Call it the Riley factor. As in Josh Riley, Timberlane’s standout 170-pounder.
If the five-time defending champion Owls are to somehow knock off favored Mount Anthony in this week’s New England Tournament in Providence, as they did in a surprise last year, they’ll need a boost from Riley.
In the only meeting between the New England powers this year, Mount Anthony finished first (as it did in every tournament) at the Lowell Holiday Tournament, scoring 241 points, comfortably ahead of the runner-up Owls (201).
But Riley, a two-time state champion who has a 33-4 record, didn’t wrestle at Lowell because of a staph infection.
”It was disappointing because we would have been right in it if I had been there,” said Riley.
The thinking is that with a healthy Riley, assuming all of the other top Owls compete to their potential, Timberlane has a chance to challenge Mount Anthony again.
That puts a lot of pressure on Riley, but he seems up to the task.
”I don’t see it as pressure — I see it as an opportunity,” said Riley. “It’s not a bad thing. It puts more of the spotlight on me and I have to come through.”
The Owls advanced nine wrestlers to New England. Overall, they’ll probably need five placers in order to challenge Mt. Anthony’s star-studded lineup. Being counted on heavily in addition to Riley will be 106-pounder Tylrer Fitzpatrick (42-4), 120-pounder Adam Corey (33-6), 138-pounder Josh Burnham (36-9) and 182-pounder Harry Denoncourt (39-4).
If Timberlane can get wins along the way from 113-pounder Tim McLinden, 126-pounder Ryan Peters, 132-pounder Dan Scalzo and 160-pounder Chris Pagliccia, it’ll be a much-needed bonus.
“I see our best chance to win if we get one finalist and a few placers, similar to last year,” said Timberlane coach Barry Chooljian. “I like our team and how we have performed in the postseason so far, but we need a great performance to win it.”