WILLIMANTIC, Ct. – Cumberland High walked away with the team championship at Saturday’s Lancer Invitational, crowning two individual champions and seeing a third wrestler, Erik Travers, have victory stolen away from him by some sloppy officiating.
Jon Maccini (138) and Tom Lacroix (195) claimed individual titles for the Clippers, who accumulated 220 team points to run away with the title over runnerup Southington (Ct.), which took second place with 166 points.
The match of the tournament occurred in the 145-pound finals when Cumberland’s Erik Travers took on Brandon Walsh of nearby Griswold High. Walsh won the New England championship at 135 pounds last March. Travers is a junior who finished second in Rhode Island last year at 130 pounds and is considered one of the top wrestlers in the state. This was probably the most anticipated match of the finals.
“Erik took Walsh down in the first period for a 2-0 lead,” Cumberland coach Steve Gordon said. “He rode Walsh out the rest of the period but the referee warned him for stalling (while on top). Erik was running an arm bar series on Walsh to maintain control.
“In the second period, Erik threw Walsh with a headlock and the referee starts counting for back points,” Gordon added. “The wrestlers eventually rolled through and then the assistant ref stops the match for a discussion with the mat referee. When the smoke clears, they award no back points for Erik and take away the two points for the takedown. It’s still a 2-0 match heading into the third period.
“Everybody in the place was going nuts,” Gordon continued. “I had some things to say, too, but we still had to complete the match. In the third period, Walsh escapes and now it’s a 2-1 match. The kid is wrestling hard and he’s forcing Erik out of bounds. The ref hits Erik with a stalling warning but doesn’t penalize him a point (even though Travers had been warned earlier in the match). I’m not going to say anything. The match ends with Erik on top, 2-1. They raise Erik’s hand and both wrestlers walk off the mat. One minute later, the referees have another conference. They decide the stalling point should have been called and now they want to declare the match a tie and have them wrestle in overtime. Erik loses in overtime.”
According to the rules of wrestling, once the match is over, a winner declared and the wrestlers leave the mat area, it’s an official match. By the rules, Travers should have won the match, 2-1.
“The end of the story,” Gordon said. “is the head referee comes over to me later and said they looked at the rule book and once a kid leaves the mat area, the match is over. He tells me they can declare Erik the winner but I said don’t bother. Your referees screwed up the match. The final result doesn’t really mean anything. The two kids, Travers and Walsh, wrestled a great match. That’s all that matters.”
Gordon was more interested in how his team performed in its first tournament action of the season. There has been some preseason concern about how good this Cumberland team can become by the end of February. The Clippers lost two multiple state champions to graduation last June when the Lariviere twins grabbed their diplomas and left for college. Travers is expected to lead this year’s squad along with a few veterans like Jon Maccini and Tom Lacroix.
“What impressed me is we had 10 wrestlers who finished among the top four in this tournament,” Gordon said. “Cody Beaudette, a sophomore, took third at 113. Senior Max Carlsten finished third at 152. Junior Ryan Gaumond, a tough football player who is back wrestling after two years off, took third at 182. Bill Spaziano, a senior, made the finals at 170, losing to Devon Hurst of Warwick Vets. “
Jon Maccini beat Glastonbury’s Dave Jones 3-1 in the 138 finals with a takedown in the final 15 seconds. Lacroix cruised through the 195-pound bracket, tech-falling each of his opponents, Gordon said.
Cumberland will wrestle in a quad meet on Wednesday at Mount Hope and then host Barrington on Thursday in a regular dual-meet. The Clippers’ next tournament action is scheduled for Dec. 29-30 at Framingham, Mass.