Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2008

Warriors wrestle to their name in tri-meet

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Wrestling isn’t an individual sport. It may seem like the ultimate one — two grapplers battling each other and only each other for up to nine minutes. But looks can be deceiving.

When 152-pounder Chris Constantino took the mat for the first time this past Saturday, he was keenly aware of the Sherwood High name on his back. Battling one of the state’s top wrestlers, Springbrook senior Carlo Galeano, Constantino earned the best 18-6 loss of his young career — with the Warriors up by five entering the last weight class, he gave up only four points to Galeano instead of the potential six-point pin, allowing his team to walk away with a 36-35 victory over the Blue Devils in a tri-meet at Churchill.

‘‘I just went in there with the attitude that I wouldn’t show my back at all,” said Constantino. ‘‘It’s just a matter of pride. I went in there thinking it was a life-and-death situation, because if I got pinned it was over. We want to make states. It was a division match — if we had lost, we would have been done.”

Indeed, the Warriors (5-1) helped themselves tremendously with victories over the Blue Devils — who are also now 5-1 — and a 45-25 ousting of Churchill (2-3). They trailed Springbrook early on, then used pins by Alex Hakspiel (112), Montgomery Barnsley (119) and Tyler Tockman (135) to build a six-point lead with just three weight classes left. But when Springbrook’s Don Cazeau (140) kept standout Josh Lowy from pinning him, only giving up three points total, the Blue Devils looked in good shape to pull out a victory. They trailed by nine, but with Galeano and Joffrey Alcidor (145), the clear-cut favorites in their matches, had a great chance to pull the match out.

But Sherwood’s Steven Ajamian, though overmatched by Alcidor, only gave up four points in a 15-4 loss. That set the stage for Constantino to do the same.

‘‘The amazing thing is, I thought we’d get a pin at 140 and when he didn’t, I was worried,” said Sherwood head coach Scott Beattie. ‘‘I’m very proud of our guys. It was all heart. Some of those kids [at Springbrook] were much better, but our kids just stuck it out and worked their butt off.”

The Blue Devils are of the deepest teams in the county, and despite the narrow defeat, they still showed plenty of flashes. They got pins from Hector Guevara (130) and Paul Milano (215) against theWarriors, and arguably their top wrestler, Nadjitade Badje (171), didn’t even get to show off in the opener (won by forfeit).

And a suddenly angry Springbrook team took their frustrations out on the Bulldogs in a 56-11 victory to close out the day’s action. Galeano, Alcidor, Badje, Milano and Cazeau were all amongst the winners in the rout.

But they were clearly thinking about the match that got away.

‘‘I’d honestly say [Sherwood] was tough where you needed to be tough, and that they just out-toughed us,” said Blue Devils head coach Rob Wendel. ‘‘Whenever you have pretty balanced teams going in, you think about the matches that could go either way. They won almost all of them and several of which we were winning going into third period.”

The Bulldogs didn’t have one of their better days either, with three starting wrestlers out and 130-pound Jeff Giannotto ‘‘sick as a dog”, according to head coach Mike Endler. They did have some standout performances, including one victory each from captains Adam Mutai (189) and Aria Najafi (145). Their top performer of the day was Anthony Vito (125), the team’s top wrestler, who won both of his matches, including a 7-2 victory over Springbrook’s higher-ranked Joe Galeano.

‘‘Overall, we got some good battles but I’m really disappointed with the way we performed,” said Endler. ‘‘I thought we had a shot at beating Sherwood, in fact I was really surprised Sherwood knocked off Springbrook. But some of those matches were ridiculous with the leads we lost. It would have been nice if he had our full lineup, but you’ve got to wrestle with what you have.”