DWC wrestling establishes itself as viable program

NASHUA – The area was treated to something relatively new Saturday night: college wrestling.

Introducing the Daniel Webster College men’s wrestling program, which the other night hosted what is expected to be an annual matchup with Plymouth State of the only two varsity collegiate wrestling programs in New Hampshire.

The Eagles held their own against PSC, losing 28-17. They actually led going into the final three matches, thanks to four straight wins from the 141-pound to 167-pound weight classes.

That just shows what a long way the program has come from the time head coach John Archambeau arrived on campus at the end of the 2014 school year, just after DWC officials announced they would be starting a program.

"It was a great opportunity," Archambeau said. "Such a unique challenge. It’s been a humbling experience to be part of something so new and so young, having come from strong established programs growing up. It gives you a new perspective."

Archambeau wresteled and coached at Springfield College and was a successful high school wrestler in Ludlow, Mass.

Archambeau has been patient. His first year, he did a lot of on-campus recruiting, as by the time he was hired most high school athletes planning to wrestle in college had made their plans. This year, after a full year of recruiting, he has only a handful of returnees.

"That first year I was hired a little bit late in the recruiting process," he said. "We were able to find a couple of student athletes who hadn’t figured out where they wanted to go yet. I tried to be as much of a positive presence on the campus as possible and we attracted upwards of 20-25 different kids."

And "maybe a handful" of those had wrestled before.

"It was a great challenge, I liked that," Archambeau said "getting in there and teaching, growing their skills. It was a lot of fun, everyone worked really hard, really enjoyed it and they got a lot better."

But a few were seniors, a few went into the military, and Archambeau knew they were all holding the fort until he could bring in a solid recruiting class. He did just that with 12 freshmen.

"It’s mostly new faces to the program,"Archambeau said.

Archambeau feels strong about juniors Seth Carter (165 pounds) and Devin Visconti (174). Carter, formerly of Alvirne High School, has wrestled in college before as has Visconti.

"They’ve both been huge leaders for the team," Archambeau said. "They’ve been great, do everything we can ask."

Locally, freshmen Michael Silva (133, Nashua South), Wilson Pellot (165, Nashua South), and Travis Guthrie (174, Hollis Brookline) could be major building blocks.

As for a few of the holdovers from year one, Archambeau likes sophomore Emilio Eldakkache, who will be in and out of the starting lineup at 184. Sophomore Ja’aron Bryant, a heavyweight, is also back.

"There are a couple of other guys who are focused on acadmics and took a semester off, so we may have some more guys for second semester," Archambeau said.

It’s a building process, and the coach is patient.

"I knew what needed to get done," Archambeau said, citing the help he’s received from assistant Brandon Gauthier." We’re creating that vision in where we want the program to go, and we’re hitting those checkpoints. Sometimes we’re a little impatient, we want to win, we want these guys wrestling their best now, but we know it’s going to take a couple of years."

Saturday night’s event at DWC’s Vagge Gym drew a large crowd from the local and regional wrestling community, and it was a competitive match.

"It was great to see the local wrestling community to come out and support us, as well as Plymouth State coming up and those guys were ready to wrestle," Archambeau said.

Archambeau has also worked to be be visible in the local wrestling community, volunteering at some of the middle schools and the Gate City Wrestling program. The Eagles also have a separate practice facility just off campus (a vacant airplane hanger) that has avoided potential gym conflicts with basketball. "It’s working out great," the head coach said.