Lancer Grapplers Face Disappointments at Meet of Champs

After its exceptional, history-making performance at the Division I championships at Nashua High School South two weekends ago, the Londonderry High wrestling squad experienced a significant comedown at the state Meet of Champions (MOC) at Nashua High School North last weekend.

The Lancers, who made state wrestling news by ending the Timberlane Owls’ 15-year reign as Division I champion by having all 12 of its grapplers medal at the D-I championships on Saturday, Feb. 21, ran head-first into a sizeable dose of frustration at the MOC competition last Saturday, Feb. 28.

The MOC brings together all of the top teams and individuals from New Hampshire’s high school wrestling divisions in one place to crown the state’s top squad and individual wrestlers.

After winning the D-I title in tremendous fashion, coach Jason Cucolo’s Lancers were looking to take the next step up the ladder and bag the state crown at the MOCs.

However, it wasn’t to be, as Londonderry finished third overall (score of 134.50), not far behind the runner-up Concord High Crimson Tide (136) and the repeat champions from Timberlane (139). There were 33 competing teams.

And after having three of its grapplers – Jean-Luc Lemieux, Kyle Byrd, and Mahdi Achab – tally individual championships at the D-I meet, Londonderry got shut out in its hunt for MOC crowns after having Lemieux, Ryan Cabezas, and Richard Bilodeau all get to within a single victory of a title.

Bilodeau bagged second place in his 195-pound weight class after dropping a hard-fought, 2-1 decision to Pinkerton Academy’s Dylan Barreiro, who also bested Bilodeau in the D-I final.

Cabezas fell to Nashua North’s Cam Bennett in the 126-pound final (10-0 major decision) to wind up second.

And in the title match, which left virtually everyone at the MOC’s talking – and some folks quite red-faced – Lemieux lost a controversial 2-1 decision to Timberlane’s Danny Scalzo in the 138-pound championship bout.

The first two periods of their match – a rematch of the Division I title contest won handily by Lemieux – were very defensive, with both grapplers looking for an opening to points.

Lemieux finally bagged a single point early in period three, but late in that stanza Scalzo was awarded a two-point takedown which, evidently, virtually nobody but the lead official who awarded it believed was in fact a takedown.

When time ran out with the scoreboard showing a 2-1 Scalzo victory, the officials conferred for nearly five minutes – with the two wrestlers walking around the mat nervously – discussing the takedown or the lack of one.

When the conference was over, Scalzo was ruled the MOC champ and members of the Londonderry contingent – receiving emotional comments from numerous other coaches and team members stating that there never was a takedown – stomped away angrily and attempted to get their emotions under control.

“There wasn’t a takedown, (Scalzo) didn’t have control, but the (lead) official thought he did. But Jean-Luc shouldn’t have left the score that close either,” said Cucolo, noting that if Lemieux’s lead had been larger than 1-0 going into the late part of period three, the official’s controversial call would have been academic.

Along with the runner-up finishes of Lemieux, Cabezas, and Bilodeau, Londonderry had Mahdi Achab finish third at 170 pounds, Sebastian Roszczenko take fifth at 182, and Tyler Byrd (120 pounds), Jake Barr (152), and Kyle Byrd (sixth via forfeit) all place sixth.

The Lancers’ four, top-three finishers have advanced to the New England Championships at North Andover (Mass) High School this coming Friday and Saturday. But Cucolo and his charges were left with the feeling that opportunities were missed at the MOCs.

“It is what it is,” said Cucolo. “We’re looking forward to the New Englands, we have four kids going, we wanted to have more, but I’m proud of all of the kids and the hard work they’ve put in.”

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