EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 15, 2012

A big night for wrestling

Bill Burt
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — PLAISTOW, N.H. — Where have we seen this before: Student sections roped off for the home team and visitors; cameras covering the action for the local access cable TV; every seat in the gym and every parking space within 500 yards taken; a group of high school girls all wearing cutoff T-shirts with one letter of their school’s nickname written on their bellies.

I’ll tell you one place I’ll bet you’ve never seen any of the aforementioned dreams for a high school athlete — a regular wrestling meet.

But last night, Timberlane Regional hosted a wrestling meet of wrestling meets. Timberlane, the “baddest” program in New England with five straight N.E. titles and 13 straight state titles, hosted North Andover High, which is the three-time defending Div. 2 team champion in Massachusetts

The Knights like to consider themselves in the discussion as the “baddest” program in New England.

These two wrestling behemoths, only 12 miles apart, had been feuding for a few decades about their programs. Their backers and alums, usually anonymously in some wrestling chat rooms, would trash the other over childish things like who’s winning streak is longer or who’s state is better, etc.

Finally, the coaches spoke this summer and decided they would settle it on the mats, where this rugged sport settles all of its lingering questions.

The only thing missing from this “Super Bowl” type event was the drama. There was none.

Timberlane pummeled North Andover, 41-19. And quite frankly, it wasn’t that close.

Part of the problem was North Andover’s best two wrestlers — Fritz Hoehn (152) and Brad Drover (160) — were the last two matches of the night. This match was long over by the time these two competed (both won by pin), never allowing North Andover to get the momentum these team meets seem to live for.

“I feel bad because I wished it was a lot closer,” said North Andover coach Carl Cincotta. “The build-up for this was so much fun. I got calls from everybody. I just wished we had a better showing.”

The Timberlane fans took advantage of their mastery with basketball game-type cheers of “O-ver-ra-ted! O-ver-ra-ted!” and “It’s all o-ver!

It was beautiful.

Timberlane junior Tyler Fitzpatrick, who had a big win at 106 pounds over North Andover’s Danielle Coughlin, 3-0, admittedly enjoyed the chants, which he had never heard before.

“I did like it a little bit,” said Fitzpatrick, a junior. “We really wanted this. There was a lot of talk that they were going to beat us. That motivated us. It definitely motivated me.”

When it was over, though, the teams were very complimentary of each other while shaking hands. The coaches, Cincotta and Barry Chooljian, hugged.

“I know they’re disappointed,” said Chooljian. “But they really are a great program. I can tell how much pride they have over there. We have pride here too. It’s why this was such a great event.”

Chooljian and Cincotta met before the match — in fact the Timberlane and North Andover youth programs and their JV teams wrestled before the main event — to make it official the schools will meet next year. In North Andover.

“I already can tell you that they will have some cheers of their own,” said Choojian. “I’m looking forward to it. But we both have a lot of wrestling ahead of us this year. And this kind of match will make us both better.”

Yes, the record shows that Timberlane won Match 1 of the revival with North Andover. Convincingly.

But the biggest winner was the sport of wrestling. Last night, barely three weeks since the start of the first practice, wrestling was king.

You can e-mail Bill Burt at bburt@eagletribune.com.