PROVIDENCE â€” When Lincoln High senior Alex D'Aloisio awoke on Saturday morning, he didn't feel that well. He figured it was probably just nerves, as he was about to attempt to claim a second-straight title at the R.I. Interscholastic Wrestling Championships.
â€śOnce I got here (to the Providence Career & Technical Academy field house), I started to feel it in my gut; I was kind out of it,â€ť he confessed.
His head coach, Mike Tuorto, discovered at about 8 a.m. that his star pupil was battling a touch of the flu, perhaps gleaned from his kid brother, and that his temperature had reached 102-103 degrees.
â€śWhen Alex told me, my response was, 'OK, we'll manage,'â€ť Tuorto stated. â€śI told him, 'All right, we'll adapt your style. Instead of pushing the pace, we'll be a little more conservative. We'll go with a slightly more defensive game plan.'â€ť
The ploy worked rather well: After snatching a 4-1 semifinal win over La Salle's Derek Forand in the 126-pound class, he utilized a two-point takedown with 56 seconds left in the second period of his title tilt to eventually grab a thrilling 6-5 victory over Johnston's Jon Soto.
â€śI got gassed pretty quickly after that win over Forand, and it hit me pretty hard, but I wasn't worried,â€ť the grappler said matter-of-factly. â€śI knew I was just going to have to wrestle smart and under control, and I did that.â€ť
With the win, he not only earned his second state championship (last March, he won at 120), but improved to a perfect 48-0 on the season (175-16 in his storied career). He also helped Lincoln place 20th overall in the standings with 38 points, most of them collected by his lonesome.
Cumberland finished a distant third behind champion Hendricken (221), but only two points behind runner-up Exeter/West Greenwich (147) with 145 points.
D'Aloisio will try to continue that unbeaten streak when he represents the Ocean State at the New England event, slated for this same site next Friday and Saturday.
â€śBeing undefeated, it's cool, but I expected to have a pretty good season,â€ť D'Aloisio noted in his typical understated fashion. â€śI had a game plan on how I wanted to approach the season (dating back) to last year. I was going to work my butt off, and be as confident as I could about what I could do.â€ť
From the meet's very beginning, D'Aloisio â€“ wearing a T-shirt with the phrase â€śThe strength of the Lion lies in the packâ€ť on his back â€“ paced back and forth, mentally preparing himself. When his bout started, he needed only 26 seconds to take down Soto and earn a two-point cushion.
Soto later tied it up at 4-4 with his own takedown with 16 ticks left in the first period, and actually took a 5-4 advantage with an escape just 25 ticks into the middle stanza.
Early on in the third, Soto tried several times to roll his foe over with leg kicks, but D'Aloisio stood pat to reign.
â€śThat was a tough match, no doubt,â€ť Tuorto stated afterward. â€śNot to sugar-coat it, but that definitely wasn't Alex's best match. Then again, that's not what it's all about. The only thing that matters is winning.â€ť
It had to be especially satisfying for his grappler, who last fall â€“ Nov. 9 to be exact â€“ helped take his top-seeded soccer teammates to the state Division II final against No. 3 Toll Gate at Rhode Island College.
In the end, the Lions lost, 1-0, in a penalty-kick shootout, one in which D'Aloisio had already scored.
He remained remarkably poised after the awards ceremony at RIC that day; in fact, he indicated he would have more magic in his diminutive but muscular frame when wrestling rolled around.
Maybe that's his secret: Don't get too high or too low after a crushing defeat or stellar triumph. He sure expressed that with well-chosen words on Saturday night.
Talk about poise under pressure.
â€śI had wanted to do well here after what happened (during the soccer campaign),â€ť he offered. â€śI don't know if I would say it was crushing, but it definitely wasn't fun â€¦ This is nice. I wanted to be here at the end of the year, and it was great to accomplish the goal that I set for myself, but there's one left.â€ť
He referred to the New England competition, one in which he lost in the last match before sealing a top-six bid.
The first thing his mom, Tracey, said to her son after he had sought out his parents following the victory was, â€śCongratulations! Now, how do you feel?â€ť
D'Aloisio's grinning response: â€śThanks, but not great.â€ť
As for Cumberland, veteran mentor Steve Gordon â€“ in his 47th consecutive state meet â€“ landed just one grappler in a final; that was senior captain Chris Hayes in the 170-pound division.
Hayes had manufactured a 3-0 tourney record before facing Coventry senior Dylan Dupre for the title, and actually scored a one-point escape just 58 seconds into the first period to close the gap to 2-1.
With only three ticks left in the same, it seemed like Hayes had registered a takedown and snared the lead, but officials deemed the fighters had fallen outside the circular boundary.
The Clipper maintained control of Dupre for most of the second session, though the Knotty Oaker managed a one-point escape with 17 seconds remaining for the 3-1 lead. Hayes tried to regain some momentum, but his foe forced another takedown to enter the third ahead, 5-1.
He eventually lost, 8-2.
â€śChris had a nice throw to the kid's back (late in the first), but the refs ruled him OB,â€ť Gordon sighed. â€śI thought he made a mistake when he went for the takedown with four seconds left (in the middle period). He doesn't usually do that. I figured he was going to be happy still down, 2-1.
â€śIn the third, he had to take some chances, and it just didn't pay off,â€ť he added. â€śAs a team, I didn't think we had a great finals round, meaning opportunities to get into the top six, but we did OK. The kids worked very hard, and I'm very proud of what we accomplished. We finished 14-1 in our (Division I-North) dual-meet season, losing only to Hendricken.
â€śWe had a pretty good tournament here, but we really didn't get it done as well as I had hoped. We had four finalists last year, and didn't win one. This year, we had one. Hey, sometimes you have a drought, and sometimes you land four or five (finalists). It happens. Now we're just going to concentrate on New Englands, and getting the younger guys ready for another good season next year.â€ť
After Hayes, fellow captain Cody Beaudette earned the next best placement (third) with a 14-2 blasting of Exeter/West Greenwich's Blake Stamas at 120. Senior quad-captain Kris Nordby (132) and junior Nick Giorgio (195) both finished fourth.
For Tolman, senior co-captain and 152-pounder Darius Harrison also took home a fourth after sustaining a tough 4-3 defeat to Westerly's Shane Short.
â€śDarius had beaten him in overtime to win at the Smithfield Invitational, but we'll take a fourth,â€ť explained Tigers' coach David Vecchiarino, whose team previously had accepted the plaque for being the Division II-South dual-meet co-champion with Ponaganset. â€śThe one thing I wish is that Daniel Stubbs, our other senior co-captain, hadn't suffered two upset losses. He had been seeded third in the state at 220.
â€śHey, we still had a good season.â€ť
North Smithfield's Patrick Eddy placed fifth at 126 after eking out a 3-2 win over Adam Zaroogian of North Kingstown, while Villa Novan Julian Jerez settled for sixth with a 7-2 loss to Andrew Lourenco of North Providence at 113.