Cumberlandâs Erik Travers, top, is the No. 1 seed in the 152-pound division. The Clippers look to defend their title when the two-day state tournament gets underway Friday at the Providence Career & Technical Academy field house. PHOTO BY ERNEST A. BROWN
CUMBERLAND â As far as Cumberland High head coach Steve Gordon is concerned, the beauty of the Rhode Island Interscholastic Wrestling Championships is that anything can happen at any given moment; that you can toss all conventional wisdom aside due to the glory at stake.
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âOnce you get to the state tournament, all bets are off,â Gordon stated Thursday as he gathered his troops for one final day of preparation, as the event will begin today at 5 p.m. at the Providence Career & Technical Academyâs field house. âTime after time, Iâve seen a No. 1 seed get bounced by a kid he crushed during the regular season, and Iâve seen kids who werenât really experience at the start get on a roll and do some really special things.
âThe bottom line is you just never know,â he added. âEveryone has got to be on top of his game when he walks into the meet. Thatâs what it takes, being mentally and physically prepared.â
No one knows that better than Gordon, who last season celebrated his Clippersâ third Rhode Island team championship in his four-decade-plus tenure when senior Tom LaCroix registered a major decision over his opponent; the four points LaCroix collected helped Cumberland snatch the crown over Hendricken, the difference a mere 1.5 points.
Gordon doesnât know if his contingent has the depth to pull off another title, but heâs sure heâll have some bulls in the ring hell-bent on racking up wins.
The meet will start with 16 bracket preliminary matches, eight bracket quarterfinals and a first round of consolation bouts at 5 today, with consolations continuing at 10 a.m., Saturday; more consolations and semifinals will be contested between 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
At approximately 5:45 p.m., consolation finals for fifth and sixth places will open, with third- and fourth-place bouts beginning at about 6. Finally, after Rhode Island Wrestling Hall of Fame inductees from previous years are introduced, the finals are expected to start at approximately 7:15 p.m.
Gordon will have two top seeds opening their hopeful championship runs on Friday, and â not surprisingly â theyâre senior co-captains Jon Maccini at 145 pounds and Erik Travers at 152. Should the tandem sail through their rounds, Gordon believes they will face off against Exeter/West Greenwich Highâs twin brother tandem of Andrew and Christian LaBrie.
âIf we make it to the finals and they donât, obviously, that would be good for us, but thatâs not in our plan,â he noted. âWeâre expecting to meet them in the finals because theyâre tremendous wrestlers. Those four guys (Maccini and Andrew LaBrie at 145, then Travers and Christian at 152) are the best in the state where they wrestle. The LaBries both won the state titles.
âChristian should face Eric, but they didnât last year because Erik was upset in the quarters, but they did go at it at the New Englands,â he continued. âErik lost by three or four, and Andrew defeated Jon for the championship at 138.
âI do think both of our kids are at the top of their game, and theyâre wrestling well. They both have bad shoulders, but that shouldnât mean anything; theyâll suck it up. After all, this is their last time, and both guys will be fine; theyâve been here before.â
The Clippersâ lone second-ranked grappler is junior Cody Beaudette at 113, and classmate Chris Hayes is seeded fourth at 170.
âMost of our other guys arenât seeded really high, only sixth, seventh or eighth, but thatâs OK; I expect them to wrestle better than that,â Gordon reasoned. âI want them to do the same things theyâve been doing all year in dual meets (Cumberland finished with a fine 12-1-2 mark in Division I-North.â
The veteran mentor is hoping to see a fine tourney from junior 120-pounder Kris Nordby.
âHeâs a very tough kid,â Gordon explained. âHe didnât wrestle a lot this year because his brother was going into the military and Kris and his mother went to Texas to see him, so he missed some of the quad-meets. His power points were down, and heâs not seeded that high, but I think heâll do very well. Heâs really, really good.â
Another âdark horseâ for Cumberland is junior 132-pounder Nick Tribelli, whom Gordon claimed produced some good matches this winter and is âpeaking at the right time.
âNick wrestled the DiMauro kid (also a Nick) the other night (in Hendrickenâs 47-9 triumph over Cumberland), and it was a fairly close match,â he stated or Tribelli, who finally was pinned at 4:41. âDiMauroâs the No. 1 seed, so weâll just wait and see what happens.â
Gordon also believes Lincoln High senior Nik Zicuis, who has the third seed at 220 pounds, to manufacture a superb showing.
âHeâs a solid wrestler,â he said. âHeâs the kind of kid who could wrestle back (through consolations rounds) and win the whole thing âŠ I donât know weâre going to do as a team, but weâre going to give it a go. We always try to do our best at states.
âHendricken, obviously, is the team to beat, and itâs because theyâre so deep. Theyâve got a quality kid in every weight division, but itâs not over âtil itâs over.â