After making New Hampshire high school wrestling history by ending the lengthy championship reign of the Timberlane Owls last year, the Londonderry High School wrestling squad came into this year’s Division I Championships with lower expectations after losing talent to graduation.
But that didn’t mean that the LHS crew wasn’t putting its all into the D-I title event at Nashua High School North last Saturday, Feb. 20.
The Lancers were the only one of the 11 competing teams to have grapplers finish in every one of the six medal spots, with that crew of eight Londonderry medalists being paced by repeat state champion Mahdi Achab. Achab became a state champ for the second consecutive year by besting Nashua North’s John Sweeney in a slim, final seconds win, in the 170-pound title bout.
The locals will now have their eight medalists competing in this Saturday’s state Meet of Champions at Nashua North.
Where team scoring was concerned, the Lancers finished with 106.50 points, fifth behind the D-I champs from Timberlane (220), Concord (159), Pinkerton (118.50), and home-standing Nashua North (109).
“We’re not the same team as last year, but overall I’m pleased with how we did today,” said coach Jason Cucolo. “The guys worked hard, we advanced eight to next week, and anything can happen there.”
Two-time state champion, and the number two seed, Achab pushed his coaches’ nerves to the breaking point in his title bout, overcoming a 1-0 deficit in the final 10 seconds of the third period with a clutch reversal that got him the two points he required to defeat North’s Sweeney.
“There were opportunities earlier to score but I wasn’t able to. But in the last 10 seconds you just have to go for it, and I did,” said Achab.
In watching his 170-pound grappler – who finished the day with a perfect 3-0 record – pull out the last-second victory, Cucolo received a few more reasons to be happy with Achab.
“He works hard, he believes in himself, and he believes in what we’re teaching him. And that’s why he’s been successful,” said Cucolo.
LHS 126-pound stalwart Ryan Cabezas, who headed into the day as the number one seed, took second after losing a tight match (8-7) to Alvirne’s Nick Milinazzo in his division’s title bout. All in all, Cabezas went 2-1 on the big day.
Tyler Byrd finished third in his 132-pound class with a 3-1 mark, and fourth places were delivered by Andrew Chase at 138 pounds (2-2 record) and Craig Santos at 145 (also 2-2).
Fifth places were bagged by Colin Reardon at 152 pounds (2-2) and Ben Psaledas at 182 (3-2), and the lone Lancer to finish sixth was 120-pound grappler Dave Donnelly (3-3).
Londonderry High School senior Mahdi Achab became a two-time state champion on Saturday with his slim 2-1 win over Nashua North’s John Sweeney. Photo by Chris Paul