The state championships begin in less than a month at the Providence Career and Technical Academy and plenty of wrestlers, through their performances at in-state and out-of-state tournaments, have started to make their case as title favorites.
And with only a few big tournaments left this season (Capital City Classic in Concord, N.H. and the Methuen (Mass.) Invitational) Rhode Island wrestlers have represented themselves well on the New England stage.
After wresting away the team title from four-time defending state champion Cranston West last February, Cumberland enters this yearâ€™s state tournament with at least two individual title favorites and several other kids who could go to New Englands.
The Clippers, following their fantastic effort earlier in the season at the Lancer (Conn.) Invitational, became the state title favorite, but Vets made their case Saturday when they put nine wrestlers in the final of their own tournament. Unlike last year when Cumberland was the clear favorite itâ€™s hard to say who the favorite is in 2011.
Cranston West, with its two returning New England place finishers, and Hendricken are vying for fourth while East Providence is also in the mix for a spot in the top five.
Just like every other year, there are some new faces competing for the 103-pound state title. Last yearâ€™s champion, North Providenceâ€™s Mike Murphy is now at 119 pounds and the only wrestler who finished in the top 4 who is back at the weight is Cranston Westâ€™s Kaitlyn Bouyssou.
Bouyssou was the favorite to start the season, but she injured her knee in a semifinal loss to Warwick freshman John Altieri at the Chelmsford (Mass.) Invitational. Altieri, who won the Hurricane Invitational, has yet to lose to anyone in state.
If Bouyssou can come back before the season ends, she is clearly a title contender, but if she doesnâ€™t make it back then it open up a spot in the final for Toll Gateâ€™s Austin Medeiros, the winner of the Marshfield (Mass.) Invitational.
Cumberland freshman Cody Beaudette has also built a nice resume with place finishes at three out-of-state tournaments. He won the Dean Tech (Mass.) Night Hawk title.
State final â€“ Altieri vs. Bouyssou.
Prior to the season 112 pounds appeared to be one of the most wide open classes in the state â€“ and then Hendricken freshman Matia Alvarez started dominating every opponent in his way.
Alvarez crushed all of his opponents at the Cranston West Invitational and the Chelmsford Invitational and then he went to the Woburn (Mass.) Invitational and defeated one of the top 112s in New England, Lowell, Mass senior Andrew Gauthier, in the semifinals. Alvarez went on to win the tournament.
Alvarez isnâ€™t the only undefeated 112 in the state because Coventry junior Dylan Olson has won all of his dual meets and earned tournament titles at the Chad Antoch memorial tournament and the Milford-Souhegan (N.H.) tournament.
Olson and Alvarez will meet later in the season and the Oaker still has to wrestle another contender for a final spot, Warwickâ€™s Nate Collici, who won the Hurricane Invitational Saturday. Olson beat Collici when both wrestlers were 103 pounds last season.
State final â€“ Alvarez vs. Olson
With three returning New England place finishers and two state champions from last season, 119 pounds is the deepest weight class in the state.
Cumberland senior Shai Lariviere, a two-time state champion and 2009 New England champion at 103 pounds, is the clear favorite considering he is undefeated and has already won tournaments in Connecticut (Lancer), Maine (Sanford Redskin), Rhode Island (Cumberland) and Massachusetts (Dean Tech Night Hawk).
Jacob Burrows, who has won the Belmont (Mass.) Invitational and the Hurricane Invitational, is also in contention. Murphy, who reached the Redskin semifinals before injury defaulting, has a win over Coventryâ€™s Nick Bottella and is the Cranston West champion.
Bottella won the Chad Antoch title and has a chance to make his case when the Oakers head to western Connecticut to compete in the Ridgefield Challenge Saturday.
Anthony Meyers, who finished sixth in New England last year, will have a hard time getting back to New Haven, Conn. with the competition at the weight class.
