---- — They’ve come a long way, but senior 182-pounder Chris Ferri and the Windham wrestling program have another step to take,
Freshman year, Ferri was one of the original Jaguars to help start the wrestling program under Tom Darrin. That first year wasn’t easy as Windham, with a roster of fewer than 20 wrestlers, had a varsity record of 3-10 and Ferri won just two of 11 matches.
“It was tough that first year,” admits Ferri. “The workouts were tougher than anything I was used to and everyone I wrestled had a lot more experience. I didn’t know what I was doing.”
My, how things have changed. The Jaguars improved to 15-10 the next year then were 20-7 and Division 3 state champions last year. They are currently 15-1 despite wrestling a much tougher schedule. Their only loss was by five points to Division 1 Pinkerton, which has also lost just once.
Just as important, the numbers have risen every year, to near 30 in the second year, 40 last year to over 50 this year.
Ferri, meanwhile, has improved at a similar pace. He improved to 24-12 as a sophomore and was 31-10 last year while finishing second at the Division 3 state meet. Currently, he’s 24-4 with all of his losses coming to Division 1 opponents.
“Chris has really become a great wrestler,” said Darrin. “He has learned the technique and he’s strong ... plus, he’s a great leader for our younger kids.”
Ferri and classmates Jeff Armstrong, Dylan Swiderski, Jeremy Cocciardi and Connor Golden are all holdovers from the original class and starters on this year’s team. They’re at the heart of the remarkable rise in less than four years.
But, despite taking pride in how far the program has come, there is at least one goal that has not been achieved.
“We’d really like to do better at the Meet of Champions and get someone to New England,” said Darrin. “That’s something we need to do a better job of.
“Of this year’s team, I would say Chris and Jeff Armstrong (25-6 at 113 pounds) are our best chances of making it.”
Ferri is definitely aiming for a state championship and he would love to advance to the New England meet. But, even if he doesn’t, he’s glad he decided to give wrestling a try as a freshman. He got a taste of it in eighth grade gym class and he was encouraged by his grandfather, who had a background in wrestling.
A three-year soccer player who switched to football this year and became a starter. Ferri’s best sport is lacrosse. He was the N.H. Division 2 defensive Player of the Year as a junior.
“Wrestling has done a lot for me,” said Ferri. “In lacrosse, I have better stamina than anyone and I started in football because of wrestling. I knew how to use my weight, how to use my body.”
At the same time, Ferri and his classmates have done a lot for Windham wrestling.
Showdown No. 1 tomorrow ...
North Andover, ranked the No. 1 team in the state last week by masswrestling.com, will be at Lawrence tomorrow in a battle to determine the MVC championship. North Andover clearly has more star power, but Lawrence has one of the top dual-meet teams in the region.
The key weights may be at 106 and 113 with Hector Reynoso and Rizky Riyanto for the Lancers and Danielle Coughlin and Peter Taylor for North Andover. Reynoso and Coughlin split last year and Taylor nipped Riyanto earlier in the year.
... showdown No. 2
Just a few miles away in Methuen, the Rangers will be favored to defeat visiting Central Catholic, although a lot will depend on the various injuries and sicknesses that have struck both teams.
The real showdown here will be the 126-pound duel between Methuen’s Christian Monserrat and Central’s Pat Lacroix, who not only are ranked one-two in the Kings of the Ring but in state rankings as well. Monserrat has never lost during the regular season and is a two-time New England finalist while Lacroix was 51-5 and took fourth in New England at 120 last year.
The 120-pound weight class is considered one of the toughest in the state and the top three-ranked wrestlers are from the Merrimack Valley Conference. They are Central Catholic freshman Brandon Desfosses, Dracut sophomore Jon Ryan and Billerica junior Nick DeRosa.
Pentucket star Tom Funk, who has lost just once all year, is only No. 7.
Plaudits to Pentucket
Congratulations are due for Pentucket which, despite having to forfeit two weight classes in most meets, put together its first winning season (15-9) in five years. Moreover, Dennis Puleo was named CAL Coach of the Year and the Sachems won the Sportsmanship award.
Seniors Tom and Jeff Funk wrestled as expected but others stepped up, including seniors Kevin Clark and Mike McCarron, junior Sean Clohisy and Josh Wesolowski, who is enjoying an outstanding sophomore season.
Gibeley out for year
Brooks junior Nate Gibeley will not be reaching all of his goals this year. Because of a ruptured disc, he’s out for the rest of the season. Andrew Konovalchik, who is part of the Brooks dynamic duo, also has been out off and on with a knee injury, but he should be back this week.
Deserving St. John’s
While it’s true that St. John’s Prep only needed to win two matches Saturday to win the Division 1 state dual-meet tournament at Chelmsford, the 38-3 Eagles probably would have won regardless of who showed up. They’re wrestling well right now. They beat Winchester and North Attleboro during the regular season and they gave Vermont power Mount Anthony a good test, winning seven matches in a 30-24 loss.
And, as head coach Manny Costa says, it’s not their fault that more than eight teams didn’t participate.
WRESTLING FAB 5 The Eagle-Tribune's weekly ranking of area high school wrestling teams: TEAM RECORD 1. Timberlane 22-2 2. North Andover 22-3 3. Lawrence 20-4 4. North Reading/Lynnfield 24-0 5. Methuen 22-4 Honorable mention: Pinkerton (17-1), Windham (15-1)