CUMBERLAND – The best wrestling dual-meets build slowly, bout by bout, to a crescendo. Each match is important. Results in the earlier bouts lay the foundation for dramatic outcomes late in the contest.
That’s what happened on Wednesday night at The Wellness Center when an estimated 400 mat-crazy spectators watched Rhode Island’s only two unbeaten Division I dual-meet teams square off. Cumberland, carrying the burden of a 52-match winning streak nearly three years old, hosted a 13-0 Bishop Hendricken team most experts gave a slight advantage heading into this showdown.
In the end, Cumberland won the close matches, and got two big pins (worth six team points) from standouts Erik Travers at 145 and Tom LaCroix at 195 to build a 32-19 lead. Hendricken won the final two matches to end up losing, 32-31.
“I was planning to hold Tommy for the 220 match,” Cumberland coach Steve Gordon said, “until somebody told me we could clinch the meet with a pin at 195.”
LaCroix, undefeated on the season, dominated Hendricken’s Alex Knight, scoring the clinching pin just 42 seconds into the second period.
Travers put Cumberland ahead 16-13 with a second-period pin of Hendricken’s Daniel Cofone.
“I’ve got the biggest headache,” Gordon said after the match, one which saw the 70-year-old coach darting back and forth along the edge of the mat, exhorting his wrestlers on. “I think the key matches for us were at 132, 160 and 182.”
Sean Creamer came up big at 132, winning one of the first “toss-up” matches of the night, defeating Anthony DiMauro 6-3, after building an early 5-1 lead and then hanging on for the win, aided by a penalty point for an illegal hold against DiMauro in the final minute.
The Clippers had won only one of the first four matches – Cody Beaudette’s 18-5 waltz at 113 pounds. Hendricken opened with a 68-second pin at 105 by Jason Davol, and then scored decisive wins at 120 and 126 to build an early 13-4 advantage in team scoring. Creamer’s victory made it 13-7.
At 138, Cumberland’s Jon Maccino took charge against Nick Parente, scoring two takedowns and a reverse to win, 7-3. The Clippers now trailed 13-10 and the home side of the gym was buzzing with excitement as Travers, ranked No. 1 in the state at 145, took to the mat.
Travers, described as a “machine” by his coach earlier this week, destroyed Cafone, taking him down and to his back for a quick 4-0 lead that became 7-0 with a near fall at the end of the first period. Travers escaped within eight seconds to open the second period, then head-locked Cafone to the mat for a sudden pin that brought the home fans to their feet.
Max Carlsten put another brick in the foundation of this victory, rolling to an 11-0 win at 152.
At 160, another toss-up match loomed between Hendricken’s Dylan Bessette and Cumberland’s Aaron O’Toole, who got taken down and put on his back, squirming away with a 5-0 deficit after the first minute. Two escapes and a takedown got O’Toole back into the match. The lanky Clipper put on a leg ride in the second period that eventually elicited a stalling warning against Bessette.
O’Toole would go ahead 6-5 on two penalty points for stalling against Bessette in the third period. Bessette then got in deep in a leg with 30 seconds to go but O’Toole shrugged it off and hung on for the victory in the closing seconds.
“That was amazing,” Gordon said. “Aaron being down 5-0 and coming back to win was huge for us.”
Gordon then gambled at 170, sending out reserve Nick Szumita and bumping regular Chris Hayes up to 182. Hendricken’s Mike Gelardi, one of the top wrestlers in the state at his weight class, grabbed an early 4-0 lead before the lanky Szumita settled down and climbed to within 6-4 midway through the third period. Pushing to tie the match, Szumita lost his leverage, got reversed and pinned in dramatic fashion, bringing Hendricken back to 23-19 with four matches remaining.
“Szumita wrestled a fantastic match,” Gordon said. “I thought he might win that match but even though he got pinned, he did a great job.”
With the outcome on the line, Hayes went out and battled to a tense 9-8 victory over Hendricken’s Hunter Boesch. Hayes led 5-0 before Boesch stormed back to tie the match. A third-period takedown put Hayes up 9-6 before Boesch reversed with 53 seconds left. The Hawk got in on a leg with 22 seconds to go but couldn’t reel Hayes in. This was the last toss-up match of the night and it once again went in Cumberland’s favor.
LaCroix then sealed the deal. Hendricken’s Bill Stewart, seeded second in the state at 220, pinned Cam Williamson and the Clippers forfeited it heavyweight.
“This is a great match to win,” LaCroix said, “but it doesn’t mean everything to us. It’s not everything. We still have to beat Warwick Veterans next week and then we want to win the team title at the state meet. Beating Hendricken is great because they are such a good team, very competitive.”
Cumberland 32, Hendricken 31
106 - Jason Davol, Hend., pinned Dylan Bross, 1:08.
113 - Cody Beaudette, Cumb., def. Nick Celico, 18-5.
120 - Nick DiMauro, Hend., def. Kyle Durkin, 9-0.
126 - Louie Stewart, Hend., def. Kris Nordby, 11-6.
132 - Sean Creamer, Cumb., def. Anthony DiMauro, 6-3.
138 - Jon Maccini, Cumb., def. Nicholas Parente, Hend., 7-3.
145 - Erik Travers, Cumb., def. Daniel Cofone, 2:46.
152 - Max Carlsten, Cumb., def. Chris Barone, 11-0.
160 - Aaron O'Toole, Cumb., def. Dylan Bessette, 6-5.
170 - Michael Gelardi, Hend., pinned Kyle Szumita, 5:31.
182 - Chris Hayes, Cumb., def. Hunter Boesch, 9-8.
195 - Tom LaCroix, Cumb., pinned Alex Knight, 2:42.
220 - Bill Stewart, Hend., pinned Cam Williamson, 5:05.
285 - Dallas Sauer, Hend., won by forfeit