State final â€“ Lariviere vs. Murphy
Another very competitive weight class with a number of good wrestlers who have already won out-of-state tournaments this season is 125 pounds. Cumberlandâ€™s Shoneil Lariviere, a two-time state champion and two-time New England place finisher, has won three tournaments this season and posted a win over rival Ethan Gilman of Massabesic, Maine in the Redskin final.
Lariviere does have a loss this season and that gives hope to the chasing pack, which includes Joao Vicente of East Providence. The Townie posted a big win in the Belmont final over Massachusetts wrestler Sami Baghdady and he also owns wins over Warwickâ€™s Devin Hurst and Charihoâ€™s Derek Adams.
Adams has been dominant in his three tournaments with titles at South County, Chad Antioch and Griswold, Conn. The Charger suffered a 2-0 loss to Lariviere to start the season and a 7-5 defeat to Vicente over Christmas break.
State final â€“ Lariviere vs. Adams
Whatever weight class three-time state champion and two-time New England champion Mike Meyers ended up he was going to be the biggest favorite in the state. Meyers, though, did suffer a defeat to James Carroll of Needham, Mass in the Lowell Holiday final.
All that means is Meyers has two career losses and will be even hungrier to become the third Rhode islander to win four state titles and the third New Englander in the past four years, along with Trevor Deardon and Robert Hamlin, to win three New England crowns.
The wrestlers lining up to face Meyers in the state final are Toll Gateâ€™s Josh Travers, E-WG freshman Christian LaBrie and Cumberland sophomore Erik Travers, who has the best resume with titles at the Lancer Invitational, Nighthawk Invitational and Redskin.
State final â€“ Meyers vs. Erik Travers, but watch out for LaBrie.
The state final might have taken place at Saturdayâ€™s Hurricane Invitational when defending state champion Ricondo Cole defeated E-WG freshman Andrew LaBrie 14-6 in the final. Cole does have a loss this season, but he has looked dominant in tournament wins at Cranston West and Chelmsford.
Hendrickenâ€™s Mike Gelardi, was state finalist at 119 pounds last season, lost to Cole in the Chelmsford final 5-0 and won the Woburn Invitational in style.
Cumberlandâ€™s Jon Maccini has also wrestled well with a third-place finish at Redskin and a second-place finish at Nighthawk.
State final â€“ Cole vs. Gelardi, but LaBrie will be in the semifinals with a shot at the final.
Nothingâ€™s ever set in stone, but there is a clear No. 1 and a clear No. 2 at 140 pounds. Everett Desilets, who might be the favorite to win the 140 pound New England title, has mauled everyone heâ€™s seen this year. The senior, who finished third in New England at 130 pounds last season, won titles at Cranston West, Chelmsford, Warwick and Natick.
Warwickâ€™s Vinny Venticinque was pinned by Desilets in the final, but the Hurricanes are just looking for Venticinque to reach the final at states to earn them important team points.
South Kingstownâ€™s Dan Duffy is well placed to finish third and earn a spot at New Englands for the first time.
State final â€“ Desilets vs. Venticinque
This is the only weight class in the state that could feature two Division II wrestlers in the finals. East Greenwichâ€™s Steve Jarrell, a runner-up at 145 pounds last season, and Matt Minty of Narragansett have met three times this season.
Minty dominated the first contest in the South County final, but Jarrell won their dual-meet contest last week and pinned the Mariner in the Hurricane Invitational final. Minty and Jarrell will likely meet a fourth time prior to the state tournament at the Smithfield Invitational on Feb. 5.
The two Division I candidates to reach the state final are Steve Cusumano of Chariho and Dante Vita of Vets. The Charger lost to Minty in the Chad Antoch final, but he rebounded with an impressive performance in Griswold.
