NORTH ANDOVER — Even another sacrifice by junior star Brad Drover, the continued success of the “Big Three” and a late rally couldn’t save short-handed North Andover yesterday.
Winchester, thanks to six pins and a major decision, was too much in the finals of the 16-team North Andover Dual-Meet Tournament, defeating the host Knights 40-32.
The tournament was pretty much a replacement of the defunct Division 2 state dual-meet tournament.
That’s the way Winchester coach Larry Tremblay, whose team improved to 29-2, viewed it.
“To me, this is the Division 2 state duals,” said Tremblay, who won his 600th match two weeks ago. “You’ve got North Attleboro, which was undefeated, and North Andover is the defending (Division 2) champion and a great team. I know they were missing some kids but, whether they have a full lineup or not, it’s a great win. Staying healthy is part of the sport.”
Starting at 126 pounds, Nick Villalba put North Andover in the early lead with an 8-1 decision, but Winchester recorded three straight pins to take an 18-3 lead. Wins by the “Big Three” of Fritz Hoehn (tech. fall), Brad Drover (10-4 decision) and Ryan Neals (pin) brought the Knights to within three, 22-17, but another string of three straight pins gave the Sachems an insurmountable 40-17 lead.
Hoehn improved to 30-2 with his dominating performance. Neals remained one of the few unbeaten wrestlers in the state with a 28-0 mark, recording pins at :44 in the semifinals (a 43-25 victory over Central Catholic) and 1:22 in the finals.
Drover, meanwhile, improved to 31-1 on the year, winning 10-4 over Winchester’s Joseph Fallon at 170 pounds.
Fallon entered the match with a 40-5 record as one of Winchester’s top wrestlers and Drover bumped up from 160 as he has done frequently over the last month depending on what the team needs.
“It’s tough sometimes, but I don’t mind — whatever the coach needs,” said Drover. “I think it will help me in the (state) tournament when I go back down.”