CUMBERLAND â€” As Warwick Vets High compiled consecutive wins and pins in the earlier segments of this Division I-North showdown Thursday evening, Cumberland High junior Matt Kayâ€™s level of nervous butterflies increased five-fold per battle.
When it came time for him to take the mat against fellow 220-pounder and Hurricanesâ€™ sophomore James Gogan, and his Clippers trailing 36-30, Kayâ€™s anxiety reached its peak.
â€śI knew I had to win; if I didnâ€™t, we were done,â€ť Kay stated. â€śEspecially with the undefeated thing on the line â€“ that is, the team â€“ I didnâ€™t want to be the one responsible for our first loss.â€ť
Kay manufactured a two-point takedown and two-point nearfall with 1:11 left in the first period, and â€“ with two ticks left in the opening session â€“ recorded a three-point nearfall to take a commanding 7-0 lead. Just 17 seconds into the second two-minute period, Gogan mustered a one-point escape, but it took Kay only 10 more ticks to throw Gogan to the mat, and another two to pin his shoulders.
With that triumph, at 2:31, not to mention teammate Matt Rileyâ€™s victory by forfeit, veteran mentor Steve Gordonâ€™s troops had secured a thrilling 42-36 verdict before a crowd of at least 150 at the Wellness Center.
â€śLike I said, I was nervous, but I also knew I felt stronger; I knew I could lock up with him,â€ť Kay stated after his Clippers remained unbeaten at 2-0-1 in league action, and he improved his individual mark to 2-1. â€śI was able to hit a toss early on, and â€“ the second time â€“ I decided Iâ€™d go to the well again. It paid off.
â€śRight now, Iâ€™m so psyched,â€ť he added with a grin. â€śIt was probably the most nerve-wracking match I ever had, but we won. Weâ€™re still undefeated, and Iâ€™ll take it!â€ť
Kay wasnâ€™t the only one to feel the anxiety.
â€śWarwick Vets is always tough,â€ť noted senior Erik Travers, a co-captain with Jon Maccini. â€śItâ€™s become quite a rivalry over the past few years, and this was too close for my liking. They came out on fire, and some of our guys werenâ€™t ready for it â€¦ But Matt pulled off a big one. He came up big for the team.
â€śI can speak for each and every member of this team that we were all nervous (entering Kayâ€™s bout). They had kept racking up the points, and I wasnâ€™t sure if weâ€™d be able to come back. I was going nuts. Thanks to Matt, weâ€™re still unbeaten.â€ť
Cumberland had notched an easy win when freshman Kylie Creamer pinned Nick Thompson just 42 seconds into the 106-pound match, but John Altieri collected an 11-7 triumph over junior Cody Beaudette at 113, and that sparked a run of five straight Hurricane wins.
Davin Lourenco dropped Joe Passanante at 1:28 at 120; Nate Colicci did the same to Brett Abilheira-Cargill at 3:10 of the 126-pound bout; sophomore Tom Galligan (son of East Providence head coach Tom Galligan Sr.) pinned senior Kyle Durkin at 5:04 at 132; and senior McKenzie Pacheco snatched an 11-4 decision over senior Richie Whitman at 138.
Courtesy of that verdict, Vets had cushioned its lead to 24-6. The Clippers, however, responded in kind.
Maccini needed only 1:32 to pin Owen Amirault at 145, and â€“ at 152 â€“ Division II Super Bowl MVP Travers rode a 7-1 first-period advantage to another pin at 3:01 to cut the deficit to 24-18.
Vetsâ€™ co-captain George Schmeider eventually pinned fellow senior Kyle Szumita at 5:33 in the 160-pound division, but Cumberland junior Chris Hayes (170) and sophomore Nick Giorgio (182) both received six points due to forfeits to knot it at 30-30.
The Hurricanes, who fell to 1-3 in league, regained the six-point cushion after junior Devon Hurst corralled senior Brian Chea at 195, but thatâ€™s when Kay took care of business, despite the nerves.
When asked how he felt about Kayâ€™s critical victory, Gordon grinned, â€śHe won the entire match for us, so what do you think?â€ť
Then he described the Clippersâ€™ woes at this early juncture of the campaign. He claimed he had to go to battle without usual starter and junior Kris Nordby at 120 (due to a stomach ailment) and Nick Tribelli at 132 (flu-like symptoms).
â€śWe were bobbing and weaving to assemble a lineup early on,â€ť he stated. â€śWe knew it was going to be tight because it always is against Vets. They donâ€™t have a ton of depth, but they have very good wrestlers, especially in the lower divisions. We were giving them at least six points (at 120 and 132), and â€“ if we got pinned â€“ 12 points.
â€ś(Those absences) hurt us, but what are you going to do?â€ť he continued. â€śYouâ€™ve got to wrestle with what youâ€™ve got â€¦ We havenâ€™t had a full complement of wrestlers all season. Once we get them back, and have a whole lineup, weâ€™ll be OK.â€ť
Stated Travers: â€śItâ€™s a brand new team, so weâ€™re not thinking about (earning a second consecutive state title). Weâ€™re just thinking one match at a time. If you think too far ahead, youâ€™re going to lose, so weâ€™re just going match by match.â€ť