When the lights went down at the Wayland High School gymnasium on Wednesday night and the Warrior wrestling team entered to pounding music, everyone knew that things were getting serious. The home crowd was rightly proud of their orange and black team with a 22-1 record, one of only four Division III teams in the MassWrestling’s top 25 rankings, a list of top-ranked wrestlers, and history of a mature and quality wrestling program. Hopes were high for yet another dominating win.
On the other side of the mats, on the non-padded visitors’ chairs, sat the Lynnfield-North Reading Pioneer-Hornets. Having dominated the Cape Ann League at 4-0 and carrying on overall record of 21-0, they were ready to test their metal in preparation for the upcoming State Tournaments. They knew it was going to be a challenge.
Joe Morse was first to take the mat at 106 pounds. Morse dominated the match and even had his opponent’s shoulders to the ground at one point, but couldn’t get the pin. Still, his victory by an 11-0 Major Decision got the Pioneer-Hornets off in the lead.
Eric Kerr was up next at 113 and again, even though he seemed to have his opponent “stuck” multiple times, he couldn’t get the call. He settled for a 17-1 Technical Fall and five more points for the Pioneer-Hornets.
First year wrestler Max Whyman was up next at 120, wrestling in the slot usually held by the sidelined Junior, Scott McGrath. Whyman fought a back and forth match and came out ahead for a 5-3 Decision and the Pioneer-Hornets were now up 12-0.
Lucas Pascucci, of the legendary “Wrestling Pascuccis”, took the mat at 126. After scoring an early takedown, he had his man set up for a pin when he was somehow called for a “potentially dangerous” hold. The tempo of the match changed from there with Pascucci managing only a 4-2 decision.
Without a pin in their first four matches, the Pioneer-Hornets began to feel tentative. And when Joe Wise came out for his bout at 132, the mood seemed to darken even further. Wise took his usual intense stance and aggressively matched his opponent, but was eventually beaten on points to put Wayland on the board and bring the meet score to 15-3.
The tension only grew as Jack Macarrio got underway at 138. Up against a more experienced opponent, Macarrio quickly fell behind. But half way through the second period, well down on points, Macarrio managed to catch his foe off-guard, earn the reversal, and quickly take his shoulders to the mat. With the crowd on its feet, Macarrio got the pin at 2:51 and swung the momentum back to the Black and Gold!
Another of the "Wrestling Pascuccis", Alex had has man apparently pinned but, again, couldn't invoke the hand slap and went on to lose the match on points. Once again an ebb in the current was felt.
Anthony Manganiello was next at 152. Anthony fought a hard battle but succumbed to a pin tightening the score to 21-12.
Next out was Josh Intorcio at 160. Intorcio had an apparent first round throw to the back but was ruled out of bounds and awarded no points for a takedown or near fall. Intorcio managed an escape with four seconds remaining in regulation time to tie the match at 2-2 and send it to overtime. After two scoreless overtime periods, Intorcio’s opponent managed to escape his grasp and hand him a 3-4 loss bringing the Warriors to within a pin of LNR at 21-15.
Re-inspired by the extended battle, Lynnfield-North Reading’s big guys would begin their rounds with CJ Finn on tap first at 170. Once again Finn appeared to have his opponent pinned at least a few times but was forced to settle for a 17-1 Technical Decision.
John Klug at 182, accustomed to overpowering opponents with his brute strength in the neutral position, couldn’t get the upper hand against his skilled Warrior opponent and, despite having the advantage at times, gave up a four-point Major Decision.
Chris Connor met a similar fate at 195 as his opponent, despite having been on his back and having used an illegal grasp on Connor’s uniform to escape, earned the top score and another three points for the Warriors who now trailed by only four points at 26-22. At this point, the Warrior crowd smelled blood and cheered its team to close the final gap.
Tom Arseneault at 195 is renowned for his aggressive first periods and this would be no exception. Tom came out full steam looking to overpower his man. But the Warrior would have nothing of it and seemed to counter Tom’s aggressiveness with that of his own. At one point, the referee spoke softly to both wrestlers, perhaps encouraging them to keep things under control. After six minutes of back and forth action, Tom would score a 4-3 victory and three more points for his team, just enough to clench the match for LNR and improve their record to 22-0!
Not to be forgotten, Andrew “AK” Kibarian pinned his heavyweight opponent in the second period to push the final score to 35-22 and tie the bow on the Pioneer-Hornet victory.
As the crowd filed out of the Wayland facility into the rainy night, there was a visible sense of accomplishment on the faces of the Lynnfield-North Reading matmen. They knew that they had come together as a team to challenge perhaps their most difficult foe of the season and had vanquished the Warriors.
The Pioneer-Hornets wrestle next this Saturday, February 2, at Lexington High School against Lexington, Beverly, and Pentucket. Matches get underway at 10:00 AM