Novans grapple with perfection

Novans grapple with perfection

Woonsocket’s Jordan Dutcher, top, is on the verge of pinning Johnston’s Jose Echeverria during the 126-pound match of last week’s Division II dual meet, a 66-15 victory by the undefeated Novans. Dutcher, who also won his weight class at last weekend’s Smithfield Invitational, became the third wrestler in the program’s history to reach 100 career wins on Jan. 26 when he delivered a second-round pin during a quad-meet at Carver High School in Carver, Mass. (Breeze photos by Eric Benevides)
Wrestling team takes 10-0 mark into final weeks of dual-meet season

WOONSOCKET – It seems like the Woonsocket High wrestling team had done it all in the past three seasons.

Individually, the Villa Novans had seen the first two wrestlers in their program’s history reach the 100-win plateau, one win a state championship, and a few more pocket medals at the past three state meets and go on to enjoy a bit of success at the New England Championships.

On the tournament scene, the Novans have brought home their share of hardware from tourneys throughout southeastern New England, and in dual meets, they’ve averaged 14 victories a season and lost just five times.

But there is one thing that the Novans hadn’t been able to do during those seasons – win a regular-season championship – but that may change this winter.

Last Wednesday night at Johnston High, the Novans boosted their Division II record to 10-0 by cruising to a 66-15 victory over the Panthers. It was the ninth time that Woonsocket decked a team by more than 20 points.

“We’re having a very good season so far, but we’d really like to finish it with a dual-meet title,” Woonsocket head coach Matt Morrow admitted before last week’s match. “Our seniors have lost the dual-meet title by one match in two of the last three years. Last season, we lost to Hope, and three years ago, we lost to Pilgrim in the last match of the year. Hopefully, this is the year.”

It should be no surprise that the Villa Novans are deep in the hunt for the third undefeated dual-meet season in their program’s 23-year history, especially with the experience and depth on their roster.

Two seniors, Daniel Castillo (132 pounds) and David Cournoyer (138) have been contributors for the team since they were freshmen, and seniors Jordan Dutcher (120), Ratana Ham (220), and Michael Dumont (285) and juniors Thomas Murphy (113) and Caleb Lambert (160) are solid three-year starters.

As far as depth, Morrow has 25 wrestlers on his roster, and almost all of them have had to see a bit of action during the course of the season.

“The depth on our team is crazy,” said Morrow. “We’ve had eight varsity guys miss time with injuries during the year, but the other guys just came in and wrestled wherever we needed them to (wrestle).”

The Novans’ depth was certainly put to the test in their toughest meet to date against Burrillville on Jan. 10 at the Novans’ gym, but two football stars who entered this season with some varsity experience, Emmanuel Gomes and Hayden Depault, helped the Novans come away with a 36-32 victory.

“Both teams had guys out with injuries and jayvee guys making up weights,” recalled Morrow. “We had to win two of our last three matches. Emmanuel was tied in the third period (at 195 pounds) and he stood up to win by a point, and Hayden pinned his guy at 220 to clinch it for us.”

Gomes, who is also a standout on the Novans’ indoor track and field team, mainly wrestles at 182, while Depault is at 195. Seniors Jacob Costanza (145) and Jose Diaz (170) and junior Silas Insisiengmay (126) are also back from last year.

Senior Alejandro Alves is also wrestling at 152, and the lone freshman in the starting lineup, 106-pounder Anthony Diaz, is having an outstanding season that has seen him become the first WHS freshman since 2003 to reach the finals in a tournament, doing so in Pelham, N.H.

“This is the first time we’ve had six guys wrestle in the finals of tournaments this year,” said Morrow, who has also sent his team to invitationals on Cape Cod and in North Providence, South County, and Smithfield.

The last tournament the Novans competed in was last weekend’s Smithfield Invitational, and not only did they place second out of 21 teams with 169 points, just nine fewer than tournament champion Hope, but they also had nine wrestlers place among the top five in their weight classes.

Dutcher, who became the first WHS wrestler to need only three seasons to reach 100 victories, doing so in a quad-meet on Jan. 26 in Carver, Mass., reached the finals of a tournament for the fifth time this season and ended up winning the 126-pound title, and Castillo also captured the 132-pound crown.

Murphy and Lambert took second places, junior Kobi Alvarez (182), Depault, Costanza, and Dumont placed third, and Anthony Diaz took fifth place.

With their tournament schedule in the books, the Novans will focus on their final seven dual meets and their bid for a regular-season title. On Tuesday, they bused to Providence to face Classical and East Greenwich, and on Thursday at 6 p.m., they will be back in the state’s capitol to tangle with Central, Central Falls, and the Tolman/Shea co-op team.

“We still have to wrestle Tolman and they’re going to be tough,” said Morrow. “I think they only have one loss right now. And West Warwick will be tough on our Senior Night (on Feb. 14), so we’ll see what happens.”

The RIIL Championships are Feb. 22 and 23 at the Providence Career & Technical Academy.

Woonsocket’s Anthony Diaz, right, has his sights set on taking down Johnston’s Carlos Monteiro during their 106-pound match last week. The lone freshman in the Novans’ starting lineup, Diaz pinned Monteiro in the opening round to help the undefeated Novans roll to a 66-15 victory.