North Gets Edge Over Foxboro in Davenport Title Race

North Attleboro wrestling
North Attleboro’s Adam Eberle got bandaged for a head wound but managed to rally for an overtime win at 160 pounds to spark the Rocketeers. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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FOXBORO, Mass. – Fittingly, the first league dual meet since the divisional split between the top two wrestling programs in the history of the Hockomock and the meet that could eventually decide the Davenport division champion was only decided by the slimmest of margins.

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Six of Wednesday night’s 14 matches were decided by two points or less. Only two matches were ended in pins with one walk over, two major victories, and a technical fall.

In the end, North Attleboro did just enough to pick up the 31-24 road victory at longtime rival Foxboro. With the victory, North put itself in control of its own destiny as it tries to mark its first season in the Davenport by winning the league’s dual meet title.

Following the meet, both coaches expressed admiration for their opposition.

“We knew this was going to be a close match,” said North coach Wayne Griffin. “We’ve been following Coach Ivatts for the past couple years and he’s doing a wonderful job over here with these kids. That was a heck of a match.”

Foxboro coach Billy Ivatts, who was also a wrestler in this rivalry and a three-time state champion for the Warriors, said of having North Attleboro back on the league schedule, “I love it. I like having them here. It’s good for the kids to get the competition. It’s good for later on down the road to have that close match experience and just obviously wish it turned out a little differently.”

Starting at 126 pounds, Foxboro jumped out to an early lead. Tom Gallagher picked up a second round pin to open the night, but North cut the lead in half at 132 when Brandon Graveline got a third round takedown of Phil Dure to win that match 6-5 heading into Foxboro’s strongest two wrestlers, Matt and Brian Kelley.

The twins, both seniors, added two more wins to their already impressive careers (Matt became the program’s all-time leader in wins, beating out his coach’s record, earlier this season), but neither could get the maximum points. Matt won 13-1 and Brian got five points for his 15-0 tech, but North managed to avoid getting pinned.

“The Kelley kids are awesome,” said Griffin. “You’re wrestling someone who is very good and your job is to go out and compete, but you can win a match by not getting pinned. They know Nick Gould is our top guy and they employed the same strategy.”

Gould, fresh off a win at the Marshfield Holiday Tournament last week, got a major win at 152 and cut Foxboro’s lead in the meet to 15-7.

That led into arguably the match of the night. North’s Adam Eberle took a blow to the top of his head and had to be extensively bandaged to stop the bleeding, but he managed to pull out a dramatic win against Max Dorman, who also needed attention at one point from the trainer.

Eberle fell behind 4-2 with 30 seconds remaining in the match but tied it with a takedown 20 seconds later. He got another takedown early in the overtime period to seal the win.

He split his head open,” said Griffin of Eberle, “and it was almost like the Roman warriors, but he’ll go home and get a couple stitches and he’ll do a good job.”

Matt Mullaly got Foxboro going again at 170 with a first round pin and Dave Dow got the winning point on a third round escape to win 4-3 over Reid Wills at 182 to put the Warriors ahead 24-10. From that point on, North would win the final six matches to come out on top.

“It was a tough weight class for us to start with,” Ivatts admitted. “You know where their good wrestlers are and they know where our good wrestlers are and you can kind of have it all mapped out… They made all the right moves and won some matches I think we should’ve won and they took it.”

Mateusz Kudra (195), Brad White (220) and John Kummer (285) each pulled in three points for the Rocketeers, as the lightweights got prepared. Foxboro only had Adam Lanctot to wrestle at either 106 or 113, so Ivatts chose to forfeit the match at 106 against Brady Folan, who beat Lanctot in their last match, to try and give his team a shot in the final two matches.

“Their 106 is really good and we didn’t want to lose both,” said Ivatts of giving North its first lead at 25-24. “We thought we could get the win at 113 but unfortunately it didn’t work out. If we get the three [points] there, then it kind of goes back in our favor.”

Lanctot came back to tie Dan Cooper at 4-4 in the third round after an escape, but Copper answered back with a takedown that turned out to be the winning move in a 6-5 thriller that Griffin said “sealed” the meet.

Jake DiRenzo held off Shane Kerrigan, 2-0, at 120 pounds to ensure that North left Foxboro with the victory.

“It was a great high school dual meet,” said Ivatts. “Especially at the high school level it’s always pin or be pinned really, so you could just see the caliber of wrestling from both teams is really high.”

When asked what this meant in terms of the league title race, Griffin admitted, “This was the match. No disrespect to anyone else, but this was the match.

“I think that’s a fair assessment, but who knows what the future can bring. Kids get sick, they get injured, they rise to the occasion, but this is a step in the right direction.”

North Attleboro (9-1) will host a quad meet this weekend, while Foxboro will have a week off before hosting Canton.

