Out on top

Friday, February 24, 2012


Staff Writer

Eric Cooper had one eye on the clock.

The Bedford High School senior had a big enough lead, he could afford to be a little distracted.

Cooper kept hold of Merrimack’s Elias Kim as he watched the final seconds tick away in the 145-pound final at the Division II wrestling championship on Saturday at Merrimack High School. When it was done, Cooper jumped off the mat, waving his arms in celebration before hugging his coach, Bob Benincasa.

It was one of two titles for the Bulldogs, as Erik Falkengren took the 195 title, as Bedford finished fifth overall with 147 points. Hollis Brookline won the team title, recording 194 points.

“I think they had an outstanding performance all day,” Benincasa said. “They’ve worked hard and they’ve been focused on it all season. It’s been their goal and to see them go out and achieve it, I’m real happy for them.”

Cooper held off HB’s Zach Jennings, 3-2, in the semifinals, and then defeated Kim 8-2, becoming the second Bedford wrestler to win an individual title.

“I can’t believe that actually happened,” Cooper said. “I’ve been working so hard to get here, and senior year is a great way to cap it off. I had not wrestled him this year, but I did last year. I didn’t know his technique. I just went out there and did my stuff and it ended up working.”

Falkengren avenged a previous loss to Con-Val’s Christian Wilkins in the final, recording a pin at 1:31.

“In the beginning, I was apprehensive, because he had beat me another time,” he said. “Everything I put in to this year, it all came together at once. I can’t describe it.”

Benincasa was happy to see Falkengren get some revenge.

“He had a great comeback day,” Benicasa said. “This was the best he wrestled all year. He really stepped up and avenged a loss to that Con-Val kid. He didn’t just win. He put a statement and said I’m the best kid in the weight class and I’m proving it right now.

“When the competition level goes up, Eric (Cooper) steps up his game and we saw that in the final. The highlight of the day was when Eric wrestled his best.”

Bedford also got a second-place finish from Colin Perras, who was pinned by Con-Val’s Dan Colburn in the 113 final. Josh Belz (120), Robert Bernard (170) and Michael Galinat (182) each came in third. Ben Gilman (126) and Robert Lamy (285) took sixth, but only the top five in each weight class advance to the Meet of Champions on Saturday at Londonderry High School.

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