Concord wrestling opens strange season with a win

  • Concord wrestler Abbas Abdulrahman gets a fist pump from his coach after winning his semi-final match at Londonderry High School on Saturday, February 22, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER

  • Concord wrestler Cody Rashid in his semi-final match at Londonderry High School on Saturday, February 22, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER

  • Concord High’s Abbas Abdulrahman celebrates after winning the 195-pound title at last year’s Capital City Classic. Abdulrahman, who also won the 195 D-I title last season as a junior and finished fourth in New England, returns as a senior captain for the Tide this winter. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 1/17/2021 2:24:52 PM

The Concord High wrestling team opened its season on Saturday, and at first glance, its looks like business as usual for the Crimson Tide.

Concord claimed a 57-18 win against Windham, a perennially strong program. Senior captains Abbas Abdulrahman and Jack Sargent each won by pin, as did three other Tide wrestlers, and Concord seems ready to make yet another run at the end of the season - the Tide has finished runner-up at the Division I tournament for five straight years.

A closer look tells a different story that, unfortunately, is not that surprising considering the difficulties of wrestling during a pandemic.

“It’s a whole different game,” said Ham Munnell, who is now in his 25th year as Concord’s head coach. “The positives are the kids are doing well, they’re working hard, the commitment is there and it’s better than not wrestling, but it’s not the product that we’re used to putting out.”

The differences start with the numbers. In the past, Concord would start the season with a roster in the 50s, but currently there are just 32 kids in the program. In the past two seasons, the Tide has placed a wrestler in the top 6 in all 14 weight classes at the D-I championships, but on Saturday Concord didn’t have anyone to fill two of the weight classes (120 and 132 pounds).

The lack of numbers is one thing, but what Munnell misses the most are the bonds that form during the course of the season. Those connections would happen over time with teammates and coaches talking in the locker room, after practice, on bus trip and at day-long tournaments. None of that is allowed now due to the coronavirus health and safety guidelines.

“We came up with the guidelines and we’re following them, because wrestling is better than not wrestling,” Munnell said. “But there are all these disconnects, and the biggest thing about our program in the past is the community we’ve been able to create, and it’s just really difficult to do that now.”

With only nine practices and one match under their belts, the Concord wrestlers are not as sharp or conditioned as they usually are at this time of year. Sargent, for example, had a 20-5 record on Jan. 16, 2020, but on Jan. 16, 2021 he sat at exactly 1-0 after his win by pin against Windham.

“We’ve had maybe one-tenth of the wrestling we would normally have,” Munnell said.

Of course most teams are in the same situation there, and the Tide wasn’t hurt too much by its lack of mat time on Saturday in Windham.

Tommy Sargent (195 pounds), Jordan Reyes (138) and freshman Traevon Ling (106), the younger brother of 2018 captain Liddon Ling, also earned wins by pin against Windham. Aidan Fox-Morrill claimed an 11-8 decision at 145. Austin Wells (285), Kody Rashed (182), David Bean (170) and Levi Madison (113) all won by forfeit. Will Ahlgren (152) and Jamari Arzu (126) both lost.

Abdulrahman is Concord’s most decorated returning wrestler. Last year he finished first at the D-I championships at 195 pounds, was second at the Meet of Champions and finished fourth in New Englands. He was also a D-I runner-up in 2019. Jack Sargent is a two-time D-I runner-up, and Rashed also finished second at D-I last year.

Senior Trey Fortier, who did not wrestle Saturday due to an injury, finished fourth at 132 at the 2020 D-I meet. Junior Kaevryel Madison also missed Saturday’s meet but should see some varisty mat time this year.

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