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Warriors Beat OA and Clinch Share of Davenport Title

Brian Kelley
Brian Kelley is lifted in the air after his pin earned the Warriors a 30-28 win at OA and guaranteed them a piece of the Davenport crown. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

By Josh Perry, Managing Editor

NORTH EASTON, Mass. – Foxboro came into Wednesday night’s dual meet with Oliver Ames in the Nixon Gym knowing that the strength of its team is in the middleweights. Head coach Bill Ivatts won the pre-meet coin flip and chose to start at 152, leaving 145 for last knowing that he would be able to turn to junior captain Brian Kelley.

That turned out to be a title-winning decision, as Kelley pinned Shea O’Connor with 47 second remaining in the third period to earn the Warriors six points and clinch a 30-28 victory over the Tigers.

“He’s wrestled in big situations before whether it’s states or all-states, so he was the guy to put on the mat at that time,” said Ivatts about putting the pressure on Kelley in the final match. “We figured he could handle that situation at the end.”

Kelley, who weighed in at 138 and was wrestling up a weight class, admitted that it is tough to go into a match knowing that just winning is not enough and that bonus points are required, but he tried to put it out of his mind.

“I was just thinking about how I wrestled the kid before and how I beat him before,” he explained. “I’m not really worried about bumping up a weight class but just doing what I needed to do for the team.”

Kelley jumped out to a commanding 7-0 lead at the end of the first period and held a 9-1 lead in the second when O’Connor spun out of a hold and caught Kelley, putting him on his back as time was winding down. The upset seemed possible at that moment, but the buzzer sounded and Kelley went into the third with a 10-3 lead.

He said, “I got caught in the second and I was a little bit worried but went to the third and outlasted him a little bit.” Kelley dominated the third period and, despite O’Connor battling, was able to get the pin and the winning points.

“Shea had him on his back,” said OA coach Kahn Lima. “If we had more time then maybe he wouldn’t have had to rush it and could’ve finished it.”

The opening match of the meet set the tone for a hard fought battle. Ryan Lehane held a 3-2 lead over Max Doorman on second period back points and held that one-point edge until 17 second remaining in the match when Doorman finally escaped to tie it. In overtime, Lehane got the takedown and the 5-3 win.

Foxboro would earn the next 12 points with Dave Dow (160) and Bob Kierce (182) each pulling out one-point wins and Matt Mullaley getting a second period pin against Jake Murphy, who had led 5-2 after the first.

As the meet turned to the heavier weight divisions, a pattern started to emerge. The Warriors, knowing that the Tigers had the advantage in those weight classes, focused on being defensive and avoiding pins or bonus points to keep the score close.

“They’re a very well-coached team,” said Lima, who said that the Tigers had discussed the Foxboro strategy in the build up to the meet. “We said that the weights that they’re not better than us at, they’re going to go out there not to get pinned and that’s what they did.”

Ivatts noted, “They did what they were assigned to do really and they did a good job and stayed off their backs. Oliver Ames is a really good wrestling team and they’re solid the whole way through, so we have to try and not give up those bonus points.”

When the two teams met earlier this season, OA got those points and went on to win by 24. This time around the matches were closer. Luke Cullen pulled out a 5-3 win at 195 pounds, Pat Mills managed a second period pin at 220 that tied the meet at 12-12 and then Sean McKeen won 6-0 at heavyweight to give the Tigers the lea.d

“I made a decision at the heavier weights and…a lot of the kids worked really hard and I put this one on me. I made a poor choice,” said Lima. “They battled really hard and I picked the wrong matchup.”

Sophomore Casey Bellevue won at 106 and Brittany McDonald had an impressive second period pin at 113 that put OA in front 24-12 with five matches remaining. Phil Durray cruised to a 7-1 win at 120 and then last year’s league MVP Matt Kelley took only 1:30 to get a pin and six points at 126.

Tom Gallagher used two takedowns in the second period to pull out a 4-2 win at 132 and just like that the match was tied with only two more matches to go. In the penultimate match, freshman Anthony Berksza earned his 23rd victory of the season, a new OA freshman record, in dominating fashion. His 12-3 gave OA a bonus point and a four-point lead (28-24).

“He’s doing everything and were very proud of Anthony and very proud of what he did tonight,” said Lima. “I thought from 52-82 was going to be very tough and then the heavier weight classes we could get pins but we didn’t get the pins we needed.”

Kelley turned that deficit around with a pin that gave Foxboro its second title in three seasons. He said, “I won the Davenport freshman year and I really wanted to win it again. It will mean a lot to beat Milford again…it will be a tough match but we should be able to get the win.”

Ivatts insisted that the job is not complete with one more dual meet looming this season. He said, “We still have to wrestle Milford but we had this one circled on the calendar. They’re the team to beat; they’re the best that we’ve seen this year in the small Hock.”

Lima and the Tigers will be hoping that the Hawks can pull the upset to give them a chance at sharing the title, but OA also has to take care of its own business against Sharon as well.

“I think we can finish strong; we’ll bounce back,” said Lima. “It was a great atmosphere for the kids [tonight] and it’s the kind of atmosphere that will help take our program to the next level.”

Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.