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February 18. 2012 10:00PM

Div. II Wrestling: Hollis/Brookline takes first title since '07

MERRIMACK — What a day for Eric Cooper.

The Bedford High School senior began his day at the 2012 NHIAA Division II Wrestling Championships at Merrimack High School by pinning Winnacunnet of Hampton's John Carrigan in 1:28 in a quarterfinal bout to win his 100th career victory, the first Bulldog in school history to reach that milestone.

“This does a lot for the program,” said Bedford head coach Bobby Benincasa of the 145-pounder's accomplishment. “To be able to point him out to the other kids and say ‘this is your motivation; this is what you're working for' is huge for us. Eric has laid the foundation for Bulldogs wrestling for years to come.”

By the end of the day, Cooper's hand was raised yet again, this time as state champion.

“It's been such a great day, I just wanted to put it all on the mat and my team's been behind me the whole way,” said Cooper. “It feels good to set an example for some of the guys on the team, especially for the ones that have a shot to also get 100 wins like sophomores Colin Perras (50) and Josh Belz (47).”

Cooper took home the state title with an 8-2 decision over Merrimack's Elias Kim, improving his season record to 32-3.

Despite Cooper's efforts, Bedford was unable to take home the team title, which went to Hollis/Brookline.

The Cavaliers won for the first time since 2007. It was the first title for third-year head coach Brian Bumpus, a former New England champion in 2003.

Hollis/Brookline totaled 194 points, followed by Milford with 191, Goffstown with 163.5, Merrimack with 159, Bedford with 147, ConVal with 137, Winnacunnet with 134.5, Alvirne with 99, Spaulding with 65, Souhegan with 45, and Manchester High School West with 41.

Milford's Dana Bourassa was named Coach of the Year, while Hollis/Brookline's Casey Quinn won Outstanding Wrestler for the second straight year.

Cooper advanced to Saturday's State Meet of Champions at Londonderry High School. The top five grapplers from each Division II weight class will also compete.

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