CUMBERLAND — The Cumberland High wrestling program runs as deep as the roots head coach Steve Gordon has nurtured in this town since moving here nearly 50 years ago.
The Clippers finished their second straight undefeated dual-meet season on Wednesday night with a 37-20 spanking of equally unbeaten Warwick Veterans, which was the favored team heading into this showdown between Division I’s two elite squads.
In a meet featuring superstars like Shai and Shoneil Lariviere on Cumberland’s side, and two-time New England champion Mike Meyers on Warwick’s side, it was a cast of unsung heroes who turned the tide in the Clippers’ favor.
The biggest hero of them all was Andre Lussier, who went out at 189 pounds as Cumberland coach Steve Gordon moved his regular 189, Tommy Lacroix, up to 215.
“Coach told me not to get pinned,” Lussier said with a smile after reversing Salois, the top-ranked 171-pounder in the state, and pinning him at 1:46 of the first period. Lussier weighed in at 186 to Salois’s 173.
“I think I just overpowered him,” Lussier said. “He tried to go for my head and I took him to his back. It’s probably the biggest win of my life.”
Lussier’s pin gave Cumberland a 21-15 lead. Warwick had lost the battle of lineup changes by this point. Cumberland got a pin at 145 when Nick Maccini decked fill-in James Slack. Warwick’s Dante Vita returned the favor with a quick pin at 152 but then Cumberland co-captain Chris Smith took charge, pinning Tony Lonczak in 80 seconds, an impressive display of senior leadership that put Cumberland on top for good at 15-10.
Warwick then won at 171. If Salois had followed with a win at 189, the lineup switches might have tilted in Warwick’s favor, but Lussier’s pin was effectively a nine-point swing in the meet.
Vets never recovered. Lacroix, another of Cumberland’s unsung heroes, showed his experience with a 6-0 victory at 215 for a 24-14 Cumberland lead. Warwick did win the heavyweight match. Pearce Thompson broke a 2-2 tie late in the third period to edge Josh Delannoy, 7-2. The Hurricanes were hoping for a pin here and didn’t get it.
“Josh wrestled an unbelievable match,” Gordon said. “He made a mistake at the end but he was tremendous for five minutes.”
Warwick now trailed 24-17. The ‘Canes got an expected win from John Altieri, the No. 1 guy at 103, over second-ranked Cody Beaudette. This match was tied 2-2 until Altieri got a takedown and three-point near fall with 15 seconds left in the third period.
Warwick still had room to win, assuming somebody could upset one of the Lariviere twins (fat chance). But those hopes were lost when Cumberland freshman Kris Nordby beat Nate Collici 1-0 at 112 on a locked-hands penalty call in the second period.
“Kris is learning how to win,” Gordon said. “He has been in close matches all season. This should give him a lot of confidence.”
Shai Lariviere then scored a 9-0 win over Anthony Meyers to make it 31-20. Warwick would need two pins to win. Shoneil Lariviere ended all hope, headlocking Devin Hurst to the mat in five minutes.
Shoneil’s pin officially ended the match. It looked like the final bout at 130 between Mike Meyers and Erik Travers would not be wrestled. Travers stood tentatively on his edge of the mat. Meyers faced him in warmups on his side and accepted an unspoken challenge, wrestling despite an infection in his left hand that was covered by tape on several fingers.
Meyers took Travers down in the first period and dominated. In the second period, he stayed on top until crying out in pain. The match was stopped as coaches and trainers worked over Meyers. The prudent thing to do would be to default but Meyers, who has lost only two high school matches in nearly four years of wrestling, refused to turn his back on his teammates.
A minute later, one of Rhode Island’s greatest all-time lightweights screamed in pain and the bout was ended by mutual agreement. The standing room only crowd applauded Meyers’s effort.
“We declared it a double default,” Gordon said. “We knew Mike was hurt. It’s a credit to him that he wanted to wrestle our guy despite his injury.”
The state tournament kicks off in eight days. Hopefully, Mike Meyers will be healed and these two proud teams will square off in another team competition like the one they staged last year when Cumberland held off the Hurricanes to win by a couple of points.
“This was just a great match tonight,” Gordon said. “The atmosphere was great. We had a SRO crowd. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen a crowd as loud as this one.”
Cumberland 37, Warwick Veterans 20
135 – Jon Maccini (CU) def. Matt Brown, 4-3
140 – Vincent Venticinque (WV) def. Sean Creamer 14-5
145 – Nick Maccini (CU) pinned James Slack 3:36
152 – Dante Vita (WV) pinned Rich Whitman 1:21
160 – Chris Smith (CU) pinned Tony Lonczak 1:20
171 – George Schmeider (WV) def. Brandon Ferreri 8-0
189 – Andre Lussier (CU) pinned Nick Salois 1:46
215 – Tom Lacroix (CU) def. Zach Clift 6-0
285 – Pearce Thompson (WV) def. Josh Delannoy 7-2
103 – John Altieri (WV) def. Cody Beaudette 6-2
112 – Kris Nordby (CU) def. Nate Colicci 1-0
119 – Shai Lariviere (CU) def. Anthony Meyers 9-0
125 – Shoneil Lariviere (CU) pinned Devin Hurst 5:00
130 – Double default between Erik Travers (CU) and Mike Meyers