CUMBERLAND — The twins are going off to college. And that’s big news around this town, where Shaidai and Shoneil Lariviere lit up the wrestling scene at Cumberland High for the past four years.
Shai Lariviere, the two-time state champion and former New England champ, has decided to attend Missouri Valley, a NAIA school that finished sixth in the country last year. It is located in Marshall, Missouri, smack in the center of the state, halfway between St. Louis and Kansas City.
Shoneil Lariviere, also a two-time state champ, will attend Millersville State, a Division I wrestling school located three miles south of Lancaster, Pa. right in the heart of Amish Country.
The twins, who have been inseparable on the mat for half of their lives, are splitting up. Both will wrestle at 125 pounds in college, which meant they couldn’t go to the same school without competing against each other for the same position.
“The twins are finally splitting up,” said their stepfather, Bob Gibbons. “They had some offers for the same school but I think they knew all along they would have to go to different schools.”
“I only applied to two colleges,” Shoneil said. “I looked at Arizona State and Millersville. Millersville is a good academic school and I want to go into teaching. It seemed to be a good fit for me.”
Shai and his mother, Sasha, took a road trip last month, driving out to Missouri Valley to check out a school that had shown interest in the former New England champion.
“It’s a lot different out there,” Shai said. “We saw a lot of farms as we drove through the Midwest. When we got to Missouri Valley, I really liked the team and the coach. I made up my mind right then to attend Missouri Valley.”
Bob Gibbons said Missouri Valley wrestles several Division I schools, including perennial power Iowa.
“If Shai shows he can win at this level, Missouri Valley coach Mike Machholz said he wouldn’t stand in his way if Shai wants to transfer to a Division I program,” Gibbons said.
Missouri Valley is a NAIA wrestling power, a team that went 18-1 and won the dual-meet championship this past season.
Millersville State coach Todd Roberts found out about Shoneil through the Internet.
“We’re recruiting more and more over the web,” Roberts said. “I did some research on Shoneil, saw his recruiting file, and then we received video clips of his wrestling. I was very impressed. Shoneil is very explosive. I liked the way he is aggressive and going for big moves. He’s short in stature and should be our 125-pounder for at least two years and maybe all four. Our current 125 had trouble making weight this past season and should be moving up to 133.”
Roberts was asked what adjustments Shoneil has to make to succeed at the college level.
“He’ll have to keep lifting weights and get as strong as possible,” the coach said. “His techniques are pretty good but against strong college kids, you can try a move and get overpowered if you aren’t strong enough to finish it off. Also, it’s not uncommon for a freshman to go up against a college opponent who is 22 or 23 years old.”
Both Larivieres know they must get stronger to finish off their big moves against college opponents. Shai has grown from a 103-pounder in ninth grade to a young man who weighs around 135 pounds in the offseason. Shoneil is currently carrying 138 pounds. Most college wrestlers are 10 or more pounds over their competitive weight until they start getting ready for the season.
“I have to make the adjustment to wrestling seven minutes in college,” Shoneil said. “The first period in college is three minutes. I think I’ve always been a strong wrestler but I have to keep lifting weights to get stronger.”
Shai has recovered from a season-ending ankle injury suffered in late February that ruined his chances to compete for a third straight state title and second New England title.
“My ankle feels fine now,” he said. “I’m lifting weights and I have to start running again, now that my ankle is better.”
The twins look back on their high school careers with pride.
“I think I’m most proud of the fact that we had three undefeated dual-meet seasons and went 74-1 as a team,” Shai said.
“Only losing one dual-meet in high school was pretty amazing,” he said. “I’m disappointed I lost in the finals of the state tournament. My head wasn’t in the match. Shai was hurt and I guess I didn’t wrestle my best.”
In college, the twins will have to communicate through their Facebook pages, or over the cellphone.
“Separating is going to be tough for them,” Cumberland coach Steve Gordon said. “I think the schools they chose are a good fit. Both will be 125-pounders. I am sure they know what is involved. They certainly have the skills. College requires a lot of discipline, not only with wrestling. They have schoolwork to do. They have to make the adjustment to college. They’re great kids and I know they will do well.”
Gordon had one more thing to say about the twins.
“We had a state championship team in 2005,” the coach said. “Probably the best team I’ve ever coached. When the twins came along a couple years later, they became the face of our program. They helped keep us at a high level and we won another state title with them leading the way. They really grew up over their four years in high school. I wish them all the best. We’re going to have to be very diligent and work hard to keep the program at this level, but we have a lot of good wrestlers coming back.”