EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 26, 2013

specialization debate

Two Hillie standouts: Chretien feeds off football, Millington focuses on wrestling

Dave Dyer

---- — The great debate for wrestling, as in other sports, is ongoing.

Is it better to specialize and, in the case of wrestling, work out and compete 12 months a year, or would it be better to take time off while remaining competitive in another sport?

There may be no correct answer as one can see, at least so far, in the case of standout Haverhill sophomores Luc Chretien and Reece Millington.

Chretien, the Hillies’ 182-pounder is also a superb football player and he spends a lot of his time and passion gearing for the gridirion season, while Millington is completely focused on wrestling.

In general, veteran Haverhill coach Brian Urquhart prefers the path taken by Chretien, especially since there is such a strong link between football and wrestling, but he won’t say that the direction taken by Millington is misguided.

“I’ve always been a three-sport type of guy,” said Urquhart. “I think it’s good to stay fresh, stay competitive. (Haverhill junior) Samie (Al-Ziab) is the perfect example. He does football and wrestling and does them both well. And I’m pretty sure that helps him.

“But there are exceptions and Reece is probably one of them. He’s just totally committed to wrestling and is able to keep at it. Not everyone can.”

Thus far, Millington does seem able to stay focused on wrestling, with virtually no break. Since the sixth grade, when he began wrestling on the insistence of his parents, he’s been going at it nearly nonstop, including intensive training at The Barn in Danville, N.H.

“Sometimes it’s a little bit of a grind, but I don’t think about other sports,” said Millington, whose uncle, Mike, wrestled at Haverhill and UNH. “I like the workouts. My first couple of years, I might have taken a month or two off, but not anymore.

“If you want to be a state champ, or an all-state champ, you have to wrestle year-round, especially in the summer and fall.”

Interestingly, Chretien — who also began wrestling as a sixth grader at the suggestion of his father — agrees with his classmate, saying that “being committed to one sport is what you need to do to be the best.”

Given a choice, Chretien probably prefers football to wrestling. But, fortunately, he doesn’t need to choose, especially since Haverhill coach Tim O’Connor is a strong supporter of wrestling.

Moreover, he recognizes the benefits of both sports and how they work off each other.

“I think both sports help each other, but wrestling helps you more for football, because of the stamina and toughness you need,” said Chretien, who also has trained extensively at The Barn.

Whatever path is better is difficult to say, but both Chretien and Millington had excellent freshman campaigns. Millington, who is at 132 pounds, was 24-11 and third at the sectional while Chretien — at a tougher (for freshmen) 182 — finished 18-13 and came in fifth at the sectional.

And both are off to outstanding starts this season. Millington is 7-0 and pinned his way to the 132-pound title at the Sons of Italy Tournament last weekend while Chretien is 7-1 at 182, his only loss coming in the Sons of Italy finals to the defending New England champion.

In addition to their offseason differences, the sophomore duo have different assets on the mat. Nicknamed Gumby, Millington has great flexibility and has some unique moves while Chretien — perhaps from football training and competition — has great strength and solid technique.

All in all, it may be a matter of different strokes for different folks.

Their different paths, however, both seem to be headed in the same positive direction.

One tough ‘Beast’

It’s tough to overestimate the difficulty of the Beast of the East tournament in Delaware, as members of the Timberlane team will tell you.

At the Beast over the weekend, the only Owl wrestler with two wins was Dan Scalzo and almost every other Timberlane wrestler went 1-2. The top local wrestler at the tournament was New England prep champion Andrew Konovalchik, who went 3-2. Brooks teammate Nate Gibeley went 1-2.

Brooks, incidentally, did quite well at a Saturday tournament at Turner Falls, finishing fourth without their big two.

Among the Brooks wrestlers, North Andover’s Owen Rosenberger was a champion at 220, Tom Caron was second at 113 and North Reading’s Chris Cervizzi came in third at 152.

Fabulous Friday

There have been some great dual meets already in the young season, but none will be bigger than tomorrow’s Timberlane-North Andover dual meet at North Andover. The Knights would like some revenge after last year’s lopsided defeat and I’d have to give them a slight edge.

Both teams have some excellent wrestlers, but North Andover seems to have fewer inexperienced wrestlers in the starting lineup.

Once again, the 7 p.m. varsity meet will be preceded by a middle school meet between the two powers and a JV meet. North Andover should prevail in JV matches, but Timberlane has a strong middle school team this year. In the first competition of the year for the Timberlane middle school, it had seven champions at the P.J. Sora Invitational at Londonderry.

Also Friday is the Pentucket Invitational while upcoming Sunday and Monday will be the highly regarded Bossi Lowell Holiday Tournament, which includes North Andover this year. If only Methuen would enter, all of the region’s top teams would be represented.


Fathers know best?

Both Reece Millington and Luc Chretien both began wrestling in the sixth grade at the strong urging of their fathers.

Millington’s parents almost insisted that he tried it, “because I wasn’t doing much of anything other than playing video games,” while Chretien’s father recognized the value of the sport and took Luc to watch some wrestling until he caught the bug.

Once introduced to the sport, it didn’t take long for the Haverhill sophomores to catch on.