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February 15, 2013

Melillo's return sparks Knights

North Andover goes 5 for 5 in finals, finish second to Winchester

NORTH ANDOVER — Zane Melillo had to sit and watch his North Andover teammates lose to Winchester in the North Andover duals a week earlier, and he didn’t like it.

“I felt like I let the team down and I wanted to redeem myself today,” said Mellillo last night at the Division 2 North sectional. “I knew the team needed me.”

The junior 132-pounder, who missed more than two weeks of action with what he said was a shoulder injury, did just that as he won his weight class in impressive fashion, dominating Winchester standout Quinn Gregory 7-0 in the finals. That raised his season record to 20-2, his only two losses coming at 138 and one of those was an injury default.

Mellilo was one of five North Andover finalists on the night and they all won their weight class. Five Knights also placed in the top four, giving the team 10 qualifiers for the Division 2 state meet Tuesday and Wednesday in Marshfield.

Despite that tremendous performance in the finals, North Andover finished runner-up to Winchester for the second straight year. The Sachems finished with 272 points with North Andover at 246 1/2. Central Catholic, with two champions among five finalists, was a solid fourth at 164.

The performance in the finals was a strong sign that North Andover will be tough to handle, both at the state meet and perhaps even at New England.

“We’re going for first (at New England) but we’re aiming for D2 states first,” said star 182-pounder Ryan Neals. “I’m proud of the way we wrestled today.”

Neals was as impressive as ever, remaining undefeated (32-0), following two pins with a 15-1 major decision in the finals, scoring all of his points in the final two periods.

Joining Neals on top of the podium for the Knights were 106-pounder Danielle Coughlin, who won her first sectional title with a 4-3 decision in the finals, 152-pounder Fritz Hoehn and 160-pounder Brad Drover. Hoehn decisioned Burlington’s rugged Luke Nigro, 4-2, in the finals while Drover pulled away from Central Catholic’s resilient Dave Sergi in his championship match, scoring all of his points in the final period of a 6-0 victory.

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