Things can change quickly in junior college athletics, and that’s a good thing for the Northern Essex men’s basketball program.
The Knights are virtually starting over after struggling to a 10-18 record last year. Turkey standouts Emir Alagoz (12.2 ppg) and Guney Kilitcioglu (13.8) have graduated and top freshman Evan Hardy of Methuen (15.0 ppg) has left school.
From last year’s team, there may be just one returnee, freshman reserve Luis Torres, and recruiting is going slowly.
“We have some kids who are coming but it’s hard to be definite about anyone,” said head coach Joe Tardif. “We usually can’t be certain about who we’ll have until school starts.”
One good sign for the Knights is that former NECC coach Darren Stratton is helping Tardif recruit. Stratton has a strong record of luring athletes.
On another note, Kilitcioglu will be playing at Becker College next year. Alagoz hopes to walk-on at UMass Lowell.
Smitty’s performs well
It’s been a successful summer for the Smitty’s Barn wrestling team. It captured the Spring Duals with a win over top rival Doughboy in the finals and then finished in the top 32 out of 200 teams at the National Duals at Virginia Beach. Recently, a youngish team placed second at the Rhode Island Duals.
At the nationals, Haverhill’s Ben Davoli had a sensational tournament, winning all but one match at 106, Haverhill teammate Jake Nicolosi was also sharp and Pentucket’s Tyler Knox wrestled well at 113 pounds. Nicolosi, incidentally, is competing over the weekend at Fargo.
Summer workouts, meanwhile, have been going well according to director Matt Smith with 50-60 kids showing up at sessions. Whittier Tech, which also started its own Sunday morning camp, has been sending a large contingent.
Turnover at Brooks
The wrestling team at Brooks will have its third coach in three years next winter after Pat Hitschler resigned as a teacher and coach to take a position in admissions and to start a wrestling program at the Putnam Science Academy in Connecticut.
Whoever takes over at Brooks will face a challenge increasing numbers. Several starters graduated and standout freshman Kelvin Griffin is transferring to the Hill School in Pennsylvania. Griffin, who wrestles for Smitty’s Barn, is having a terrific summer and, in one match, whipped two-time undefeated New England champion Hunter Adrian of Melrose.
Salem football at Trinity
Salem will have a new home away from home for its football games this fall as it gets its track and football field worked on. The Blue Devils will be playing their home games at Trinity (Haverhill) Stadium, which will certainly be familiar for head coach Rob Pike. He used to play there and he is a teacher at Haverhill High.
Salem will play five home games with one in the afternoon (Oct. 5 vs. Pinkerton), three at night and a fifth yet to be determined. Also using Trinity Stadium next year for home football games will be Pentucket, so it will be a busy place.
New Hampshire high school football, incidentally, doesn’t start practice until Aug. 16, which is a week later than last year, and its first games aren’t until Sept. 6 -- also a week later than usual. Salem opens up that night at Manchester Central.