Since the turn of the current century, there had to be times when folks who follow New Hampshire high school wrestling wondered if the Timberlane Regional High wrestling team would ever be unseated as the Granite State wrestling powerhouse.
After all, after sharing the Class L championship with Concord and Salem in 2000, the Owls went on to win the next 14 state titles in New Hampshire’s large-school division and do so convincingly, developing some of the top wrestlers in New England in the process.
But Timberlane’s 15-year run as a state champion came to an end last Saturday, Feb. 21, as first-year coach Jason Cucolo’s Londonderry High Lancers began what they hope will be a run of titles by besting the reigning champions and all other Division I squads at Nashua High School South.
It’s the first state team title in Londonderry High wrestling history.
After losing to Timberlane by just a single point during a head-to-head match recently, the Lancers tallied 188 points to outdistance Timberlane (175) in the state tourney as the Plaistow-based powerhouse sought to keep its New Hampshire championship run rolling.
Cucolo – who wasn’t awarded D-I coach of the year – pointed the attention to his wrestlers.
“This feels great, but I feel great more for the guys,” said Cucolo. “They’ve worked hard all year, done everything we’ve asked of them, and gotten the job done. We brought 12 guys and all 12 finished, and you can’t ask for more than that.”
As Cucolo stated, all of the dozen Lancer grapplers went home with medals for finishing among the top six competitors in their respective divisions. And veterans Jean-Luc Lemieux, Kyle Byrd, and Mahdi Achab all got to the top of the heap by winning individual state crowns.
Senior Lemieux, a transfer from Pinkerton Academy who has now won four state weight class titles in four years, was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler at the state tourney.
Lemieux won the 138-pound title Saturday by besting Timberlane senior Danny Scalzo – who had edged Lemieux by one point during the recent LHS/Timberlane dual meet – in a highly-anticipated title meeting that had folks on the edges of their seats during the championship tourney.
Lemieux snagged a 7-0 victory from Scalzo in the state title battle, notching two huge points on a reverse to bust a scoreless tie a minute into the second period. And at the end of two periods, the Lancer led by a 5-0 tally.
When asked if his tough loss to Scalzo during the regular season match was a motivator for him come title time, Lemieux responded, “Last time was just a matter of cardio for me. I was sick and I didn’t have as much energy as I usually do. But I had lots of energy today.”
Senior Kyle Byrd defeated Pinkerton Academy standout Tyler Wilson by a 3-1 tally in a dramatic 160-pound final bout to take the individual state title.
With the score knotted up at 1-1 during period number three of their battle, Byrd threw Wilson to the mat as time expired to collect a 3-1 win and send his teammates and the Lancer fans into celebration mode.
Londonderry 170-pound standout Mahdi Achab – who missed out on a school vacation-week trip to Paris with family members to compete at the D-I championships – battled his way to a 4-3 edging of Pinkerton stalwart Seamus Dolan to claim the individual state championship.
The team also had Ryan Cabezas (126 pounds) and Richard Bilodeau (195) make it into their weight divisions’ title matches but both lost and wound up being runners-up.
Third place finishes were collected by Craig Santos at 113 pounds, Tyler Byrd at 120, and Jake Barr in the 152-pound class, and fourths were snared by Kevin Robischeau (106) and Sebastian Roszczenko (182).
Drew Chase finished fifth in his 132-pound class, and Colin Reardon ended up sixth at 145 pounds.