If it weren’t for COVID-19, wrestler Ben Davoli would be on the cusp of Haverhill High history.
By the estimation of Hillies coach Tim Lawlor, had last season not been cut down to 10 regular season meets and no postseason, Davoli would be on pace to break Haverhill wrestling’s record for career wins, currently held by 2020 graduate Jake Nicolosi (177 wins).
While Davoli, a senior who currently owns a 123-19 career record, would have loved to pursue Nicolosi’s mark, he isn’t sweating any bad luck.
“It stinks, but I don’t wrestle for records,” said Davoli. “It was something I was excited to go after, but the record doesn’t really matter in the big scheme of things. What matters is a state title. I have one more chance to be a state champion, and that’s what I’m focused on.”
Already a two-time Eagle-Tribune All-Star, Davoli, who will next wrestle at Division 1 Sacred Heart, is off to dominant start this winter.
The 132-pounder is 9-1 in dual meets this winter. His lone loss was in a season-opening multi-meet against non-league opponents, in which he went 3-1.
“Benny defines Haverhill wrestling,” said Lawlor, the seventh-year head coach. “He’s a tough, gritty, hard working kid. He’s everything we’ve been striving to create here at Haverhill — stellar in the classroom, a gentleman in the hallways, and a beast on the mats. He’s a top-5 All-Time Haverhill High wrestler for sure.”
Becoming a star
Davoli’s ferocity that has served him so well on the mat is exactly what drew him to wrestling.
“I was always very aggressive in other sports,” he said, “YMCA basketball, floor hockey, sports like that. My dad, who wasn’t a wrestler, suggested I try wrestling. I started wrestling in the fifth grade, and I immediately loved it. I started training year-round and I kept getting better every year.”
Davoli debuted for the Haverhill varsity team as a freshman. The 106-pounder placed second at the Division North sectional and at Division 1 states.
“At the Lowell Holiday Tournament I came in unseeded and ended up finishing second,” he remembered. “At that point, everyone realized I could wrestle. To be part of that 21-0 undefeated team as a freshman was really special. It’s something that might never happen again at Haverhill High.”
As a sophomore, Davoli moved up to 113 pounds and earned Eagle-Tribune All-Star honors. He went 56-10, took third at the Division 1 North meet and fourth at Division 1 states.
COVID then derailed Davoli’s junior season, moving it to the spring and forcing some meets outdoors. At 132 pounds, Davoli went 10-1 and was again an Eagle-Tribune All-Star.
“Last season wasn’t fun,” he said. “We all look forward to the postseason the most, and not being able to have that stunk. We wanted the chance to train for states and New Englands.”
State championship pursuit
With the season near normal this winter, Davoli wants to finish off the goal he set for himself three years ago.
“Winning a state championship was the goal I made for myself my freshman year,” he said, “To accomplish that would be a tremendous feeling.”
Davoli feels he is currently wrestling the best he ever has, as he looks to end his high school career on top.
“I’ve worked hard to become a smarter and more technical wrestler,” he said. “My neutral wrestling used to be my worst aspect, but with a lot of work it’s now one of the best parts of my game. Now, I’m better at wrestling my match.”