CUMBERLAND — Defending state champion Cumberland is not the early-season favorite to repeat, according to no less an authority than Clippers head coach Steve Gordon.
“Warwick Veterans is loaded,” Gordon was saying on Wednesday morning, a few hours before his Clippers would face North Providence and Mount Hope in a double-dual meet at Pilgrim High. “They finished six points behind us last year in the state meet and didn’t lose anybody.”
Cumberland returns two individual state champions in the Lariviere brothers – Shai and Shoneil – who will wrestle at 119 and 125 pounds, respectively, this season.
Graduation stripped the Clippers of several key contributors from last year’s champions, beginning with ace lightweight Jaron Parent, who won one state title during his career and finished second last year to Warwick Vets’ Mike Meyers at 125.
Cumberland also lost Cameron Glad, the state champ at 171, and third-place finisher Ricky McCoy (152).
“We’re not as strong as we were last year,” Gordon said. “We do have an influx of freshmen who are very good. Our expectations are the same every year. We want to win. A lot of it depends on our lightweights and how well the freshmen handle the pressure of wrestling at the varsity level.”
Gordon is speaking specifically of freshmen Cody Beaudette, who will handle the 103 slot, and Kris Nordby, who will take over for Shai Lariviere at 112.
“Cody is very skilled,” Gordon said. “He is a Middle School state champion who has worked very hard in the off-season. Kris Nordby is the brother of Kody Nordby, who wrestles for Woonsocket. He is very tough and skilled for his age.”
Shai Lariviere missed weight last week when the Clippers opened their season with easy wins over Chariho and Cranston East.
“Shai did not monitor his weight properly (in the offseason),” Gordon said. “He’s in a pretty lousy mood right now because he is cutting weight and he’s hungry all the time. That’s the life of a wrestler. I expect him to make weight for our tournament in Waterford, Ct. on Saturday.”
Shoneil Lariviere has moved up to 125 pounds after ruling the state at 119 last season.
“Shoneil is tough as nails,” Gordon said. “So is Shai. They are the leaders of this team.”
The twin brothers have each won two state titles. Shai captured a New England championship two years ago and finished third last year. Shoneil owns a fifth and a third at the regional meet. The two brothers have made major contributions to the program ever since they walked on the mat as freshmen three years ago.
Sophomore Erik Travers, who finished third in the state at 103 pounds as a freshman, has moved all the way up to 130 pounds.
“Erik can handle it,” Gordon said. “He was a tall kid at 103 last year and he has gotten even taller and bigger this year. He is a natural 130-pounder already. He even had to cut weight to make 130.”
Sophomore John Maccini, a starter last year at 130, will man the 135 slot for Cumberland. Junior Max Carlsten takes over at 140. And senior Nick Maccini returns at 145.
“Nick is incredibly improved this year,” Gordon admitted. “I think he is going to surprise a lot of people.”
Senior Chris Smith, fifth in the state last season at 140, moves up to 152 this year.
“Chris doesn’t have to cut weight this year,” Gordon said. “He’s pretty happy about that.”
Sophomore Brian Chea currently holds the starting job at 160. Senior Brandon Ferreri is another first-time starter at 171.
“Brandon has great strength and his technique is getting better,” Gordon said. “By the end of the season, he will be a force.”
Junior Tom Lacroix returns at 189, where Gordon expects him to be a strong contender for state honors.
At 215, football player Andre Lussier steps in.
“Andre wrestled as a freshman and then two took years off,” Gordon said. “He has some basic skills and is a pretty tough kid.”
Josh Delannoy returns at heavyweight.
“Last year, Josh wrestled at around 225 pounds,” Gordon said. “He is 255 now and looks very good.”
Cumberland will wrestle Barrington tonight before heading to the Waterford tournament. The Clippers won’t wrestle another dual-meet until Jan. 5. Cumberland will host the John D. Gorman Memorial Tournament on Jan. 15, an all-day affair that kicks the season into high gear.
The Clippers’ dual-meet season is back-loaded with the iron of the schedule not appearing until late January. Cumberland will visit perennial power Cranston West on Feb. 3. The Clippers travel to Bishop Hendricken on Feb. 9 and close out their regular season at home on Feb. 16 against Warwick Veterans, which is led by three-time state champ and two-time New England champion Mike Meyers, who will wrestle at 130 pounds this season. Meyers has lost just one match during his high school career.
“It’s going to be a battle,” said Gordon, who seemingly never tires of the challenge. “Hendricken and Cranston West look very good. Warwick Veterans is loaded. We’ll work hard and see what happens.”