By Dave Dyer
---- — SALEM — Senior 120-pounder John Rheaume hardly looked like an unsung hero last night.
Entering Salem’s match against perennial power Concord, Rheume was 14-2 on the year, had come in fourth in the Lowell Holiday Tournament, and had won more than 130 matches in his career.
Then, against the unbeaten Crimson Tide, Rheaume went up a weight class to 126 pounds to challenge Concord’s tough Dan Loscano and recorded a pin in 4:43 after dominating by a score of 10-2. Just another day on the mat for Rheaume, but who has noticed?
Rheaume has had the misfortune of always being in a weight class dominated by a state champion superstar, two years ago by Timberlane All-American Zach Bridson and last year by the Owls’ Adam Corey, who later placed in New England.
Add to the fact that Salem has struggled as a team in recent years and it’s easy to see why Rheaume has been overlooked. But it hasn’t discouraged him in the least.
“It’s tough when you go against Timberlane kids, who are so good, in the finals every year, but I know you have to wrestle the best to be the best,” said Rheaume, who hopes to wrestle in college. “It hasn’t bothered me that much.”
As for the Blue Devils’ lack of success, Rheaume said: “It’s been tough as a two-year captain not having the numbers. You always root for the team, but it’s always got to be a little bit personal. If you do your best and worry about yourself, you’re helping the team.”
Rheaume seemed to spark the Blue Devils, who ended up losing by a respectable 45-27 score to the Crimson Tide (7-0). With Salem trailing 18-0, Rheaume sparked the Devils to four straight wins and to within three points, 18-15, before Concord started pulling away.
Following Rheaume at 132, in what was the match of the night, was Jake Ginest. Trailing Brennan Haywood 10-5 in the third period, Ginest delivered a ferocious flurry to rally for a 13-11 decision. Freshman Avery Santiago then delivered a 10-5 decision at 138 and Lowell Holiday placer Tyler Siverhus finished the string with a 4-2 decision at 145.
Capping the scoring for the Blue Devils were pins by Connor Decket at 170 and Tyler Green at 285, the latter with one second left in the first period. Also wrestling well was 152-pounder Cody Sharpe, who gave Concord star Vinny Benicasa a tough battle before dropping a 7-3 decision.
“I was extremely pleased with the way we wrestled tonight,” said Salem head coach Wes Decker, whose club is now 7-4. “We wrestled tougher than we did in a couple of our wins.”
As for the unsung Rheaume, Decker said: “It’s been tough that there’s always a big star in his weight class but, for us, he’s the epitome of what we want in a high school wrestler. He’s a great kid, a terrific student, somebody who never complains, and just a great example for our younger wrestlers. I’d take 100 of him if I could.”
And Rheaume, while he has yet to reach the top podium, hasn’t given up on that goal.
“I want to get that state championship,” he said. “I’ve been close, but I’d like to finally get it done.”
Concord 45, Salem 27
126: John Rheaume pin 4:43; 132: Jake Genest dec. 13-11 ; 138: Avery Santiago dec. 10-5 ; 145: Tyler Siverhus dec. 4-2; 170: Connior Decker pin 3:52; HVY: Tyler Green pin 1:59
Records: Concord 7-0, Salem 7-4