By Dave Dyer
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — Winning the war may have been most important for North Andover last night, but winning the individual battles wasn’t far behind.
And they certainly added some spice to the Knights’ 43-20 victory over Methuen.
North Andover, which remained unbeaten in the Merrimack Valley Conference and improved to 18-2 overall, was certainly favored to defeat the Rangers, but positive results in the marquee matchups padded the margin of victory.
Three in particular stood out, with Peter Taylor’s 5-0 victory over Billy Wehring at 113 pounds perhaps the most impressive.
Taylor came in with a fine 23-4 record, but he lost twice at the Lowell Holiday Tournament and was facing Billy Wehring, who boasted a 28-1 record with three tournament titles to his credit.
Without giving Wehring much of an opportunity to score, Taylor got a takedown in the first period and an escape and takedown in the third period for the convincing win.
“I always want to wrestle better competition,’ said Taylor. “I didn’t wrestle that well at Lowell so this was definitely redemption, beating the No. 3 guy in the state. This is my comeback.”
Just as impressive was Knights junior Fritz Hoehn. He bumped up a weight class to wrestle Methuen’s unbeaten freshman Darius Franklin at 160 pounds and came away with a solid 8-2 decision.
“I came into the match with my same mindset, but it’s always good to wrestle tough competition,” said Hoehn, who dropped Franklin to 27-1 while improving his record to 22-2.
The third battle wasn’t quite as successful for the Knights, but it was both noteworthy and important. At 138, senior Zane Melillo took on undefeated (32-0, 20 pins) defending New England champion Christian Monserrat and, while losing 16-6, he wrestled tough and stayed off his back, saving valuable team points.
“All three of those guys were great,” said North Andover coach Carl Cincotta. “I was really impressed with Zane. He wanted the challenge (of wrestling Monserrat) and asked for it.”
The team outcome was never in doubt. The meet started at 126 pounds and the Knights opened with successive second-period pins by the Villalba brothers. Dan and Nick, providing a quick 12-0 lead that, after Brad Drover’s pin at 182, turned into a commanding 34-4 lead.
Drover’s pin was his 14th of the year and kept him unbeaten at 26-0.
Prior to that match, Omar Elbetanony recorded a 15-4 major decision at 145 and Cooper McLeod rallied for a 3-2 overtime decision at 152.
Methuen did make the score more respectable with wins in the top three weight classes. Saul Cabrera began the string with a 4-3 overtime decision at 195, Alex Lima followed with a pin at 220 and Mike Golio held on for a 5-4 decision at heavyweight.
Impressive freshman Jack Perry got the Knights back on track with a 34-second pin at 106, improving his record to 18-4. Every one of Perry’s many pins this year have come in the first period.
Finally, following Taylor’s win, Brad Andrews gave Methuen its fifth win of the night, an 11-1 major decision at 120.
For the Rangers, Wehring and Franklin won’t have a long break before getting a chance to get back on track. They’ll be at the rugged Methuen Invitational Saturday along with the Knights, Lawrence, Vermont power Mt. Anthony and Springfield Central.
North Andover 43, Methuen 20
106: Jack Perry (NA) pin Nate Green :34; 113: Peter Taylor (NA) dec. Billy Wehring 5-0; 120: Brad Andrews (M) major dec. Alex Otis 11-1; 126: Dan Villalba (NA) pin Will Wilder 3:06; 132: Nick Villalba (NA) pin John Varella 2:57; 138: Christian Monserrat (M) major dec. Zane Melillo 16-6; 145: Omar Elbetanony (NA) major dec. Rafael Caceres 15-4; 152: Cooper McLeod (NA) dec. Dan Aziz 3-2, OT; 160: Fritz Hoehn (NA) dec. Darius Franklin 8-2; 170: Basil Vergados (NA) by injury default; 182: Brad Drover (NA) pin Jon Gonzalez 3;12; 195: Saul Cabrera (M) dec. Elijah Declet 4-3, OT; 220: Alex Lima (M) pin Jon Ortega 1:35; HVY: Mike Golio (M) dec. Jake Caporale 5-4Records: Methuen 15-5, North Andover 18-2