The good news that came out of the 2016 New Hampshire Meet of Champions (MOC) wrestling championships for the Londonderry High School grapplers last weekend was that the local squad had five skilled grapplers earn medals at that major competition.
But that good news was tempered by the fact that the Lancers didn’t have any athlete finish higher than fourth in their weight class at the Meet of Champs, which was held last Saturday, Feb. 27 at Nashua High School North.
And seeing how only the top three finishers in each weight class at the state’s Meet of Champs qualifies for the New England Championships – which will be held this Friday and Saturday, March 4 and 5, in Providence, R.I. – the Lancers strode away from the North High gym feeling as though they’d missed out on some great opportunities to compete at a higher level again this year.
Londonderry – which won the Division I team title last winter – had two wrestlers finish fourth, one finish fifth, and a pair finish sixth at the Meet of Champions as they tried to advance athletes back to the New Englands again this year.
“We brought eight kids and five of them made it into the finals, so from that standpoint we did pretty well,” said LHS coach Jason Cucolo. “But you always like to see your kids go as far as you feel they can.”
A week earlier at the D-I meet in the Nashua North gymnasium, the Lancers had 170-pound standout Mahdi Achab finish first for the second consecutive year, 126-pound stalwart Ryan Cabezas take runner-up honors in his weight class, 132-pounder Tyler Byrd snag a third, and fourth-place finishes go to Andrew Chase at 138 pounds and Craig Santos at 145.
The locals also got fifth places from Colin Reardon at 152 pounds and Ben Psaledas at 182, and the lone Lancer to finish sixth was 120-pound grappler Dave Donnelly.
Then last Saturday at the MOC’s, Cabezas took fourth place in his division with a 3-2 record for the day, Chase grabbed fourth in his class with a matching 3-2 mark, Byrd finished fifth (4-2 record), and Reardon and Achab both had to be content with sixth places. Reardon went 2-3 on the day, and Division I champ Achab went 1-3 in having a tough day after going undefeated exactly a week before.
Cucolo and his athletes advanced into championship-round action knowing that they wouldn’t be having a champion crowned out of their ranks at the MOC’s. But he still held out hope that Cabezas and Chase – who were both facing battles for third places – had a shot at going to regionals. But both young men finished one spot away from qualifying.
“There’s still a chance that they could go to New Englands if one of the top three finishers in their divisions can’t attend for some reason,” said Cucolo.
Londonderry finished eighth out of 36 squads at the MOC’s (59.50 points) after taking fifth at the D-I championships. The Timberlane Owls took the titles at both of those events.
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Ryan Cabezas snared fourth- place finish at the MOC’s.
Caption: Tyler Byrd claimed a fifth place at the MOC’s.
Caption: Andrew Chase was good for a fourth at the Meet of Champs.
Caption: Colin Reardon took a sixth at the Meet of Champs.
Caption: Mahdi Achab was sixth at the MOC’s.