By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – The Bristol Central and Bristol Eastern wrestling programs locked horns in the 57th annual city series battle between the schools on Wednesday, Feb. 6 from the Thomas M. Monahan Gymnasium on the Bristol Eastern campus.
The Lancers rolled out 64 straight points on its way to a 64-3 win moving to 16-1 on the year to the end the regular season as the senior-heavy team beat Central for the ninth consecutive time.
Justin Marshall (152 pounds), Trinidad Gonzalez (220), Carson Sassu (126), Gabe Soucy (138), Riley McCarthy (120), Joe Morelli (170), Noah Piazza (160), and Ethan Mathieu (195) all picked up pins and decisions on senior night and were honored by the program before the start of the event.
“I know we’re a little more experienced than [Central] and I wanted intensity. I wanted them fighting through everything,” said Eastern coach Bryant Lishness. “So I was pleased.”
But the contest wasn’t as one-sided as the score indicated as Central (18-7) battled in several swing matches that evening and hung around into third period action in some of the bouts.
“We had seven close matches,” said Central coach Matt Boissonneault. “We lost six of them and won one. [Eastern’s] experienced guys and their big guns matched up with some of our inexperienced guys and that’s where you get a final score like that. But that’s wrestling.”
“I think we made some mistakes and they made adjustments and we made the same mistakes and their adjustments made those mistakes costly at the end of the match.”
At times, the crowd seemed to sit in near stunned silence as Eastern continue to win match after match during the meet.
The bouts started at 120 pounds where McCarthy and Central’s Adam Ward were 0-0 after one period while the Eastern grappler led 2-1 through two frames.
A huge reverse by McCarthy with 1:51 to go eventually gave him a 4-1 win via decision.
At 126, Sassu and Karriem Hoe duked it out into the second period as Central held a 4-3 point edge in the match.
But Sassu flipped out of the hold for a reverse and quickly pinned Hoe with 52 seconds left in the second.
Then Jake Leone (132) took on Tom Nichols and the sophomore from Eastern went right to work.
He led 11-1 after one period and 59 seconds into the second stanza, the match was called via a 16-1 technical fall as Leone hung in all he could but was simply overmatched and out-gunned by the crafty Nichols.
“Jake Leone is a junior varsity [wrestler at] 126 pounder and we had some injury and sickness,” said Boissonneault. “I told him I was bumping him up. Tommy’s a very good wrestler and Jake fought his tail off.”
Soucy (138) led 3-0 through two periods but Jason Feto fought to trim the deficit to 4-2 before a takedown and a near-fall saw the wrestler from Eastern win it by a 9-2 decision as the Lancers led 17-0.
Alex Marshall (145) scooped up a 5-0 lead over Umar Malick after one period while the Eastern wrestler made a quick escape, scored two points on a leg trip and then scored the pin in 3:23.
Justin Marshall (152) led 12-2 through two minutes of action over Andrew Beaucar and simply smothered the Central grappler into a 17-2 technical fall.
Piazza (160) led 10-0 after one period against Casey Quirion and nearly used a small package in picking up a pin in 2:11 as the Lancers lead grew to 34-0.
And then Morelli (170) and Connor Feeney-Wallace had a back-and-forth exchange.
It was 0-0 through one period and 2-2 through two stanzas of action.
But Morelli made a reverse with 57 seconds left in the match, had a firm hold of Feeney-Wallace’s arm and kept him grounded in picking up a 5-2 decision.
“Joey’s been wrestling better and better and better as the season’s gone on,” said Lishness of Morelli. “He’s had a couple rough matches early but he’s really kind of stringing some good things together, placing in tournaments. We’re really happy with him.”
Eastern’s Dylan Garcia (182) made a takedown halfway through the first period against Jacob Boucher and eventually cradled him for the fall in 46 seconds – leading the home squad to a 43-0 cushion.
And at 195, Eastern’s Ethan Mathieu and Central’s Salinas battled nearly tit-for-tat.
Mathieu led 1-0 going into the final stanza but Salinas made an escape early to tie the event at 1-1.
A late takedown with 18 seconds left propelled the Eastern grappler to a 3-2 win.
“I thought Jakob Salinas wrestled really well,” said Boissonneault. “He’s where he wanted to be at the end of the match.”
Gonzalez (220) needed just seven seconds to pin Central’s Alex Roy while St. Peter (285) and the Rams’ Eric Facey grappled into the third period with St. Peter in front 1-0.
But St. Peter flattened Facey and pinned him 14 seconds later as Eastern nabbed a 58-0 lead in the match.
“I thought Eric Facey, a freshman and first year wrestler, in an environment like this, gives up the third period pin but he’s wrestled [St. Peter] tough,” said Boissonneault.
Some energy from the several hundred fans was quickly injected into the meet when Eastern’s Trent Thompson and Central’s Will Hamilton duked it out.
Thompson made two takedowns and rolled up a fall in 56 seconds with Eastern grabbing that 64-0 push.
And in the final bout, Central’s Jake Aldi and Eastern’s Mason Lishness were locked in combat.
After a scoreless first period, Aldi made a reverse on Lishness with 1:07 left in the second and take a two-point lead.
Lishness just couldn’t make an escape at the end of the final period, dropping a tough one-point decision.
“Jake and Mason have grown up together, wrestling each other,” said Lishness. “I knew it was going to be a 2-1 match. I just knew it was going to be like that. They’re partners together in the offseason a lot. They’re finally in the same weight together. Jake just got him today, 2-1.”
“Right at the end there, a couple stalemates in the last 30 seconds…I would have loved to see that go to overtime.”
And while the Rams lost the encounter, the squad battled and did what it could against the third rated squad in the state.
“I’m happy with the effort,” said Boissonneault. “I’m not obviously happy with the result but it is what it is.”
NOTES…The 64 points were the most any team has ever scored in city series wrestling. Along those lines, the three points Central tallied was a series low while the 61-point win was the largest margin of victory between the schools. Central leads the all-time series 28-27-2.