WOBURN — While the big prizes ultimately eluded him, it’s hard to deny four-year wrestler John Lafferty had a tremendous career for Woburn High.
What set Lafferty apart from a lot of wrestlers, was his determination and pride to finish strong, even in the face of disappointment.
Perhaps the signature tournament for the senior co-captain was this year’s MIAA Div. 2 state meet. Lafferty wanted badly to become a state champion his senior year, only to lose a heartbreaker —in the first round of his 126-pound weight class.
Instead of calling it a career right then, Lafferty went back to work in the consolation bracket, winning four consecutive tough matches to take the consolation championship and third place.
“One thing I will never forget about John is his heart,” said Woburn coach and the ultimate all-time Tanner wrestler, Mike Parziale. “I will never forget how devastated he was this season at falling short of being a state champion. But as hurt as he was, he didn't quit. He ended up third in the Division 2 state tournament, in what I consider one of the defining moments in his career.”
For his career, Lafferty won at close to an 80-percent clip (171-45) and was 166-45 without forfeits factored in. His tournament record was 93-35 and his record against strong opponents (wrestlers with prior post-season paperwork) was 61-37.
“The numbers don't lie,” said Parziale. “You see, John had a pretty amazing career finishing with a record of 171-45, which is second all-time in Woburn history for wins.”
It was safe to say when Lafferty hit the mat in a Middlesex League dual meet, the Tanners were about to get some team points. He was 28-1 in the Middlesex League over four years.
Lafferty’s senior season saw him go 57-8, capped off with a fourth-place finish at the New England tournament at Methuen High.
For his efforts this season, Lafferty was the ML Liberty Division MVP while being named All-Conference and a Liberty Division All-Star at 126 pounds.
Looking at the career tournament sheet, Lafferty was a four-time sectional champion (The only one in Woburn history), a four-time Div. 2 State place winner, a three-time All-State place winner, and a New England place winner by the end of his career.
“It has been a pleasure to coach John over the past four years and very fulfilling to see him grow and progress into a mature young man and great wrestler,” said Parziale. “Most importantly, I have watched John improve year after year in the classroom.”
Parziale relayed the story of how Lafferty struggled his freshman season to balance his studies with wrestling at the same time. Then, as the years progressed, so did John's grades and his wrestling, right through this year where he ended his career with back-to-back fourth-place finishes in the All-States and New Englands.
“I've seen many wrestlers lose in the state tournament over the years and never wrestle back to place and move on to the next tournament,” said Parziale. “Not only did John wrestle back, he eventually went on to finish as the fourth best wrestler in his weight class in New England, probably a tougher task and bigger accomplishment than winning a state title.”
Over the course of his career, Lafferty had 124 wins by fall, including 33 against strong competition. He also had a 78-10 record for his career in dual meets.
“This is the ‘Tanner Pride’ and grit that I will always remember about John,” said Parziale. “Aside from his own credentials, John was a great team leader and captain over the past two seasons. He was the emotional leader on the team, and he knew how to motivate kids to wrestle better. This is another part of John that our team will miss moving forward.”
Lafferty has expressed an interest in continuing his wrestling career in college, but is undecided where at the moment. Once he knows where he is going, Parziale feels that team will be lucky to have Lafferty because he will be a great role model and team leader.