action:article | category:SPORTS16 | adString:SPORTS16 | zoneID:40

Home » Sports » Sports Columns

February 22. 2013 11:13PM

John Habib's City Sports: Russian import aims for U.S. supremacy


Azalkhan Sarvalov, left, a 145 pound junior at Central, poses with Mike Garcia, a 220 pound senior from West High, during a workout at Central High on Thursday in Manchester. (THOMAS ROY/UNION LEADER)
AZALKHAN Sarvalov was only 8 years old when his mother lost her battle with cancer. His family was living in his native Russia at the time of her death and two years later decided to move to Manchester, where Sarvalov's uncle had already settled.

The uncle had won a national wrestling championship in Russia, Sarvalov said, so when one of Azalkhan's friends, Mansur Vasibov, suggested he join him on the Manchester Central High wrestling team, the then-freshman didn't need a lot of convincing.

"In that first year, it was tough to communicate with Azalkhan," said Central head coach Jason Cumming, an assistant to Jim Delani that season. "We had to get through the language barrier, but the first impression Jim and I had of Azalkhan was how much of sponge he was in practice. I mean, he retained everything you taught him, learned it quickly and applied it during his matches.

"We knew right then he had the potential of being a very good wrestler."

In just three years, all in the 145-pound weight class, Sarvalov went from posting a 10-13 record as a freshman to an eye-opening 31-13 mark as a sophomore last season.

This year, he broke through and won the Division I title at Concord High last Saturday, culminating his day with a 9-8 finals victory over Shaun Ahern of Plaistow's Timberlane Regional.

Asked how it felt to win a state meet championship, Sarvalov responded by talking about his uncle, Maultve Sarvalov.

"I wanted to win it for him," Azalkhan said. "He comes and watches me. After every match, he tells me what I did right or wrong. He once won a national championship, and I want to do the same for him."

Cumming said Sarvalov is not satisfied with winning just the Division I title.

"He wants to win the Meet of Champions, the New Englands after that and the nationals," said Cumming. "He wants it all."

The second stage in Sarvalov's bid for such a grand slam takes place today at Pinkerton Academy in Derry, site of the Meet of Champions. He takes a 67-30 career record into the meet, and there's a good chance he'll meet Ahern again in the 145-pound final.

Sarvalov is seeded first, Ahern second.

Cumming said Sarvalov's development accelerated with his performance in last winter's Lowell (Mass.) Invitational, one of the region's premier mid-season meets.

"He entered that meet unseeded and just started winning match after match," said Cumming. "He ended up in sixth place, which speaks volumes for an unseeded sophomore."

Sarvalov later scored fourth-place finishes in invational meets at Timberlane and Winnacunnet High of Hampton. Those were the products of hard work that continues to this day, according to his coach.

"His work ethic is second to none," Cumming said. "I mean, this kid will even study film of himself and watch things he can improve upon to do better."

During the offseason, Sarvalov trains with Cumming's Granite State Gryphons Wrestling Club in Manchester and at Smitty's Wrestling Barn in Danville, run by Timberlane graduate and former national interscholastic champion Matt Smith.

"He just continues to want to get better," said Cumming. "He's so competitive that he takes losing very seriously."

If Sarvalov's work continues to pay dividends, he won't be resuming offseason workouts anytime soon. The top three finishers in the Meet of Champions will advance to the New England Championships in Providence next weekend.



- - - - - -




ANOTHER local wrestler who will be competing in the meet of champions, Manchester West's Mike Garcia, will be competing at the collegiate level next season, his coach said.

According to Casey Buckley, Plymouth State University and Johnson & Wales University in Providence appear to be Garcia's most likely destinations.

"He's a talented wrestler, and schools are looking at him," said Buckley, a former two-time state champion for Hollis/Brookline and now the West coach.

"Mike went from a freshman who wasn't athletic to the best wrestler in our program this year," said Buckley. "He's got 69 wins in four seasons, the most of anyone in the last four years at West. He's focused and listens when someone points out what he could have done better after his match."

Garcia's record has improved steadily, from 3-7 his freshman season to 12-16 as a sophomore and 26-14 last year.

This year, he's 28-8, with a chance to reach the 30-win mark this weekend in Derry. His first opponent Saturday is Travis Reyes of Concord.

"Mike is the first kid from West to place at the Lowell Invitational in five years," said Buckley, noting Garcia's seventh-place showing in that meet. "I've never doubted him, and I believe he has a legitimate chance to qualify for the New England tournament."


"City Sports" appears on Saturday in the New Hampshire Union Leader. Email staff reporter John Habib at jhabib@unionleader.com.

 NH Sports Angle ╗ more
Links to news and happenings around the world of sports with a Granite State connection, updated daily.

Fuld back in bigs, claimed by Minnesota Twins

Twin State Speedway trying revival with new management

Former All-Star Red Sox shortstop Rico Petrocelli: ôblessedö to have grown up in Brooklyn, now lives in Nashua

Toronto Maple Leafs left wing James van Riemsdyk, right, tangles with Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask in the first period of Game 1 of their NHL Eastern Conference quarterfinals hockey playoff series in this 2013 file photo.

NH-based insurer sues NHL to limit its defense in players concussion lawsuits

A's claim former Fisher Cat Marcus Walden

Mariano Rivera's son to pitch for NH squad

Kevin Davis, CEO and president of Bauer Performance Sports, displays Bauer Hockey's latest innovation in hockey skates — the Vapor APX 2 with easily changeable skate blades in this 2013 file photo.

Exeter-based Bauer continues to expand beyond hockey with $330M purchase of baseball firm Easton-Bell

Hollis-Brookline head football coach resigns unexpectedly

New owners for Waukewan Golf Club

Matches announced for USA v. Cuba clash at Rockingham Park this weekend

Boston Marathon victim Jeff Baumann throws out the first pitch prior to the start of a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Fenway Park last year.

Service's creed on display in support of airman affected by Boston bombing

40-year-old Manchester mechanical engineer wins MMA decision

New Hampshire Motor Speedway touts viability of casino site in Loudon

USA Knockouts Tamed in Cuba

U.S., Cuba boxers clash in Havana, U.S. bouts set for Rockingham Park in Salem

Lee USA Speedway opens season April 13

Newmarket woman plans world-record cross-country run for charity

CHIP KELLY

Is Chip Kelly racist?

World Series of Boxing event moved to Rockingham Park - USA vs. Cuba

Manchester man in top 30 candidates for Padres public address announcer

NH man helps MLB players deal with stresses on, off the field

Review of the 2014 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook

New Hampshire Motor Speedway may run Sprint Cup race in 2015 under the lights

How Boston lost the Patriots and 'New England' grabbed the NFL's 'Gold Standard'

Twin State Speedway gets new manager

MORE

 New Hampshire Events Calendar
    

   ╗ SHARE EVENTS FOR PUBLICATION, IT'S FREE!

Upcoming Events

 New Hampshire Business Directory

  

   ╗ ADD YOUR BUSINESS TODAY!