.

And, Hennessy wouldn’t have been happy if his team, who went undefeated during the regular season, landed anywhere but No. 1.

“I would have been disappointed,” Hennessey said. “There were a lot of tough teams in it. In my eyes, we were the favorite coming into it after our dual meet season. And, the kids wrestled really well. And, I’m proud of them. They worked hard. Some kids lost early and they fought back to medal, which shows a lot of character.”

Rounding out the top ten teams, were Chariho in 3rd place, followed by, Cumberland, Coventry, Mt. Hope, Hope High, North Kingstown, La Salle and North Providence, respectively.

Fallon got Hendricken’s first title win at 120 pounds when he defeated Ponaganset’s Mike Joyce by a 3-1 decision in extra time. Fallon finished the tournament with a total of 27 team points.

Next, Hendricken’s Williams appeared in his fourth straight finals match and won gold at 126 pounds after shutting out Cumberland’s Colby Reilly by a final decision of 4-0. Williams concluded the tournament with a total of 26 team points.

“I’m really excited,” Williams said. “It was a great match. Colby wrestled really well. And, I’m just really proud of the way the Hendricken team performed today and yesterday. Overall, I was super proud.”

Then, the Hawks received their final gold medal at 138 pounds when Nick Fine, a sophomore, beat Chariho’s Kyle Merritt 6-5 in a thrilling match. Fine escaped a pin attempt during the final seconds of Round 3 to hold on for the victory. The match could have arguably been awarded the Match of the Night. Fine finished with a total of 28 team points.

“The hard work all paid off,” Fine said. “Working really hard in the room and it was great to come out with a lot of wins. It feels great.”

Next, Fine has his mind set on winning the New England Title.

“I’m definitely going to keep working hard,” Fine explained. “I’m really looking forward to New England’s and stuff. That’s the real goal. A lot of respect for everyone I wrestled today. Kyle was a great finals match, and I think we should have gotten Match of the Night, but you know, you can’t win them all. But, he’s a great kid, and we’ll definitely keep working hard.”

In the 220 match, Hendricken’s Cam Bailey took second place when he was pinned by Ponaganset’s Luke Cirka at 5:19 of the match. Bailey totaled 23 points for Hendricken.

Then, there were six more Hawks that placed.

Noah Sclama, a freshman, and Isaiah Guerrero, a sophomore, each finished in 4th at 113 pounds and 132 pounds, respectively, while Matt Maroney, a sophomore, took 6th at 145 pounds.

Hendricken’s Nathan Reid, also a sophomore, finished in 3rd at 152 pounds after beating Cranston East’s Nick Rutherford.

“That was awesome,” Reid said. “It’s the greatest feeling. Our team all around came out and performed, not just individually, but as a team. Because every time we step on the mat, every single person, we’re not just fighting for just ourselves, we’re fighting for the team, for our families, for our school, and we’re trying to make history. And, we did today.”

Lastly, Hendricken senior Dillon Swanson finished in 5th at 182 pounds, and Adolfo Betancur, a freshman, placed 3rd at 285 pounds.

The Pilgrim Patriots, who finished in 16th, got two 5th place finishes from Brady Burke (132 pounds) and Ja’mon van Heyningen (138 pounds).

“That last four years, I’ve just come so far as a wrestler,” van Heyningen explained. “And, I’m happy with how far I’ve come this season. I feel great right now.”

Burke, who was battling a 102 degree temp just a few days prior, fought through more than just adversity to earn a medal.

“It’s just pure heart, honestly,” Burke said. “It takes a lot out of you to do this sport, but I always look into myself and try to pull everything I got. I put everything into this sport. That’s how I got through today. Just pure heart.”

Pats head coach Tom O’Connor feels good about how the season went.

“As a whole, we did well,” O’Conner said. “We’re young and we’re learning. We brought eight kids here in total. Six made it to the second day. So, that’s good.”

“There were a lot of matches today,” O’Connor continued. “And, it’s tough for these kids to get used to wrestling on a Friday night, Saturday type thing, but they did good. I’m very happy for them.”

Toll Gate didn’t place any wrestlers during the tournament, but the Titans had a heck of a regular season.

“It was a good season for us,” Titans head coach Jerry Sabatelli said. “We were built more for a dual meet verses a tournament type of team this year. But, we had a few guys make it to the round of 12.”

“Guys like Dylan Barker, Kendall Calev, and Yash Verma, they really filled some key holes for us to put us in a position that we were in this year,” Sabatelli explained. “I’m pretty proud of these guys. Biggest team I’ve ever had.

“Twenty-five guys, Sabatelli said. “They showed up every day. They went 15-2 in our league. They won some matches out of state. We placed some guys in some tough tournaments out of state. But, we’ve got some good returning guys. Our senior class, just like every year, we’ll miss them, but hopefully we can build upon what we have done this year.”

Toll Gate’s top wrestler Will Niles (138 pounds) looked back on the season with a positive attitude.

“I don’t think our placement or points we scored at the state tournament really defines our season,” Niles said. “We’re a good dual meet team. We won our division. So, I think we were really successful. We don’t have enough depth to be a good tournament team. But, for the people that followed us all year round, we were really a successful team in that manner.”

“It was good to be my coach’s first group to win two division titles in four years, Niles added. “So, it felt really good to get it my senior year.”

Toll Gate’s Barker, a sophomore, also had a big year at 132 pounds, totaling 30 wins for the Titans. Barker finished the tournament with a record of 3-2 and hopes he and his team can build on their success come next year.

“We’re going to offseason grind for the rest of this season, and then, all year we’re going to push,” Barker said. “Next year, I’m going to try to come back and try to win this.”

The Outstanding Wrestler Award was given to Coventry’s Joziah Fry. Fry pinned Mt. Hope’s Nick Gomes at 2:35 of the 106 pound match. The Best Match Award went to the 160 bout, which saw Hope’s Ayomide Onajide defeat North Kingstown’s Danny Brown with an 11-6 decision.  

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