CUMBERLAND – The elite seedings for this weekend’s state wrestling championships bear out the dual-meet rankings for the regular season.
Unbeaten Cumberland, the defending state team champion, collected four No. 1 seeds. Cranston West earned three, as did Warwick Veterans. East Providence was honored with two top seeds – sophomore heavyweight Jonah Aurelio and senior 160-pounder Jared Burrows. Bishop Hendricken, also expected to contend for the team title, got one.
Two-time state champions Shaidai and Shoneil Lariviere of Cumberland received their customary top seeds for the third year in a row, this time at 119 and 125 pounds, respectively. The Clippers also got No. 1 seeds at 145 (Nick Maccini) and 189 (Tom Lacroix).
“I think the seedings were fair,” Cumberland coach Steve Gordon said. “I’m pleased we got four No. 1s and I like our brackets in a lot of weight classes.”
The team title generally goes to the group that gets place-winning performances from approximately half of its 14-man lineup so what happens with the top seeds is just icing on the cake. The majority of top seeds reach the finals. That’s why they’re ranked No. 1. The foundation for team championships is laid before the finals begin, as beaten teammates try to score points in the consolation rounds, where the incentive is to finish as high as third in their weight class.
This year’s tournament begins at 5 p.m. on Friday at the Providence Career and Technical Academy fieldhouse on Westminster St. The quarterfinals will be wrestled later on in the evening. The semifinals are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Saturday. That’s when the team race begins to take shape. The semifinal losers then drop into the consolation bracket, hoping to wrestle their way back to third place and accrue valuable team points along the way.
This tournament, tight as it appears to be among the top three or four teams, should come down to the outcome of Saturday night’s individual weight class finals that are scheduled to begin around 7:30 p.m. (Ceremonies begin at 7 p.m. with introduction of past champions and the national anthem.)
The Lariviere twins will each be going after their third individual state titles. Both are undefeated inside the state and are ranked highly in New England circles. Shai’s top competition should come from East Providence’s Jacob Burrows, who is seeded second. Burrows moved up two weight classes when E.P. wrestled Cumberland during the dual-meet season.
Shoneil Lariviere has a similar situation at 125 pounds. E.P.’s Joao Vicente is the second seed here. Vicente has the tougher draw. If form holds true, he will meet defending 103-pound state title Mike Murphy of North Providence in the semifinals. Shoneil should meet Warwick Vets’ Devin Hurst, whom he decked in the dual-meet last week.
Cumberland’s Nick Maccini lost only one match at 145 pounds this season to a Rhode Islander. Defending state champion Everett Desilets of Cranston West moved up from 140 to beat Maccini earlier this month. Desilets is the top seed at 140 this week.
“Nick Maccini is our most improved wrestler this season,” Steve Gordon said. “He did a lot of work at camps, he did a lot of lifting, and he learned how to win matches. Last year, he just couldn’t get over the top. He figured it out this year.”
The fourth Cumberland top seed, Tom Lacroix, might have been the team’s most valuable wrestler (not counting the twins). Lacroix won several key matches at 215. He is a tall, lanky wrestler “who is hard to get away from,” to use Gordon’s words. Lacroix lost a tournament match in triple-overtime to Hendricken’s Jeff Techentin, who is seeded third this week. He also lost to South Kingstown’s Kevin Stone, who is injured and won’t wrestle.
At 215, Ponaganset’s Nathan Gould is seeded second behind Ryan Smith of South Kingstown.
“Gould is a big 215-pounder,” Gordon said. “My guy (Andre Lussier) meets Gould in the preliminary round on Friday night."
Lussier is seeded fifth in the weight class.
At heavyweight, Aurelio, just a sophomore, will compete in a division that always seems to produce upsets. Tolman’s Jared Battersby is among the darkhorses to watch for. Warwick Veterans’ Pearce Thompson is the second seed. Cumberland’s Josh Delannoy, 12-4 during the regular season, is seeded fourth.
“It’s going to be a really competitive tournament,” Gordon predicted. “I think it will come down to which is the ‘hot’ team. Wrestling is a sport of momentum and that’s a big part of the state tournament.”
Cranston West, which had won four straight team titles before Cumberland broke through for its second win in six years last February, could build some momentum from its three top seeds – Ricondo Cole (135), Desilets (140) and Alex Pratt (152). Cole and Desilets won state titles last year.
Warwick Veterans leads with three-time champion Mike Meyers, who is seeded No. 1 at 130 pounds, ahead of Cumberland sophomore Erik Travers. The two wrestled last week in a match that was ruled a double default when Meyers, who shouldn’t have stepped on the mat due to a finger injury, had to yield in the second period.
“What did I learn from that match?” Gordon asked. “I think we saw that you have to be very, very careful when you wrestle Mike Meyers. He is so dangerous. But I did like the movement that Erik showed when Meyers was riding him. It wasn’t a case of Erik having his stomach flat to the mat.”
Travers can’t afford to look ahead. He has to wrestle each match as it comes, methodically going about his business, and only worrying about facing Meyers when and if the opportunity comes on Saturday night.
Bishop Hendricken has an odds-on favorite at 112 pounds in freshman Matia Alvarez, who could be the next great lightweight coming out of Rhode Island.
“He’s legit,” Gordon said.
Cumberland’s Kody Beaudette is the second seed at 103 and gave top seed John Altieri of Warwick Vets a reasonable battle during their dual-meet matchup earlier this month.
Warwick Vets also has the No. 1 seed at 171 pounds in Nick Salois. The Hurricanes are a deep team in terms of talent and could match Cumberland across the board when it comes to picking up consolation round points from its entire lineup. Both teams are short only in two or three weight classes. The same could be said for Cranston West.
East Providence coach Tom Galligan has always been a master of preparing his elite wrestlers for state title runs and this tournament should be no different. With two top seeds and two No. 2s, the Townies are positioned for a top five finish in the team race. They possibly could edge out Hendricken for fourth place when the smoke clears on Saturday night. Or, if things don’t go well, they might fall back to seventh or eighth place.
That’s the beauty of the state tournament. This is a volatile format that can blow up when mistakes are made and favored wrestlers find themselves staring at the lights after trying to make a clever move. Tournament wrestling is about patience, especially against a dangerous opponent.
“It’s going to be a great tournament,” Steve Gordon said, knowing full well that his state title team last year clinched its trophy when Cameron Glad scored a victory in the 171-pound championship final.
The Clippers beat Warwick Vets by six team points last year. This year’s tournament should be just as close. Look for Cranston West and Warwick to put a lot of pressure on Cumberland during Saturday’s competition.