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.”
Timberlane will need all the points it can get to overcome Mount Anthony, which has three superstars. Miguel Calixto, a three-time Connecticut champion who transferred to the Bennington, Vt., powerhouse, is 55-0 at 132, All-American heavyweight Jesse Webb is 49-0 and 113-pounder Troy Gassaway is 49-3.
Other Patriots who head coach Scott Legacy thinks could place are Dylan LaFountain (120), Kyle Fletcher (126), Tyler Mattison (170), Austin Price (182), Brandon Marcoux-Schaefer (195) and Jack Luciano (220).
Legacy hesitates to call his team the favorite, because he felt that way last year and things didn’t work out.
“We are approaching it much different than last year,” said Legacy, whose team also romped to tournament crowns at Chelmsford and Methuen. “We have talked a lot about going in wrestling each match one point and one period at a time. We know we are in the mix and anything can happen.
“We are not so caught up on who the favorite is. Each tournament we wrestle in we feel like if we wrestle well that we will win it.”
Other than Timberlane, Exeter West from Rhode Island and Danbury, Conn., are likely challengers. North Andover has an outside chance, but it would probably need stars Fritz Hoehn (152), Brad Drover (160) and Ryan Neals (182) to all make the finals and get some points from 106-pounder Danielle Coughlin.
Methuen should score heavily with 126-pounder Christian Monserrat and 132-pounder Paul Sughrue, both of whom have placed at New England before, and so should St. John’s Prep with sophomore 220-pounder Ian Butterbrodt of North Andover and heavyweight Corey Jean-Jacques of Haverhill leading the way.
Butterbrodt remains undefeated (54-0) on the year and was understandably named Outstanding Wrestler at All-State after outscoring his four opponents 59-2. Jean-Jacques also was impressive and will take a 55-3 record to New England.
Butterbrodt is one of two local wrestlers who enter New England undefeated, the other being Sanborn senior Jon Scheidegger (41-0), who hopes to continue his stunning season in one of the tougher weight classes.
Wrestling starts at the Providence Career and Technical Academy at 5 p.m. Friday with the first two rounds. Quarterfinals are at 9 a.m. Saturday with the semifinals at 1 p.m. and the finals scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m.
Local New England qualifiers Timberlane -- Tyler Fitzpatrick (106), Tim McLinden (113), Adam Corey (120), Ryan Peters (126), Dan Scalzo (132), Josh Burnham (138), Chris Pagliccia (160), Josh Riley (170), Harry Denoncourt (182) North Andover -- Danielle Coughlin (106), Fritz Hoehn (152), Brad Drover (160), Ryan Neals (182) Pinkerton -- Jean-Luc Lemieux (126), Kevin Ell (195), Cam Crowell (285) Methuen -- Christian Monserrat (126), Paul Sughrue (132) St. John's Prep -- Ian Butterbrodt (220), Corey Jean-Jacques (285) Central Catholic -- Pat Lacroix (126), Ben Tavitian (220) Lawrence -- Hector Reynoso (106) Salem -- John Rheaume (120) Gr. Lawrence -- Luis Mateo (220) Haverhill -- Samie Al-Ziab (220) Londonderry -- Amir Daouk (106) Sanborn -- Jon Scheidegger (152)