---- — Sometimes, it’s difficult to evaluate the best wrestlers.
Injuries, prolonged sickness and inability to make weight can all mask the talents of those who haven’t displayed them on the mat.
That may be the case with Londonderry junior Will Bean.
Bean was 28-8 last year as a sophomore 138-pounder, but he didn’t complete the season because of a knee injury that required surgery in February, ending legitimate hopes of placing high at the state meet.
“I was very happy with the way I was wrestling last year and I had high expectations (for the postseason),” he said. “I had high goals ... I wanted to place first at state and I thought I had a good shot at it.”
Bean came into the current season with some lingering knee pain, but he seemed ready to have a big season as a 145-pounder and complete last year’s mission — until he competed in the early-season Bow Tournament. A bad fall caused a dislocated pinkie and a fractured hand, which put him on the bench for nearly a month.
Finally, Bean is back on the mat and, while not quite at full strength, he’s showing glimpses of his potential. Moving up to 145 pounds, he currently has a 12-4 record and he placed first in a tough weight class at the Merrimack Tournament. He believes he can reach his goals this year — if he stays healthy.
“I’m getting a late start, but I can still do it,” he said.
Naturally confident, Bean also has plenty of experience to draw on. He started wrestling in the sixth grade and, for the last several years, he’s been training in jiu jitsu in the offseason.
“I think that (jiu jitsu) helps a lot,” said Bean. “It improves my awareness on the mat and helps @text1_r:flexibility.”
Rising at Whittier
More offseason training and greater experience has Whittier coach Harry Takesian hoping that better days are coming for the Wildcats, who have been stationed at .500 for the last several years but are currently 9-6-1 and fresh off a first-ever win over Central Catholic.
One of this year’s standouts is second-year senior Shaheeb Blount, who held a 17-6 record last week and has been a consistent placer in tournaments. He placed second at the Pentucket Tournament and was leading in the finals before an overreaching mistake led to a pin, but he has shown impressive stretches with his aggressiveness and strength.
“He’s just really coming on,” said Takesian. “I’d do anything to have him for another year.”
Also in his second year, but getting better, is junior 182-pounder Jeremy Martinez. He only won four varsity matches last year, but he’s well into double digits in victories. Siniilarly, sophomore 106-pounder Sam Richards is on the rise despite weighing just 97 pounds and Xavier Boisvert, a 132-pounder and the team’s lone starter from Amesbury High, has taken great strides, which is no surprise to Takesian.
“He really worked at wrestling all summer, going to Dough Boy, popping up to Smitty’s (Barn), doing whatever he could,” said Takesion. “I think you’re going to hear a lot from him in the next couple of years.”
Enjoying the best year is 113-pound junior Tyler Tannian, who is predictably also probably the most experienced Wildcat. As of last week, he had an 18-4 record.
Knights ranked No. 1
In last week’s state team rankings published by masswrestling.com. North Andover is ranked No. 1 followed by Plymouth South and St. John’s Prep. Three other MVC teams ranked are Chelmsford (No. 8), Lawrence (12) and Methuen (15). Lawrence edged Methuen 33-31 last week.
With the league appearing as balanced as ever, North Andover will be at Methuen tomorrow in what should be another terrific MVC meet. Two key matches in that meet will be at 106 with Methuen freshman Billy Wehring likely to face North Andover senior Danielle Coughlin and at 132 with Rangers’ senior star Paul Sughrue possibly facing red-hot Knight Zane Melillo.
In the same masswrestling.com rankings, North Andover’s Fritz Hoehn was listed as the top sophomore in the state and Methuen’s Christian Monserrat was rated as the top junior. Billerica’s Leo Trinidad was ranked the top senior.
St. John’s comes close
St. John’s Prep gave Mount Anthony all it could handle over the weekend at the Springfield Duals, losing 30-24 to the No. 1-ranked team in New England. Both teams won seven matches.
North Andover’s Ian Butterbrodt won all four of his matches on the day for the Eagles (28-3) at 220 pounds and 182-pounder Jim Messeder of North Andover was 3-1.
It seems like every Saturday is a big one in high school wrestling, but none will be bigger than this week,
Locally, the big event is the Methuen Invitational, with the host Rangers, Lawrence, Salem and North Andover doing battle in a rugged field that includes defending champion Mount Anthony.
Also Saturday, North Reading/Lynnfield will be looking to capture the Cape Ann League title at Triton and Whittier and Gr. Lawrence will compete in the State Vocational Meet at Southeastern Voke.
Timberlane, meanwhile, will compete in a terrific quad-meet in Warwick, R.I., that includes Danbury, Conn., and Chelmsford. The Danbury-Timberlane meet should be terrific.