Ndi repeats as champion, but Concord fifth in D-I
Concord senior Vin Benicasa locks on to Pinkerton's Tyler Wilson in the NHIAA Division 1 wrestling championship at Concord High School on Saturday, February 16, 2013. (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)
Concord's Travis Reyes winks to his team mates on the sideline as he attempts to bring Salem's Dom Gigante to the mat in the 220 pound class in the NHIAA Division 1 championship at Concord High School on Saturday, February 16, 2013. (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)
Concord sophomore Ian Wagner attempts to bring Keene's Matthew Bush to the mat in the 135 pound class during Saturday's NHIAA Division 1 wrestling championship at Concord High School. (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)
Before the title match, Walters Ndi was outside the gym in a lonely corner. The Concord junior was bouncing on his toes and slapping his own head, winding himself ready.
“Everyone wanted to see the match,” Ndi said, “so I had to show my best.”
Ndi did just that. In a tilt between two imposing and physical wrestlers, Ndi showed more muscle, quickness and skill to claim the 195-pound title with a 6-3 victory over Nashua North’s Joe Chimelski yesterday at the Division I championships at Concord High.
“I thought Wally handled him and I don’t think (Chimelski) really had an opportunity to score,” Concord Coach Ham Munnell said. “I’m sure it will be a different match next week (if the two meet again at the Meet of Champions), but I was very impressed with Wally today.”
It was the only individual championship for the Crimson Tide, which finished fifth as a team. It’s a step back from last year’s runner-up result, but it wasn’t unexpected. Concord suffered a series of bad breaks in the last few weeks and had four wrestlers in the tournament who were just moved up from the JV ranks.
“We’re in a rebuilding process and we’re trying to get back to where we once were,” Munnell said. “I like all our young kids, I like the attitude, I like their character. I wish the result was better today, but the effort was there.”
“I was hoping to get second place, get that trophy or plaque, so it’s kind of disappointing,” Ndi said. “But I thought we did pretty good for what we had.”
As expected, Timberlane easily won its 14th straight D-I team title, finishing with 233 points and five of the 14 individual champions. Pinkerton (146) took second, followed by Londonderry (123), Exeter (101), Concord (97) and Manchester Central (92.5).
Ndi was the 182 champ last year, went 21-0 in-state during the regular season and won his first two matches yesterday by pin, including one in 21 seconds. Still, he felt like he had something to prove before facing Chimelski.
“Everyone doubted me, like I didn’t really have it yet, so I just wanted to show I could do it,” said Ndi, who has relied more on muscle than skill in the past.
With that chip on his shoulder, Ndi was ultra-aggressive to start the match, shooting repeatedly and from different angles until he claimed a 2-0 lead after 44 seconds. Chimelski worked it back to 2-2 early in the second on two escapes, but Ndi used a quick reversal on the edge of the circle to take a 4-2 lead going into the final period.
Ndi then showed off his strength with less than a minute left in the match when he caught Chimelski in a bear hug, lifted and slammed him, and knocked him out in the process. The match was stopped as the medical staff checked on Chimelski and Ndi paced the circle.
“I didn’t know what to do,” Ndi said. “I was speechless.”
Once cleared to continue, Chimelski fought hard for the final 30 seconds, but all he could manage was another one-point escape.
“I knew with that injury time he would regain some strength and some energy,” Ndi said. “I was ready for him.”
Senior captain Vinny Benincasa (152) was the only other Tide wrestler to reach the finals. Nothing came easy for Benincasa, who started the day with a 1-0 win over Pinkerton’s Tyler Wilson, the eventual third-place finisher.
“I had wrestled (Wilson) twice and I had pinned twice, so I was expecting better of myself,” Benincasa said.
Things didn’t get much easier in the semifinals as Benincasa claimed a 5-3 win over Londonderry’s John Young. And in the finals, Benincasa couldn’t get through the defense of Nashua South’s Tyler Ellwood, who won the title with a 5-1 decision.
“It’s a letdown,” Benincasa, “but there’s next week.”
The top six wrestlers from the D-I meet qualify for the MOC. Joining Ndi and Benincasa next Saturday at Pinkerton Academy will be Dan Losacano (third at 120), Connor Stadnicki (fourth at 106), Sean Hall (fourth at 113), Travis Reyes (fourth at 220) and Nick Engel (sixth at 160).
Losacano went 3-1 yesterday, two of the wins coming by pin. The loss was a 5-0 decision against Salem’s John Rheaume, who lost in the final to Timberlane’s Adam Corey, now a three-time champion. Those two alone make 120 one of the toughest weight classes in the state, but Losacano won’t let it bother him.
“Every year I’m in a tough weight class,” he said. “I just try to embrace it.”
He certainly embraced the third-place match, showing total control as he rolled to a 7-1 win over Nashua North’s Peter Daniels. Losacano’s third was even more impressive considering he had the flu all week.
“I was worried we weren’t going to get anything out of (Losacano) because he just felt terrible all week,” Munnell said. “But he had a good tournament for us.”
(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3371 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @timosullivan20.)