TEWKSBURY – It is not very often when two of the top wrestling teams in the entire state are able to square off in a regular season dual meet. And while there is no official research on this, you can bet that it is far less often when two of the top teams in the state, whose schools are located less than seven miles apart from each other, meet in a regular season dual meet.
But that was exactly the situation last Wednesday night at Tewksbury High when Shawsheen Tech made the short trip to visit Tewksbury in a clash between the ninth (Shawsheen) and 11th (Tewksbury) ranked teams in the state.
The best part about it was that the matchup lived up to its hype, with the meet coming down to the final match of the night, and Shawsheen coming away with a dramatic 38-31 victory in front of a large and enthusiastic crowd.
“It was just the kind of atmosphere that we want for high school wrestling,” Tewksbury coach Steve O’Keefe said. “It was a great crowd, and they were all really into it, and it was a great night of wrestling. Of course, I wish we could have come out on top, but both teams wrestled really well.”
O’Keefe is definitely right about that, as the night featured several lead and momentum changes before Shawsheen finally prevailed when Shawn Fitzgerald pinned Colin Bozek in the final match of the night at 160 pounds to provide the winning points.
“Tewksbury is an excellent, well coached team,” Shawsheen coach Mark Donovan said. “We knew it was going to be tight, and sure enough it came down to the last match and we were able to squeak it out.”
Tewksbury had jumped out to a quick 12-0 lead, thanks at least in part to some strategy on the part of O’Keefe, who moved both Kyle Darrigo and Pat Fleming up one weight class to start the meet. Darrigo, who normally wrestles at 160 pounds, instead was moved up to 170 and he responded with a pin over Jack Schoen, while Fleming moved up from his normal 170 pound slot to 182 and got a second period pin over Aidan Leffler to make the score 12-0.
“That was why we moved the two of them up, and they both responded well, and it worked out just the way we hoped it would,” O’Keefe said.
Andre Comeau got the Rams right back in it, however, pinning Anthony DeSisto in the second period at 195 pounds, and when Shawsheen’s Lucas Moreira earned hard fought 11-6 decision over Nick Wilson, the Rams were suddenly back to within 12-9.
Tewksbury star Dylan Chandler quickly took care of business at 285 pounds, pinning Shawsheen’s Kevin Merino-Rivas in the first period, giving the Redmen some breathing room at 18-9.
But that was where Shawsheen began to take over, winning four straight matches to tally 19 straight points and seemingly take control of the meet. Lucien Tremblay got things started for the Rams with what had to be the match of the night, earning a 9-7 win over Adam Donovan at 106 pounds, scoring the winning points with three seconds left in the match to make the score 18-12.
A pin by Walter Humphrey over Sam Ros at 113 pounds, a 9-0 major decision victory by Austin Dube over Jack Callahan at 120 pounds and a first period pin by Frank Foti over Jack Donovan suddenly gave the Rams a 28-18 lead and they suddenly looked like they were going to run away with it.
But now it was Tewksbury’s turn to respond, and Danny Lightfoot did just that taking a 15-4 major decision over Devin DeLuca at 132 pounds to pull within 28-22. When Connor Charron followed that up with a third period pin of Justin Merrifield at 138 to once again even the score.
The Tewksbury run continued at 145 pounds, when Richie Lavargna pulled out an exciting 8-5 win over Jason Elias. Lavargna led the match 4-1 at the end of the first period, but Elias came back to tie it up at 5-5 in the third period before Lavargna took the lead late in the match with a takedown and held on for the 8-5 win to give the Redmen a 31-28 lead with just two matches remaining.
“Richie did a great job to come up with the win, as did Danny and Connor,” O’Keefe said. “Of course Dylan did what he has been doing all year for us, so we had some kids step up and wrestle really well.”
But Shawsheen is not one of the top teams in the state year after year for no reason, and they responded with the heart of a champion when Diondre Turner of Wilmington moved up from his usual spot at 145 to earn a 15-4 major decision over Cam Cimmino at 152 pounds for a 32-31 Shawsheen lead.
That meant it would all come down to the final match, with Fitzgerald squaring off against Bokek. They had faced each other at the Sons of Italy Tournament earlier in the year with Bozek coming out on top, but this time it was Fitzgerald coming away with the win. The score was tied 2-2 at the end of the first period before Fitzgerald came up with the pin with 1:04 left in the second period for the 38-31 victory.
“That’s a great win for him,” Donovan said. “Especially where he had lost to that kid at the Sons of Italy, but he stepped up and came alive for is this time.”
Donovan was proud of the way his team responded to the challenge of a great opponent like the Redmen.
“It was a total team effort. Together we achieve a lot more,” Donovan said. “Both teams did really well, and our kids know they always have a target on their back, but they stepped up when they needed to, which they have been doing all season.”