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November 3, 2010

Haverhill pulls plug on wrestling

HAVERHILL — The Haverhill High wrestling program, which as recently as 10 years ago, enjoyed a 19-3 record and was third in the Division 1 North sectional, has been terminated.

Because of low numbers, athletic director Garin Veris pulled the plug last month and informed other Merrimack Valley Conference schools of the decision, allowing them to replace the Hillies on their schedules.

Numbers have been low the last two years, forcing head coach Brett Legault to forfeit as many as half the weight classes. After a "show of interest" meeting Oct. 14 failed to produce enough candidates, Veris informed Legault the next day that there would be no program this year.

"We just didn't have enough wrestlers to continue the program," said Veris. "Hopefully, something can be done in the future to get it back."

That decision was tough to swallow for Legault, a four-year wrestler for the Hillies and an assistant or head coach for 11 years, and the few surviving wrestlers.

Legault was just as disappointed that Haverhill was not able to form a co-op team with nearby Whittier Tech. The schools had a co-op team back in the 1960s.

"When I had my evaluation meeting after the season, I told him (Veris) that it was in the best interest of the school to go co-op and Whittier was the obvious choice," said Legault. "And I have suggested it to him several times since then."

Veris did approach Whittier athletic director Kevin Bradley about the idea in the summer, and Legault got a favorable response from Whittier coach Rich Durkin about it, but Veris decided not to pursue it.

"It requires a lot of paperwork and information and it takes time," explained Veris, who is retiring on Nov. 9.

According to Pentucket athletic director Dan Thornton, who is involved with co-op programs with Georgetown in golf and hockey, the co-op application process does take considerable time.

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