CUMBERLAND – As far as Cumberland High head coach Steve Gordon is concerned, the beauty of the Rhode Island Interscholastic Wrestling Championships is that anything can happen at any given moment; that you can toss all conventional wisdom aside due to the glory at stake.
“Once you get to the state tournament, all bets are off,” Gordon stated Thursday as he gathered his troops for one final day of preparation, as the event will begin today at 5 p.m. at the Providence Career & Technical Academy’s field house. “Time after time, I’ve seen a No. 1 seed get bounced by a kid he crushed during the regular season, and I’ve seen kids who weren’t really experience at the start get on a roll and do some really special things.
“The bottom line is you just never know,” he added. “Everyone has got to be on top of his game when he walks into the meet. That’s what it takes, being mentally and physically prepared.”
No one knows that better than Gordon, who last season celebrated his Clippers’ third Rhode Island team championship in his four-decade-plus tenure when senior Tom LaCroix registered a major decision over his opponent; the four points LaCroix collected helped Cumberland snatch the crown over Hendricken, the difference a mere 1.5 points.
Gordon doesn’t know if his contingent has the depth to pull off another title, but he’s sure he’ll have some bulls in the ring hell-bent on racking up wins.
The meet will start with 16 bracket preliminary matches, eight bracket quarterfinals and a first round of consolation bouts at 5 today, with consolations continuing at 10 a.m., Saturday; more consolations and semifinals will be contested between 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
At approximately 5:45 p.m., consolation finals for fifth and sixth places will open, with third- and fourth-place bouts beginning at about 6. Finally, after Rhode Island Wrestling Hall of Fame inductees from previous years are introduced, the finals are expected to start at approximately 7:15 p.m.
Gordon will have two top seeds opening their hopeful championship runs on Friday, and – not surprisingly – they’re senior co-captains Jon Maccini at 145 pounds and Erik Travers at 152. Should the tandem sail through their rounds, Gordon believes they will face off against Exeter/West Greenwich High’s twin brother tandem of Andrew and Christian LaBrie.
“If we make it to the finals and they don’t, obviously, that would be good for us, but that’s not in our plan,” he noted. “We’re expecting to meet them in the finals because they’re tremendous wrestlers. Those four guys (Maccini and Andrew LaBrie at 145, then Travers and Christian at 152) are the best in the state where they wrestle. The LaBries both won the state titles.
“Christian should face Eric, but they didn’t last year because Erik was upset in the quarters, but they did go at it at the New Englands,” he continued. “Erik lost by three or four, and Andrew defeated Jon for the championship at 138.
“I do think both of our kids are at the top of their game, and they’re wrestling well. They both have bad shoulders, but that shouldn’t mean anything; they’ll suck it up. After all, this is their last time, and both guys will be fine; they’ve been here before.”
The Clippers’ lone second-ranked grappler is junior Cody Beaudette at 113, and classmate Chris Hayes is seeded fourth at 170.
“Most of our other guys aren’t seeded really high, only sixth, seventh or eighth, but that’s OK; I expect them to wrestle better than that,” Gordon reasoned. “I want them to do the same things they’ve been doing all year in dual meets (Cumberland finished with a fine 12-1-2 mark in Division I-North.”
The veteran mentor is hoping to see a fine tourney from junior 120-pounder Kris Nordby.
“He’s a very tough kid,” Gordon explained. “He didn’t wrestle a lot this year because his brother was going into the military and Kris and his mother went to Texas to see him, so he missed some of the quad-meets. His power points were down, and he’s not seeded that high, but I think he’ll do very well. He’s really, really good.”
Another “dark horse” for Cumberland is junior 132-pounder Nick Tribelli, whom Gordon claimed produced some good matches this winter and is “peaking at the right time.
“Nick wrestled the DiMauro kid (also a Nick) the other night (in Hendricken’s 47-9 triumph over Cumberland), and it was a fairly close match,” he stated or Tribelli, who finally was pinned at 4:41. “DiMauro’s the No. 1 seed, so we’ll just wait and see what happens.”
Gordon also believes Lincoln High senior Nik Zicuis, who has the third seed at 220 pounds, to manufacture a superb showing.
“He’s a solid wrestler,” he said. “He’s the kind of kid who could wrestle back (through consolations rounds) and win the whole thing … I don’t know we’re going to do as a team, but we’re going to give it a go. We always try to do our best at states.
“Hendricken, obviously, is the team to beat, and it’s because they’re so deep. They’ve got a quality kid in every weight division, but it’s not over ‘til it’s over.”