CUMBERLAND — The Cumberland High wrestling team opens practice today without returning state runner-up Erik Travers, who has become a key member of the football team this season.
The Cumberland gridders are scheduled to visit Chariho on Tuesday night in a Division II semifinal contest. Travers, a 5-foot-8, 150-pound junior, will start at cornerback on defense and halfback on offense.
“Erik missed last season with an injury,” football coach Chris Skurka was saying on Sunday afternoon. “This year, he started right away for us at cornerback. He had to learn the offense early in the season but once he became a starter, Erik has been making big plays for us on offense, too. He had touchdowns runs of over 60 yards against Coventry, Tolman and Woonsocket.”
Travers placed high in the state wrestling finals at 103 pounds as a freshman and then finished second to three-time state champion Mike Meyers of Warwick Veterans last March at 130 pounds.
“I expect Erik to wrestle at 145 pounds this season,” wrestling coach Steve Gordon said. “How much does he weigh right now? I’ll tell you exactly how much. He’s either 149 or 150 pounds. We did a skin-pull test on Erik and the lowest weight he can carry is 143. He’s in very good shape.”
Travers also has deceptive speed. He broke a 75-yard touchdown run in a playoff win over Tolman, shedding one tackle attempt five yards down the field and then sprinting alone down the sideline for the final 60 yards.
“Erik is deceivingly quick,” Skurka said. “He is also one of those kids who gives 110 percent every time out. He has gotten better each game this season. I think one of the things with wrestlers is their sport is so tough, they develop a mental toughness that serves them well in football.
“We practice five days a week in football to get ready for one game,” Skurka added. “We’ve had more than a few wrestlers play football for us and they all come with a lot of determination and desire. I think that’s one of the things about Steve Gordon and the great job he does with his program. The wrestlers get used to success and they bring that attitude with them to our football team.”
Gordon isn’t worried about Travers falling behind on the mat while the Clippers’ football team chases its state title dream. If the gridders win on Tuesday night, they will play in the D-II Super Bowl at noon on Sunday in Cranston.
“We don’t open our season until around Dec. 13 or 14 against Chariho,” said Gordon, who is still going strong at age 70. “I’m actually very happy when our wrestlers play other sports in the fall. It gives them a certain level of conditioning coming into our sport. Tommy Lacroix was one of the soccer team captains and he’ll be a big part of our wrestling team again this season.”
Cumberland, which finished second in the state team race last winter after going unbeaten 16-0 during the dual-meet season, will again contend for top honors, even after losing its standout 1-2 run of Shai and Shoneil Lariviere. (Shai is redshirting his freshman season at Missouri Valley College while Shoneil hopes to join the same program in the near future, Gordon said.)
The Clippers have four runners vying to replace the twins. Tyler Mobrice, Kyle Durkin and two more twins – Nick and Ben Tribelli – will wrestle off for the 120- and 126-pound jobs.
Travers and Lacroix are two returning veterans from last year, along with sophomore Kody Beaudette, who finished second in the state as a freshman at 103 pounds.
Sean Creamer, who finished fifth at 140 pounds last season, drops down to 132 for his senior year, according to Gordon. Senior Max Carlsten, a two-time junior varsity champion, will man the 152-pound slot.
The National Federation of High School Association for wrestling has tweaked the weight classes for this coming season.
“We’re going to wrestle at 106, 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 145, 152, 160, 170, 180, 195, 220 and 285 this season,” Gordon said. “I think the NFHS has made a huge mistake here. They basically took away a middleweight position and added an extra heavyweight position. You’re going to see a lot more forfeits this year in the upper weights. I don’t think there’s one state in the entire union that agrees with these new weight classes but the New England states have agreed to go along with it.”