111Even yesterday morning, it didn't seem likely that a young Timberlane squad could overcome heavily-favored Mount Anthony to capture an unprecedented fifth straight New England title.
But it's apparently not wise to doubt the Owls.
Led by senior star Zach Bridson, who defeated summer training partner Christian Monserrat of Methuen in a dramatic 113-pound final for a second New England title, and with terrific contributions from senior Luke Morrier and junior Adam Corey, Timberlane stormed to 77 points, comfortably ahead of runner-up Daniel Hand of Conn. (68 1/2) and Mount Anthony of Vermont (67) in third.
"I can't believe it," said Timberlane coach Barry Chooljian. "If someone had told me at the beginning of the season that this was possible, it seemed too hard of a goal. But, in the state meet and the Meet of Champions, we started to put it together and I thought it was possible.
"It took a team effort, but Morrier was a star for us. He had one of the best senior performances I have ever had to finish fourth."
With three placers, North Andover had its best finish since 1988, taking fourth with 61 points. Runner-up 145-pounder Brad Drover, third-place finisher Dan Connolly (160) and fifth-place finisher Ryan Neals (182) led the way.
Methuen rode the 145-pound crown of C.J. Doherty to fifth place with 57 points and Central Catholic, behind 126-pound champ Ryan O'Boyle and fourth-place finisher Pat Lacroix (120), came in seventh with 50 1/2.
Timberlane's Morrier lost his first match of the tournament, then won six straight, including a dramatic overtime victory over New Hampshire state champ Joey Page of Nashua North at 152 pounds.
Corey, a 120-pound junior, helped clinch the title in the consolation round. He scored a third-period pin for four points to wrap up fifth place, to give the Owls enough points.
"Once I had him on his back I knew I had to pin him," said Corey. "I slipped up a little earlier in the day, but I knew I had to do this for the team. This makes it a good day."
Bridson (47-2), frosted the Timberlane crown in the finals, by zooming out to a 10-0 lead in the first period and hold on for the win. He handed Monserrat (44-1) his first loss of the season and only the second of his career — both in the New England finals.
The win also gives Bridson a career record of 182-17, breaking four-time New England champion Matt Smith's school record for victories.
"That felt good but, after last year (finishing third), the big thing was getting the New England title," said Bridson, who was runner-up to O'Boyle as Outstanding Wrestler of the Meet. "I got out to a big lead and then I rode it out.
"I have a lot of respect for Christian. He's really good and scrambles and he's a tough competitor, so I had to be careful. I couldn't be happier to win this, and for the team to win it too. I think we proved a lot of critics wrong."
In the other all-local final, Doherty got an escape and takedown in the second period and added two points in the final frame for a 5-0 decision over Drover.
The win gives Doherty a 46-1 record, 180-16 for his career and gave him the title that barely eluded him last year when he was New England runner-up. It also avenged his only loss of the season. In two previous matches he had split with Drover.
"Wrestling him again definitely fired me up because I'm now 46-1 instead of 47-0," said Doherty. "That was definitely motivation."
The triumph capped a great career, because Doherty has no plans to wrestle at Nationals or in college.
"This is a great way to end it," said Doherty, who plans on going to trade school next year.
Drover, who was third at All-States, had a tremendous tournament and ended his season with a 51-8 record. Only a sophomore, he's 102-16 for his career.
Also for North Andover, Connolly had a superb tournament, winning his last two matches 8-0 and 7-1 to finish his senior season with a 47-2 record. Neals, a junior, also ended the season on a high note, with a 12-4 major decision for fifth place.
Two other local placers who came in fourth were Pinkerton 106-pound freshman Jean-Luc Lemieux, who had four pins and five straight victories before losing in the consolation finals. Also, Central Catholic's Lacroix took fourth at 120, also winning five straight consolation matches before falling 4-0 in his final match.
In a dramatic final bout, which was cited as the best finals match of the night, Brendan Battles-Santos of Nauset edged Manchester Memorial's Steven Dwight 5-4. It was one of the best heavyweight finals in recent memory.
New England Meet
Top team scores (160 teams): 1. Timberlane 77, 2. Daniel Hand (Conn.) 68 1/2, 3. Mt. Anthony 67, 4. North Andover 61, 5. Methuen 57, 6. Xavier, (Conn.) 52, 7. Central Catholic 50 1/2, 8. Warwick 48, 9. Exeter (R.I.) 45, 10. Newington (Conn.) 45, 10. Glastonbury (Conn.) 41 1/2, 10. West Springfield 41 1/2, 13. Newington (Conn.) 40, 14. Natick 39 1/2
Winners and local placers:
106: 1. Pascal Medor (Westhill, Conn.), 4. Jean-Luc Lemieux (Pinkerton); 113: 1. Zach Bridson (Tim), 2. Christian Monserrat (Meth); 120: 1. William Crisco (Daniel Hand), 4. Pat Lacroix, (CC), 5. Adam Corey (Tim); 126: 1. Ryan O'Boyle (CC); 132: 1. Brent Waterman (Belfast, Maine); 138: 1. James Smith (Natick); 145: 1. C.J. Doherty (Meth), 2. Brad Drover (NA); 152: 1. Ryan Niven (Tyngsboro), 4. Luke Morrier (Tim); 160: 1. Jake Straight (Pathfinder), 3. Dan Connelly (NA) ; 170: 1. Chris Chorzepa (Newington, Conn.); 182: 1. Devon Carrillo (Middleton, Conn.), 5. Ryan Neals (NA); 195: 1. Brandon Riggins (Norwalk, Conn.); 220: 1. Sean Marinan (Xavier, Conn.); HVY: 1. Brendan Battles-Santos (Nauset)