CUMBERLAND â As Warwick Vets High compiled consecutive wins and pins in the earlier segments of this Division I-North showdown Thursday evening, Cumberland High junior Matt Kayâs level of nervous butterflies increased five-fold per battle.
When it came time for him to take the mat against fellow 220-pounder and Hurricanesâ sophomore James Gogan, and his Clippers trailing 36-30, Kayâs anxiety reached its peak.
âI knew I had to win; if I didnât, we were done,â Kay stated. âEspecially with the undefeated thing on the line â that is, the team â I didnât want to be the one responsible for our first loss.â
Kay manufactured a two-point takedown and two-point nearfall with 1:11 left in the first period, and â with two ticks left in the opening session â recorded a three-point nearfall to take a commanding 7-0 lead. Just 17 seconds into the second two-minute period, Gogan mustered a one-point escape, but it took Kay only 10 more ticks to throw Gogan to the mat, and another two to pin his shoulders.
With that triumph, at 2:31, not to mention teammate Matt Rileyâs victory by forfeit, veteran mentor Steve Gordonâs troops had secured a thrilling 42-36 verdict before a crowd of at least 150 at the Wellness Center.
âLike I said, I was nervous, but I also knew I felt stronger; I knew I could lock up with him,â Kay stated after his Clippers remained unbeaten at 2-0-1 in league action, and he improved his individual mark to 2-1. âI was able to hit a toss early on, and â the second time â I decided Iâd go to the well again. It paid off.
âRight now, Iâm so psyched,â he added with a grin. âIt was probably the most nerve-wracking match I ever had, but we won. Weâre still undefeated, and Iâll take it!â
Kay wasnât the only one to feel the anxiety.
âWarwick Vets is always tough,â noted senior Erik Travers, a co-captain with Jon Maccini. âItâs become quite a rivalry over the past few years, and this was too close for my liking. They came out on fire, and some of our guys werenât ready for it âŠ But Matt pulled off a big one. He came up big for the team.
âI can speak for each and every member of this team that we were all nervous (entering Kayâs bout). They had kept racking up the points, and I wasnât sure if weâd be able to come back. I was going nuts. Thanks to Matt, weâre still unbeaten.â
Cumberland had notched an easy win when freshman Kylie Creamer pinned Nick Thompson just 42 seconds into the 106-pound match, but John Altieri collected an 11-7 triumph over junior Cody Beaudette at 113, and that sparked a run of five straight Hurricane wins.
Davin Lourenco dropped Joe Passanante at 1:28 at 120; Nate Colicci did the same to Brett Abilheira-Cargill at 3:10 of the 126-pound bout; sophomore Tom Galligan (son of East Providence head coach Tom Galligan Sr.) pinned senior Kyle Durkin at 5:04 at 132; and senior McKenzie Pacheco snatched an 11-4 decision over senior Richie Whitman at 138.
Courtesy of that verdict, Vets had cushioned its lead to 24-6. The Clippers, however, responded in kind.
Maccini needed only 1:32 to pin Owen Amirault at 145, and â at 152 â Division II Super Bowl MVP Travers rode a 7-1 first-period advantage to another pin at 3:01 to cut the deficit to 24-18.
Vetsâ co-captain George Schmeider eventually pinned fellow senior Kyle Szumita at 5:33 in the 160-pound division, but Cumberland junior Chris Hayes (170) and sophomore Nick Giorgio (182) both received six points due to forfeits to knot it at 30-30.
The Hurricanes, who fell to 1-3 in league, regained the six-point cushion after junior Devon Hurst corralled senior Brian Chea at 195, but thatâs when Kay took care of business, despite the nerves.
When asked how he felt about Kayâs critical victory, Gordon grinned, âHe won the entire match for us, so what do you think?â
Then he described the Clippersâ woes at this early juncture of the campaign. He claimed he had to go to battle without usual starter and junior Kris Nordby at 120 (due to a stomach ailment) and Nick Tribelli at 132 (flu-like symptoms).
âWe were bobbing and weaving to assemble a lineup early on,â he stated. âWe knew it was going to be tight because it always is against Vets. They donât have a ton of depth, but they have very good wrestlers, especially in the lower divisions. We were giving them at least six points (at 120 and 132), and â if we got pinned â 12 points.
â(Those absences) hurt us, but what are you going to do?â he continued. âYouâve got to wrestle with what youâve got âŠ We havenât had a full complement of wrestlers all season. Once we get them back, and have a whole lineup, weâll be OK.â
Stated Travers: âItâs a brand new team, so weâre not thinking about (earning a second consecutive state title). Weâre just thinking one match at a time. If you think too far ahead, youâre going to lose, so weâre just going match by match.â