State final â€“ Jarrell vs. Minty
After Garrett Oâ€™Dowd left the South Kingstown wrestling team, 152 pounds turned into a free for all. Oâ€™Dowd was the clear favorite and now any one of three or four wrestlers could become a state champion
On the strength of his victory Saturday at the Hurricane, Johnstonâ€™s Mike Guadiana has to be considered the favorite, but he didnâ€™t look impressive in his victory over Cranston Westâ€™s Alex Pratt. Guadiana also beat Pratt in the Cranston West final.
Cumberlandâ€™s Chris Smith, who finished second at Night Hawk and fourth at Redskin is also a title contender.
Warwick sophomore George Schneider lost in the semifinals to Pratt but beat Narragansett freshman Mike Gallagher in the consolation final.
State final â€“ Guadiana vs. Smith
Jarred Burrows is clearly the favorite to win the 160-pound title, but there is plenty of depth at the weight class that could do damage at New Englands.
Burrows, who has won at Cranston West, Belmont and Hurricane, finished sixth in New England last season at 145 pounds. The Townie defeated South Kingstownâ€™s Sean Conley in the Hurricane final 3-0 Saturday.
If Hendricken is going to make a strong run at the state title then they will need to score tons of points at the upper weight classes and that starts with Kyle Aubin. Aubin, who won the Woburn Invitational and finished fourth at Chelmsford, is a candidate to reach the final.
Conley also put his name on the shortlist of candidates with his strong effort against Burrows Saturday. Charihoâ€™s Vance Dewey, a finalist in Griswold, also has chance to be in the mix.
Final â€“ Burrows vs. Conley
Nick Salois, a finalist last season at 160 pounds, made it clear who the favorite for the state title was the prestigious Lowell Holiday tournament over Christmas break. The Hurricane junior went all the way to the final before losing to Timberlane senior Nate Lawrence.
Salois has gone on to win the Chelmsford and Hurricane title to establish himself as one of the best 171s in New England.
Hendrickenâ€™s Brett Peltier has also had a strong season with wins at Cranston West and Woburn along with a fifth-place finish in Chelmsford.
Final â€“ Salois vs. Peltier
North Kingstown senior Jason Zeramby has a loss this season, but he solidified his status as the No. 189 in Rhode Island with that loss. Zeramby dropped a 2-0 decision â€“ both points came in the second period on back points â€“ to Connecticutâ€™s No. 1 189, Mark Dilley of Thomaston, in the Griswold final.
Zerambyâ€™s biggest competition was going to come from Kevin Stone of rival South Kingstown, but Stone hurt his right wrist and is out for the season.
With Stone a final spot has opened up for Hurricane champion Carl Neff of Exeter-West Greenwich, Hendrickenâ€™s Jeff Techintin or Cumberlandâ€™s Tom Lacroix.
State final â€“ Zeramby vs. Neff
South Kingstown senior Ryan Smith, if he hadnâ€™t done it already this season, showed he was the leading contender for the state title at 215 pounds with a dominating display at the Hurricane Saturday afternoon.
Smith is likely to see stiff competition from Woonsocketâ€™s Joe Rodriguez, Charihoâ€™s Griswold finalist Matt Hemme and Ponagansetâ€™s Nate Gould. Narragansettâ€™s Julien Nelson, who didnâ€™t wrestle at Hurricane Saturday, has a chance to impress when the Mariners head to the Mt. Greylock (Mass.) Invitational Saturday.
State final â€“ Smith vs. Gould.
East Providence sophomore Jonah Aurelio has pulled away from the rest of the field and established himself as the favorite. The Townie won the Hurricane Invitational and finished third at the Belmont Invitational
Aurelio lost a 3-1 decision in the semifinals of the tournament before pinning both of his opponents in the consolation round.
Westerlyâ€™s J.P. Harris, who won the South County and Chad Antoch tournaments, along with Cranston Invitational runner-up Anthony Zambarano of North Providence should be in the mix at the end of Saturday. La Salle senior Nick Barrett and Cumberland sophomore Josh Delannoy will also place.
State final â€“ Aurelio vs. Zambarano