By Dave Dyer
---- — PROVIDENCE — Chalk one up for Mount Anthony in the race for supremacy in New England wrestling.
The Vermont power from Bennington has been playing second fiddle to Timberlane for most of the last decade, but yesterday the Patriots took over the top rung in impressive fashion.
The Patriots, who were 24-0 in dual meets and had won six tournaments during the regular season, placed three wrestlers in the finals and rolled to the crown with 109 points. They easily outdistanced five-time defending champion and runner-up Timberlane (69 1/2), which struggled mightily in quarterfinal action earlier in the day, and North Andover, which came in fourth with 61 points.
The New England crown was the first for Mount Anthony since 2004 and the seventh overall for Mount Anthony, which puts the Patriots three behind Timberlane. Like last year, the Patriots were the pretournament favorite but, unlike a year ago, they delivered big time.
“We had a different approach this year,” said Mount Anthony coach Scott Legacy, who is in his 28th year as head man. “We wrestled tight last year and we lost matches because of it. This year, we came in loose but tried to keep up the intensity.
“This morning, it looked like a typical Mount Anthony-Timberlane battle, but we wrestled great today. We won the close ones. It’s a good feeling, but it’s also a relief.”
Mt. Anthony crowned champions at 132 with Miguel Calixto, who remained unbeaten after holding off Framingham’s Johnny Do, 8-6, and at heavyweight, where All-American Jesse Webb recorded a pin to push his season record to 59-0.
Also for Mt. Anthony, 113-pounder Troy Gassaway finished second.
The Patriots’ performance overshadowed an outstanding tournament for North Andover’s Big Three of Fritz Hoehn (152), Brad Drover (160) and Ryan Neals (182), who recorded a fourth and two seconds to lead the Knights to fourth place.
Of the three, Drover came the closest to a title, falling just a point short of South Windsor’s Mikey Amorando, 4-3, in the championship match despite a strong third period. He finished the season with a 44-3 record.
Ryan Neals fell in the finals for the second week in a row to Bridgewater-Raynham’s Aaron Conrad, who got an early takedown and took a 7-3 decision. Neals finished his season at 42-2.
Hoehn finished fourth, losing in the consolation finals after winning five straight matches in the loser’s bracket. In what was probably the toughest class in New England, he finishes the season at 45-5.
Runner-up Timberlane got places from Adam Corey (120), Josh Burnham (138) and Harry Denoncourt (182) and points from several other wrestlers. But the Owls’ chances of winning a sixth straight title faded in the quarterfinals when it suffered two overtime losses and a one-point setback. More close setbacks continued in the consolation round.
“We just had a tough day and that can happen in this tournament,” said Timberlane coach Barry Chooljian. “This morning, we still had seven guys who could place, but it just didn’t work out.
“We did have some kids wrestle well, but we didn’t have the superstars we’ve had in the past and that makes a big difference.”
Denoncourt prevailed with a 1-0 decision in his final match for fifth. Corey got out to a fast start and took a 6-3 decision for fifth while Burnham settled for sixth.
The second-place finish marked the fifth time the Owls have been runner-up to complement their 10 championships.
Lawrence’s Hector Reynoso continued his fine postseason by finishing fifth, gaining a forfeit in his final match, marking the highest place for a Lancer in recent memory. Only a three-year wrestler, he gutted out a quarterfinal victory before falling in the semifinals.
“Hector had a great postseason and wrestled like I knew he could,” said Lawrence coach Rob Niceforo.
Also from the MVC, Billerica’s Leo Trindade won the 195-pound crown in convincing fashion, 8-0 in the finals, and Dracut’s Mike Stewart won a tough 4-3 decision in the finals to grab the 138-pound title.
Dracut came in fifth overall and Billerica was 11th.
Andrew LaBrie of Exeter West-Greenwich was named the tourney Outstanding Wrestler after winning the 152-pound title in overtime. His twin brother, Christian LaBrie, won the 145-pound crown. They are juniors.
The Timberlane wrestlers weren’t the only locals who had a tough tournament. Methuen 132-pounder Paul Sughrue, an All-State champion with a 38-1 record, lost his quarterfinal match and then his first consolation match and Sanborn’s Jon Scheidegger went 1-2 after entering the tournament with a perfect 41-0 record.
Also, Central Catholic’s Ben Tavitian went 1-2 at 220 to finish the season with an excellent 55-6 record.
Overall, it was a strong tournament for Massachusetts, which had over 30 wrestlers in the semifinals. New Hampshire, on the other hand, didn’t have a wrestler in the finals for the first time in more than 15 years.
New England induction
Prior to the finals, former Methuen coach Bob Fitzgerald was inducted into the New England Wrestling Hall of Fame for his accomplishments in the Merrimack Valley Conference and his contributions to the sport.