Lowell, Mass., hosts N.H. schools in holiday wrestling tournament
Teams from across New England competed in the Lowell Holiday Tournament starting Thursday, Dec. 27. By the time the tournament closed on Friday, Manchester schools accounted for several top-10 finishers in their respective weight classes.
As a school, Manchester Central came in 14th out of the 59 teams entered. The Little Green contributed four top finishers in their weight classes, and West had one as well.
Central’s top finishers were juniors Keaton and Kyle Peterson, who each took second place. Keaton competed in the 138-pound weight class and Kyle at 132 pounds.
Senior Noah Owens grabbed a sixth-place finish in the 160-pound weight class and junior Azalkhan Sarvalov seventh took seventh at 145 pounds. West’s lone top-10 finisher was senior Mike Garcia, who was eighth in the 220-pound weight class.
Midway through the tournament’s first day of competition, Central head coach Jason Cumming said his team had a chance to finish near the top in both team and individual standings, despite some gaps in the roster.
“We are giving up a few weight classes, we have some injuries,” he said. “We have a chance to place in the top-10 team-wise, and we have a very good chance of crowning some champions.”
Although they didn’t end up with any bracket winners, Cumming said he is encouraged by the performances because several of Central’s top wrestlers are juniors.
Manchester Memorial didn’t contribute any top-10 finishers, but they too were battling injuries and were affected by Thursday’s harsh weather. The Crusaders were missing two wrestlers who couldn’t get their cars going in the snow, one because he was sick and another was traveling for holidays.
“Half the team is missing,” head coach Ryan Schieding said. “The weather didn’t help out today. We missed like four or five of our starters.”
Still, Memorial had two wrestlers in the quarterfinals of their weight classes.
Senior Anthony Labbe was met by a tough opponent from Dracut in his 145-pound weight class. Another senior, heavyweight Christian Boucher, made his quarterfinal match as well, but neither made it into the top-10.
Schieding said Labbe is one of the best wrestlers in New Hampshire “when he shows up,” but drew a difficult matchup in the second round. Boucher had a two-time national champion in his bracket, so he faced an uphill battle if he was to be crowned the heavyweight winner. Boucher is also in his first year on varsity.
“For his first year wrestling varsity, he’s already 13-1 on the season so it’s a great first year,” Schieding said. “He’s backed up our heavyweight for the past two years. The kid he backed up, who was his training partner for the past two years, was a New England finalist, took third in the country and was state champ.”
Both coaches said they have good, young talent on their squads.
While Cumming said Central’s class of juniors is “amazing,” they also have a deep freshmen class, and will have another with next year’s freshman class.
“It’s showing a lot of potential for what we have coming in the future,” Cumming said. “It’s a building process. This is my fourth year, and I know where we were when I first started and where we are now, and there is a huge turnaround.”
Memorial is also young and recovering from the loss of a strong senior class from last year.
“For a bunch of kids who are only freshmen and sophomores, who have only been wrestling for one or two years, against all the top teams in the state we’ve been wrestling, we only lose by one match,” Schiedling said. “There’s a lot of good things to say about that. We’re hanging in there as they’re all young in their careers, so as the years progress, we’re going to be one of the better teams in the state.”
Cumming said he looks forward to Central defending its title at Winnacunnet’s tournament, and the Manchester city tournament on Jan. 5.
“We try and take everything step-by-step and one meet at a time,” he said. “We’ve actually won the city championship the past three years, so that’s been really cool.”
Both coaches said the greatest need for improvement in their wrestlers is their work from bottom – a skill which Cumming said is slowly progressing, but key to becoming a better all-around wrestler.
“If you stop moving, that’s when you get beat,” Schieding said. “We’ve got to just continue to move. If the first move doesn’t work, go right to your second and third move and fourth move, not just go to our first move and get broken down and stop.”
In regular season, NHIAA competition, Central and Memorial are near the bottom of the Division I standings at 1-3 and 0-5, respectively. West is even at 2-2 in Division II.
“As the season goes on, who knows? It all depends on how much they progress,” Schieding said. “It’s hard to tell with first year guys – what they’re going to do, how well they’re going to pan out, what they’re going to accomplish – but I have high hopes for a lot of kids.”