PROVIDENCE — Regular season dual-meet results don’t carry over into the tournament season. Each wrestler, no matter how big his reputation and how long his list of accomplishments, must begin anew when the opening whistle sounds to start a tournament match.
That’s the beauty of this sport, which focuses on a team aspect during the dual-meet season. The emphasis changes to individual results during the postseason.
East Providence High, which crowned three individual champions during Saturday night’s state finals, is a shining example of how the emphasis shifts from team to individual in wrestling’s second season. Lincoln High’s Nikolis Zicuis, who won the state title at 215 pounds on Saturday night, is another testimony to how regular season success doesn’t carry over into the postseason.
“Nobody really remembers whether you lost a dual-meet in December,” E.P. coach Tom Galligan admitted on Saturday afternoon while watching four of his Townies win their semifinal matches.
E.P. went 12-4 during the dual-meet season, losing to the four elite teams in front of them – Warwick Vets, Cumberland, Hendricken and Cranston West.
On Saturday night, though, only Warwick could boast as many individual champs as the Townies.
Lincoln’s Zicuis also had much to be proud about after winning the 215 title. He had lost to Division II rivals Nathan Gould (Ponaganset) and Joe Rodriguez (Woonsocket) during the dual-meet season. Gould dropped a 3-2 decision to eventual runnerup Matt Hemme (Chariho) in the quarterfinals. Rodriguez fell to Hendricken’s Nate Andrews 6-4 in the same round.
Zicuis, who boasted a 29-8 record heading into the title match, would defeat Andrews 7-5 in the semifinals and Hemme 6-4 in overtime to win the state title.
“He just keeps coming,” Hendricken coach Kevin Hennessey said of Zicuis. “I thought my guy (Andrews) should have beat him in the semifinals. Zicuis is a good athlete with a low center of gravity.”
“ My goal was just to go hard in every match,” said Zicuis, who will head to this week’s New England championships along with Rodriguez, who came back to finish third at 215. The top three finishers in each weight class head to the regionals.
East Providence sends four wrestlers to the regionals – champions Jacob Burrows (119), Joao Vicente (125), Jonah Aurelio (285) and runnerup Jared Burrows (160). Vicente pulled off the biggest surprise of the finals, taking down two-time champion Shoneil Lariviere four times during an 11-5 victory. He was named Outstanding Wrestler in the tournament based on his run to the title.
“We had a plan for how we wanted to wrestle Shoneil,” Townies coach Tom Galligan said, “but it wasn’t anything new. You try to stay away from Shoneil’s headlock. You’ve got to give credit to the kid (Vicente). He went after it. Nobody works harder than Joao. He got beat up and pinned by Lariviere during the regular season but it didn’t matter.”
“I wrestled my heart out against Shoneil,” Vicente said. “I didn’t want to get hit by his cradle. Coach (Galligan) told me how to avoid his headlock, too. I just worked and worked to get ready for Shoneil. He’s a great champion but I beat him tonight.”
Vicente credits his training in judo for providing him added skills on the mat.
“I practice judo at the Mayo Quanchi club in West Warwick along with some of the Cranston West wrestlers,” Vicente said. “I think it helps me with my balance and my throws.”
Jacob Burrows set a winning tone for E.P., rolling to a 10-2 victory over Warwick’s Anthony Meyers in the 119-pound finals. Cumberland’s Shai Lariviere, the No. 1 seed, defaulted due to injury on Friday night, leaving the door open for second-seeded Burrows to walk through.
Sophomore Jonah Aurelio became E.P.’s third champion when the closed out the finals with a pin of Westerly’s J.P. Harris at 285 pounds.
The Townies’ Jared Burrows lost a 5-3 verdict to La Salle’s Mike Georges in the 160 finals. Burrows pushed for a takedown in the final minute but couldn’t overcome two mistakes. He lost three points when Georges turned his back to the mat briefly in the second period and then gave up a reverse at the beginning of the third period to fall behind, 5-2. All three points Burrows scored came on escapes.
Defending state champion Cumberland got off to a bad start on Friday night when Shai Lariviere forfeited his second match of the evening due to injury. Top seed Nick Maccini (145) lost a one-point decision in the quarterfinals. Maccini would regain his form and finish a strong third in his weight class to earn a berth in the New England tourney. So would his third-seeded brother Jon, who took third at 135.
Cumberland lost all four of its matches in the finals, sealing a tournament effort that began and ended badly but featured some strong wrestling in between.
“Winning a state title isn’t easy,” Steve Gordon said on Saturday afternoon. “Everything has to fall into place, even for the best teams.”
Gordon spent some time Saturday night consoling the Lariviere brothers, twins who tended to feed off one another during their careers. It was the end of a glorious era for the brothers, who have displayed their talent and joy of wrestling to local fans for the past four years. The twins grew from cute little kids who placed high in the state as ninth graders into mature seniors who led their team to one state title and three undefeated dual-meet seasons during their careers.
Shai finished his career with a 137-10 record, two state titles and one New England title. Shoneil, 34-2 this season, went 137-14 during high school.
Gordon knows how much the twins have meant to his program. It’s even more impressive when a rival coach tips his cap to two opponents who have pounded his wrestlers for four years, right up until this past weekend when the tables were turned for 36 hours.
“I live in Warwick and don’t see the twins very much,” Tom Galligan said, “but they seem like great kids. They were always nice to me and very polite. They have been amazing to watch for four years.”