Tide’s Lawrence a surprise finalist at Meet of Champions
DERRY – Dan Lawrence wasn’t even supposed to be at yesterday’s Meet of Champions. The Concord High junior was the No. 9 seed in last week’s Division I championships, where the top six wrestlers qualify for the MOC. But Lawrence fought his way into fifth place at the D-I tournament, and he kept the upsets rolling all the way into yesterday’s 145-pound final.
“We knew Dan would make some noise here,” Concord Coach Ham Munnell said, “but we didn’t think he’d pop into the finals. But that’s why you come to these things.”
Lawrence couldn’t pull off the last upset of the day and wound up losing to Sanborn’s Tristan Leek in the final. But that second-place finish earned Lawrence a trip to the New England championships next week in Providence, R.I., and he helped the Crimson Tide to a third-place finish in the team standings, which was also a pleasant surprise.
“If you had told me at the beginning of the year we would have ended up third in the entire state of New Hampshire, I would have happily taken that,” Munnell said. “We brought 12 kids today, all of them scored, 11 of them won two matches, and we placed seven (in the top six), so it was a great day and a huge team effort.”
Timberlane won its 11th straight MOC title with 197.5 points, Londonderry took second with 144.5 and the Tide finished with 123 points. Nashua North was fourth with 113 while Bedford and Manchester Central tied for fifth with 92.
Lawrence began his day with a second-period pin against Milford’s Mitchell Rota and then earned a 6-3 decision in the quarterfinals against Bedford’s Josh Belz, who had pinned Lawrence in a meeting earlier this year. But the real upset, and redemption, came in the semifinals, when Lawrence posted a 4-2 decision against Timberlane’s Dan Scalzo, who was named the Outstanding Wrestler of the D-I tournament last week after he upset Manchester Central’s Azalkhon Sarvalov, the defending division and MOC champ, for the 145 crown.
“Scalzo destroyed me (in middle school) and then he beat me earlier this year,” Lawrence said.
“So going into the match today I was thinking it was all about composure, making sure that mentally I was winning the match, and I felt like if that happened, I could win it.”
Lawrence was able to work that mental game with a diverse set of skills that neutralized Scalzo, and thrilled the crowd at Pinkerton Academy.
“He just broke Scalzo down. He countered all of Scalzo’s scoring moves and Danny just made everything hard for him,” Munnel said. “It frustrated Scalzo, you could see it by the end.”
As he waited for his finals match with Leek, who was the Outstanding Wrestler of last week’s D-III meet and beat Sarvalov in yesterday’s other 145 semifinal, Lawrence had a hard time grasping the circumstances.
“My goal coming into this was just to get top six … it just felt crazy to see that (Sarvalov) was wrestling for third and I was wrestling for first,” Lawrence said. “It almost didn’t seem right.”
Lawrence scored the first points of the championship match, earning two on a takedown with 10 seconds left in the first period. Leek got one back on an escape with :04 on the clock, but Lawrence posted another two at the buzzer to take a 4-1 lead after one. Leek showed his skills on top in the second and tied things at 4-4 by the end of the period. The Sanborn senior then took a two-point lead with a reversal midway through the third before pinning Lawrence with 40 seconds remaining in the match.
Concord’s other finalist didn’t last that long in his championship match. In the strangest scene of the night, senior Walters Ndi lost by default to Nashua North’s Joe Chimelski in the 195 final on a match that was initially called because of a flagrant misconduct, a ruling that would have kept Ndi from the New England championships and forced Concord to surrender his points for the day. That ruling was dropped after a post-match discussion and Chimelski was simply awarded the default win and Ndi kept his second-place status.
The rivalry between these two began last year when Ndi defeated Chimelski at the 2013 D-I tournament but then lost to him at the MOC. Chimelski also beat Ndi during the regular season this year and then again last week at the D-I tournament.
The emotions from those past encounters came to the front yesterday when the two took turns driving each other out of the circle early in the match. Ndi was then docked a point for unnecessary roughness when he slapped Chimelski in the face with 18 seconds left in the second period. Ndi hit Chimelski in the face again with :04 on the clock, at which point the match was stopped with Chimelski up 3-0. The initial ruling was that Ndi hit Chimelski with a closed fist (unofficial video recordings showed he did not), which is cause for flagrant misconduct. That was eventually overturned, but Chimelski was still awarded the win.
“Wally messed up,” Munnell said.
Ndi agreed with that assessment, as did Chimelski, but the Nashua North senior didn’t like winning that way.
“I wish we got to finish the match,” Chimelski said. “I beat him last week and I felt like I was in control again and I could tell he was getting frustrated.”
The Tide’s other place winners were Connor Stadnicki (fourth, 120), Ian Wagner (fourth, 152), Nate Engel (fifth, 113), Dylan Naylor (sixth, 285) and Calvin Crowell (sixth, 170).
Winnisquam’s Richey Mills earned a trip to New Englands (the top three qualify) with his third place at 170. Mills easily won his first two matches (11-1 and 4-0) before losing a 1-0 decision against Pinkerton’s Dylan Barreiro, the eventual champ. Mills, a junior, then beat Crowell, 4-1, before posting a 5-0 decision over Newport’s Stephen Nix to claim third.
“It was a good day overall, I thought I wrestled tough,” Mills said. “I wanted to go to New Englands, and I did that. And I get to miss school on Friday, so I’m excited about that.”
John Stark’s Nick Widmann will also be going to Providence on Friday after he took third at 126. Widmann lost in overtime in the semifinals, but worked his way back through the bottom bracket to reach the third/fourth-place match, where he came back from an early 2-0 deficit to claim a 7-3 win over Goffstown’s Jacob Nault.
Pete LaRiviere of Bow won the New Hampshire Wrestling Officials Sportsmanship Award and then went on to claim third at 138 with a hard-fought 5-1 decision over Winnacunnet’s Luca Rosa, the 138 D-II champ.
It will be the second straight trip to the New England tournament for LaRiviere, who was second last year at 145. Bow’s Tony Roberts took sixth at 195.