CANTON, Mass. – Early in Wednesday night’s dual meet in the Canton High gym, the Bulldogs looked at home on the brand new mat, winning four matches in a row and taking the lead over visiting Mansfield heading into the 138-pound weight class.
Canton’s Max Gallagher had the lead after the opening round and seemed to have control of the match in the second with a 5-2 advantage on Mansfield senior Stephen Healy. The match and possibly the whole dual meet turned in an instant when Healy squirmed out of a hold and flipped Gallagher. He went from the edge of being pinned to winning the match and earning six points for the Hornets.
When the ref slapped the mat, the Hornets bench exploded out of its seats to celebrate the turn in momentum. Mansfield won 145 at a walk over and then took four of the next five matches, three of them by pin, to seal the victory. Canton would earn pins in the final two matches of the night but the Hornets walked away with a 37-34 victory.
“Stephen Healy really stands out,” said Mansfield coach Mark DiSanto. “He’s a senior who has worked his butt off and he came through big for us. That was a big match, it was probably one of the differences.”
Antonio Sevastos started off the night with a 2-0 victory at 106 pounds to put Mansfield ahead 3-0, but the hosts went on a roll with four straight wins to take control. Justin Dickie had a second round pin at 113, Harry Carter won 8-2 at 120, Eddie Marinilli just held on long enough to edge Will Stratton 3-2 at 126, and Anis Chakir rolled to a 12-4 major win at 132 for a 16-3 lead.
“We had a couple matchup issues,” said Canton coach Brian Caffelle, “and honestly we thought we were going to steal one in particular. We had a good lead, we were feeling good, and saying to ourselves, okay if we win this match then we can really seal the deal early on.”
Healy found a way to pull out his match and after the Hornets won by forfeit at 145 the lead was down to just one point. Although it is difficult to overcome a missing weight class, Canton bounced right back with a second round pin by Joey Pacitti on a big reversal.
“I stress that regardless of what happens, we’re giving up six but we still have to go out there and wrestle well enough to make up for it,” Caffelle explained. “You can’t use that as an excuse.”
Sophomore George Glaropolous got a first round pin at 160 that got Mansfield back to a one-point deficit at 22-21 and then his classmate Jayden Curley pulled off a big win at 170 to give the Hornets their first lead of the night.
Curley battled Canton senior Brandon Lentol and the pair traded near falls in a high-scoring opening round and Curley took control in the second, building an 18-6 lead. But in the third round Lentol started to get back into the match, cutting the lead to 10 and then as the horn sounded he seemed on the edge of putting Curley on his back only to have time run out.
It was a big win for the younger wrestler, particularly because he was one of several Hornets who had to move up a weight class for the dual meet. Freshman Vinnie Holmes was another who bumped up and he rolled to a first round pin at 182.
“Right now I think everyone is focused one match at a time and for the team,” said DiSanto. “Whatever us coaches ask them to do they’re going to do. If we ask for them to bump up, they’re going to bump up and they like that challenge.”
Shane Cremmen sealed the victory for Mansfield with two matches remaining, getting a first round pin to push the lead to 37-22. Mark Whalen (220) and Nick Matt (285) ended the meet on a high note for the Bulldogs with back-to-back pins.
“We’re still trying to learn to win on a consistent level and we’re right there. I think we’re right on the cusp of doing great things,” said Caffelle.
He added, “We’re right there and it’s something we can build on. This is going to sting a little bit but you’d rather have these matches early on in the season because it’s going to pay off when we have a real dogfight in sectionals or when we really start going into the Davenport.”
With the win, Mansfield improved to 6-1 on the season, which is just one shy of the win total for the Hornets in all of 2015-16. This even more impressive considering the vast majority of the roster is underclassmen.
“It’s a big win for the team,” said DiSanto. “We take this match, enjoy tonight and get right back to work tomorrow, but overall the success that we’ve had is fantastic. Everyone is just coming together and they’re focused on team first.”
Mansfield will try to keep its momentum in a Super-Quad at Plymouth South before the prestigious Marshfield Tournament. Canton will head to the Lowell Tournament next week, which is one of the top tournaments in the state year-in, year-out.