EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 14, 2013

Will Timberlane finally be overtaken next year?

Owls' star power may be suspect, but don't discount Owls overall talent

Dave Dyer

---- — Maybe, just maybe, there will be some cracks in the Timberlane dynasty next year.

The Owls, who were runners-up at New Englands this year after five straight crowns, have been the area king for well over a decade, but they’re graduating six quality seniors and, for the first time in recent memory, will not be returning any New England placers.

Timberlane will remain highly competitive with everyone, particularly in dual meets but, in bigger meets, it could be vulnerable against the likes of North Andover, which — if it avoids key injuries unlike this year — could be stronger and possibly even Pinkerton. The Astros’ only loss this year was to Timberlane.

“I think we’re getting there (to beating Timberlane) and I’d like to think that next year will be our year,” said Pinkerton coach Dave Rhoads.

“That’s our goal — and it should always be your goal — to be the best.”

Pinkerton graduates only three senior starters and it has some fine individuals, like 126-pound state champ Jean-Luc Lemieux, 195-pounder Kevin Ell and impressive freshman Dylan Barreiro, plus a couple of promising eighth graders. But it may be premature to count on Timberlane slipping much.

The Owls, after all, have suffered heavy graduation losses before and youth coach Tim Brown is confident that this year’s seventh and eighth grade classes are particularly strong.

“Graduating four state champs is always difficult ... I’m sure a lot of teams will be gunning for us,” said Timberlane coach Barry Chooljian.

“Next year we may not be as solid in all weights for dual meets but I am excited about our talent as a team.”

For the bigger meets, it’ll be up to the likes of juniors Tyler Fitzpatrick and Tim McLinden and freshman Ryan Peters, all of whom had fine seasons, to step it up to an even higher level.

Credit for NE tourney

Although I still believe the New England Tournament belongs in Massachusetts, with the Merrimack Valley Conference (underline Lawrence High) the ideal location, I have to admit that Providence put on a much improved meet this year.

Communication was good, there was wireless internet access for the media (unlike last year) and the earlier start for the finals, in conjunction with the bouts for third and fifth, was a terrific idea.

It got everyone home earlier and — if Mount Anthony hadn’t been ahead by so much — could have supplied more drama than the old format.

Mount Anthony, meanwhile, will be tough to unseat next year.

The Patriots return 10 starters, including unbeaten heavyweight Jesse Webb, and they always have at least a few top freshmen.

New England on display

The quality of New England wrestling will be on display Saturday at the All-State Wrestling Festival in New Jersey.

All-Star teams from New Jersey, Delaware, New York and Florida will be on hand.

Central Catholic’s Pat Lacroix will be competing in the 126-pound class as one of four New England runners-up along with nine New England champions.

The top weights for New England, it says here, will be at 132 with Mt. Anthony’s Miguel Calixto, 195 with Billerica’s Leo Trindade and heavyweight with Mt. Anthony’s Jesse Webb.

Plaudits for Holder

Former Timberlane standout Jay Holder is getting plenty of praise for his squad’s performance at the D3 Northeast Regionals. Although no team scores were officially kept, Springfield easily outdistanced all the other New England schools and qualified six for nationals.

Wrote one post on masswrestling.com: “Jay Holder has done a fantastic job at getting his athletes to peak at the right time yet again.”

Individually, ex-Pinkerton star Collin Crowell of Roger Williams College won his weight class (165) and will be competing at nationals this weekend while former Timberlane heavyweight Brian Nicoll of Rhode Island College was sixth at regionals and former Central Catholic wrestler Jack DiBurro of Roger Williams College was seventh at 174.

Nicoll’s losses couldn’t have been closer — one in sudden death, one on a tie-breaker criteria and one by a single point! His victories were by pin, 6-2 and 2-0.

Odds and ends

The All-State Meet has been held at Salem (Mass.) High for years, but it’s slated for the Tsongas Center next year. It is then scheduled to rotate with the DCU Center in Worcester and the Springfield arena.

Although I would still prefer the compact (yet spacious enough) atmosphere at Lawrence High, it’s too bad New England can’t be held at Tsongas as well. The New England Council will be meeting in about a month to discus next year. ...

Former Haverhill heavyweight Terrance Jean-Jacques says that he’s “90 percent sure” he’ll be attending Iowa next year after leaving Rutgers. ...

Brooks star Andrew Konovalchik is planning on competing in the Prep vs. Public School All-Star Meet April 28 at Belmont High School.

Wouldn’t it be ideal if he faced North Andover’s Brad Drover in the 160-pound weight class? They have wrestled in scrimmages in the past with mixed results. ...

For different reasons, it was disappointing not to see Tyngsboro’s Ryan Niven and Pinkerton’s Jean-Luc Lemieux at New England. Niven, who was in a car accident, was a defending New England champ. ...

The senior nationals, as well as nationals for freshmen through juniors and even middle schoolers, will be held April 3-7 in Virginia Beach, Va.

More will be coming on local participation at nationals in a future article.

WRESTLING FAB 5 The Eagle-Tribune's final ranking of area high school wrestling teams for 2012-13: TEAM RECORD 1. Timberlane 23-2 2. Lawrence 21-4 3. North Andover 21-4 4. North Reading/Lynnfield 25-0 5. Methuen 23-4 Honorable mention: Pinkerton (17-1), Windham (16-1)