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Roger Brown's State of Sports: Heald a clutch Cadet

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 04. 2018 11:01PM
Army's Bobby Heald, of Bedford, wins a match earlier this season. (COURTESY)

THE U.S. MILITARY ACADEMY WRESTLING PROGRAM defeats Navy about as often as Timberlane Regional loses a dual meet, so drama filled the building when Army stormed back from a 12-3 deficit to tie Navy with one match remaining when the teams met Feb. 16 in Annapolis.

The final match was a heavyweight bout between Navy senior Austin Faunce and Army’s Bobby’s Heald, a freshman from Bedford.

Faunce had beaten Heald twice during the season, but this was Heald’s night. He scored an escape with 20 seconds remaining in the third overtime to decision Faunce, 2-1, as Army completed an improbable comeback to prevail, 18-15.

“For a freshman heavyweight to come through in the clutch like that is just incredible,” Army coach Kevin Ward said. “Bobby knew an escape would win the match at that point and he fought like heck for it.”

Heald entered the match with a 10-14 record, and his victory helped West Point record its first victory at Navy since 1961. Navy has a 49-8-5 record in the series.

“It was a really cool moment,” Heald said. “I wasn’t too nervous. I was pretty confident going in. He beat me twice, but they were one-point matches. I knew what I was up against.

“I was a lot more offensive in this match. I could tell he was getting tired.”

Heald won the Division I championship and Meet of Champions title as a heavyweight during his junior and senior seasons at Bedford High School. He also won the Division II championship at the 220-pound weight class as a sophomore.

Heald was considering a football career at the University of New Hampshire before his wrestling opportunity with Army materialized.

“I went back and told Bobby that he was wrestling, that he was the guy at heavyweight tonight and I believed in him,” Ward said. “Bobby believed in himself and wrestled his heart out. We had confidence that he could go out and get it done, and he did.”

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FOR SOME OF US, the demarcation line for Dick Umile’s UNH coaching career came when he suffered a heart attack in 1997. Umile was a heavy smoker at the time. He was intense and cranky, especially with the media.

After his health scare, the cigarettes disappeared. He remained fiercely intense, but became a slightly gentler version of his former self. Dealing with him became much easier.

When asked about Umile, this story always comes to mind: During the 1994-95 season, UNH played many of its home games at the JFK Coliseum in Manchester while the Whittemore Center was being constructed. During one of many weekly meetings with the media that season, Umile revealed that one of his key players would not play in either game during the upcoming weekend. That player had been suspended for a minor violation of team rules.

Of course the headline in the next day’s paper noted that the player had been suspended. Although Umile made no effort to keep the suspension a secret, he was clearly caught off-guard by the headline. He was so upset — remember, this was pre-heart attack — that he cornered a reporter by one of the JFK bathrooms before the first of his team’s two games that weekend and made it clear that he didn’t think the headline was necessary. He used lots and lots of four-letter words, and this was literally minutes before the game was scheduled to start.

The suspended player had transferred to UNH from another Division I college. Although Umile didn’t say so initially, it later came to light that the player hadn’t been a model student/athlete at his previous school and his parents had him on a short leash. Any more trouble off the ice and he was being pulled out of UNH. No more hockey.

When Umile explained the situation to the media days later the reason for his anger became clear. He feared that the player’s parents would see the story and consider their son’s action — some would consider it nothing more than horseplay — as a violation of the zero-tolerance policy they had put in place. Umile felt that the headline made the infraction seem more severe than it really was, and that there was a real possibility that the player’s hockey career — perhaps his college career — would be over.

Umile’s time behind the UNH bench came to an end at Maine’s Alfond Arena on Saturday night. He finished with 596 wins, but he was always more concerned about his players than his victories.

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HERE’S WHAT we expect the Division I boys’ basketball tournament pairings to look like when they’re released today:

Byes: No. 1 Portsmouth (16-2), No. 2 Exeter (14-4) and No. 3 Bedford (14-4).

First-round matchups: No. 13 Nashua South (7-11) at No. 4 Manchester Memorial (13-5); No. 12 Salem (8-10) at No. 5 Manchester Central (13-5); No. 11 Dover (8-10) at No. 6 Londonderry (12-6); No. 10 Merrimack (8-10) at No. 7 Alvirne (12-6) and No. 9 Spaulding (10-8) at No. 8 Winnacunnet (12-6).

This would create the possibility of a Memorial/Central matchup in the quarterfinals.

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TWO local pitchers had noteworthy performances in the St. Anselm College baseball team’s 4-1 triumph over the University of Mary on Saturday. Nashua’s J.J. Dunn, who played for Nashua South, stretched his scoreless-innings streak to 19 2/3 innings this season by pitching 6 2/3 innings to collect the victory. He improved his record to 3-0.

Freshman Griffin St. Onge, a Litchfield resident who played at Campbell, struck out both batters he faced in that game to record his first collegiate save.

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TIMBERLANE’S Ryan McGonagle, who won his second consecutive New England wrestling championship on Saturday, completed his junior season with a 47-1 record in the 132-pound weight class. His only loss came in the Beast of the East tournament in Delaware.

Timberlane finished fourth in the team competition (72 points), behind Ponaganset of Glocester, R.I. (83), Mount Anthony of Bennington, Vt. (80) and Danbury, Conn. (75).

Timberlane has won the New England team championship 10 times — the most of any school. Mount Anthony is next with nine.

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MIKE HEFFERNAN, St. Anselm’s offensive /offensive line coach for the past two seasons, has left the program to become the offensive coordinator at St. Scholastica, a Division III program in Duluth, Minn. Heffernan was also on the St. Scholastica staff from 2009 to 2012.

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