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.
“Going 5 for 5 in the finals is great and I think that makes it look good for us at state,” said North Andover coach Carl Cincotta. “We got off to a little slow start, but we came on strong.”
Joining the champions at state for the Knights will be Peter Taylor (113), Dan Villalba (120), Nick Villalba (126), Nick Cincotta (138) and Cooper McLeod (145).
For Central, Pat Lacroix repeated as a sectional champion with a dominating performance at 126, recording a second-period pin in the finals, and Ben Tavitian controlled the field at 220, recording a pin at 1:14 in the finals and getting the award for most pins in least amount of time. Lacroix improved his record to 46-2 while Tavitian is 48-2.
Finishing second for the Raiders were 113-pounder Jack Kiely, 120-pound freshman Brandon Desfosses, 195-pounder Morgan Bronson and Sergi. Desfosses lost to Dracut’s Jon Ryan, who was named the meet’s Outstanding Wrestler.
Also winning for Dracut, which finished third, was Mike Stewart at 138, Jim Ryan at 145 and Jaycee Hebert at 170.
Winchester placed eight wrestlers in the finals, but only had two champions, both of whom defeated area wrestlers. Jack Kelley pinned Bronson in the 195 finals and heavyweight Dan McGurl pinned Whittier’s Dave Sachs. But the Sachems had the depth, which pleased head coach Larry Tremblay, who was named Division 2 North Coach of the Year.
Also for Whittier, Xavier Boisvert was third at 132 and Shahib Blount came in third at 170. Luis Matteo was third for Greater Lawrence at 220 while Jorge Quinnones was fourth at 106.
Division 2 North Sectional
Team scores: Winchester 272, North Andover 246 1/2, Dracut 182 1/2, Central Catholic 164, Beverly 115, Whittier 109, Gr. Lowell 106, Masconomet 95, Burlington 70, Salem 59, Gr. Lawrence 53 1/2, Tewksbury 41
Winners and top local state qualifiers (top 4):
106: 1. Danielle Coughlin (NA); 113: 1. Ryan Wiltalo (Gr. Lo), 2. Jack Kiely (CC), 3. Peter Taylor (NA), 4. Jorge Quinnones (Gr.La); 120: 1. John Ryan (Dracut), 2. Brandon Desfosses (CC), 4. Dan Villalba (NA); 126: 1. Pat Lacroix (P), 3. Nick Villalba (NA); 132: 1. Zane Mellilo (NA), 3. Xavier Boisvert (Whit); 138: 1. Mike Stewart (Dracut), 3. Nick Cincotta (NA); 145: 1. Jim Ryan (Dracut), 3. Cooper McLeod (NA); 152:1. Fritz Hoehn (NA); 160: 1. Brad Drover (NA), 2. Dave Sergi (CC); 170: 1. Jaycee Hebert (Dracut), 3. Shahib Blount (Whit); 182: 1. Ryan Neals (NA); 195: 1. Jake Kelley (Win) ; 220: 1. Ben Tavitian (CC), 3. Luis Matteo (Gr. La); HVY: 1. Dan McGurl (Win), 2. Dave Sachs (Whit)