Sports

D-II title went down to the wire

Thursday, February 23, 2012

By JOE MARCHILENA

Staff Writer

MERRIMACK – Dana Bourassa and Brian Bumpus both said something similar following Saturday’s Division II wrestling championship.

Three points. That’s all that separated the Milford and Hollis Brookline high school wrestling teams at the meet at Merrimack High School and it came down to a couple of matches, most notably in the finals.

Casey Quinn gave HB a win at 160-pounds, and Joe Albina did the same for Milford at 170, but it was two head-to-head matches that were the difference.

At 182, HB’s Nate Ashe held off Milford’s Andrew Myers for a 2-1 win that went scoreless until Ashe recorded a takedown in the second period. Myers scored an escape point in the third, but couldn’t get any more.

“Huge win,” Bumpus said. “That put us over. There were a couple of things that could have changed that. That was a huge head-to-head win. For him to go out and beat him, that pretty much sealed it for us.”

“(Myers) was seeded fourth and came in second,” Bourassa said. “In tournaments, you wrestle up to or above your seed, you had a great day. Did he want to win? Sure, he did.”

The Cavaliers officially wrapped up the match when Hunter Longland won the fifth-place match at 220, but that didn’t keep the teams’ other head-to-head from losing its intensity.

In the 285 final, HB’s Zach Migneault and Milford’s Andrew Bellantoni turned in what might have been the match of the day. The two were scoreless going into the third period, and Migneault appeared to have the upperhand when Bellantoni recorded an escape point.

Then, with about 15 seconds to go, it looked like Migneault had taken the lead on a takedown, but the official ruled the two were already out of bounds. Instead, Bellantoni held on for the win.

“I thought he got his two (points), and if he did, I’d just have to come back and fight,” Bellantoni said. “I knew I was going to have to fight and I just did it. I don’t know how.”

Bourassa gave credit to the official for being in the right spot to make the call.

“I don’t ever remember a heavyweight final that was as exciting as that final,” he said. “Whether it went our way or their way, (the official) was in position to make the call. The official did a great job because he was in position.”

Albina’s win was a long time coming. As a freshman, he advanced to the final, but came up short. A year ago, he lost in the semifinals. This year, there were unexpected nerves.

“Warming up, I was really nervous,” he said. “It was the first match I’d been nervous for in a while. It’s the finals and I hadn’t been in it since I was a freshman. I was so scared as a freshman.”

Going against an unfamiliar wrestler in Alvirne’s Patrick Morse didn’t help.

“Coming into the matches, you have to have respect for the other kid,” Albina said. “I told myself I wasn’t going to let him do his moves and I was going to make him wrestle my match.”

Albina accomplished that, pinning Morse at 3:10 of the match to take the 170 title.

“It’s nice that his star didn’t rise too early,” Bourassa said. “He waited until he was a junior to get it. I’ve never seen him as nervous as I did going into the finals. He was nervous even though he was favored.”

As for Quinn, it was a second title in two straight years. He needed just 1:56 to pin Winnacunnet’s Mike Belanger, a wrestler that he’d never faced before.

“I didn’t know too much,” Quinn said. “I’d only seen him wrestle today. I like not knowing anything because it’s a fresh start. If you know their style, you get the same match. It’s a little (like a) mystery. It feels awesome. There’s nothing to describe winning a second in a row.”

The Cavs and the Spartans weren’t the only locals winning titles. Souhegan’s Cameron Crook worked his way to the 220 title, first fighting back to win his semifinal match.

Down 3-1 in the third, Crook scored four points in the final 30 seconds of the match to beat Merrimack’s Zachary Pickard 5-3. It was a move that Souhegan coach Ken Bigley was proud to see.

“From a coaches perspective, I wish he’d pulled the trigger several seconds earlier,” Bigley said. “To stay mentally strong was nice. There’s been matches this year where he’s been in that situation and hasn’t been able to muster the energy needed. He saw an opportunity for the cradle to get those points so he didn’t go to overtime.”

Crook came from behind again in the final against Con-Val’s Alex Hautanen, but did it a little quicker this time. After trailing 1-0 in the second, Crook won the title, 3-1.

“If it weren’t for (the coaches), I wouldn’t be in this situation right now,” Crook said. “I’m just speechless right now. It felt really good (in the semifinals). When I did that, I felt like I could win the whole thing. I just had to work hard.”

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