Just how dangerous will the Haverhill Hillies be?
For the first time in coach Tim Lawlor’s nine-year tenure, the Hillies return four New England qualifiers, three of whom were placers.
The hungriest of Hillies have to be the two New England runners-up, senior Brent Nicolosi and sophomore Matt Harrold.
“I’ve been looking forward to this season. I haven’t been thinking about (losing in the New England finals) too much, but when I do, I’m thinking this year is the time to win it all,” said Nicolosi, who was 49-3 last year.
Harrold seems focused on the future, if not a bit nonplussed about the past.
“It’s not that big a deal to take second. I wasn’t disappointed, I have bigger goals than New Englands. To me, it was pretty cool to take second as a freshman,” said Harrold, who went 57-6 with 51 pins a year ago.
Each went on to take second at the NHSCA AA nationals. Nicolosi will compete at 165, and Harrold at 215 this time around.
Junior Mike Morris, who went 49-12 and placed sixth at New Englands, and his sophomore cousin Shea Morris (46-11, third at all-states) are seasoned vets who are threats to win any time they step on the mat.
In addition, Cale Wood Jr., who just missed New Englands last year, qualified as a freshman in 2022.
And apparently, success is catchy at Haverhill.
“We have the largest turnout I can remember with over 50 athletes,” said Lawlor. “The team has a lot of energy and is working hard. We’re excited to get going.”
Rangers ready to roll
A pair of returning Eagle-Tribune All-Stars/New England qualifiers — sophomore Vinny DeMaio and senior Joey Bolduc — lead Methuen into the season.
The Rangers see former assistant John Sughrue take the reins for coach Bill James, who directed the club to a sparkling 27-1 mark and an MVC title.
“We’re a strong, young team that I am very excited to see compete this year,” said Sughrue. “When the starting lineup is healthy, we are strong at all 14 weight classes.”
DeMaio went 51-9 last year, and Bolduc was 35-8. Each placed third in Division 1.
Sectional placers Dom Gangi, Anthony DeMaio and Noah Beshara are all hungry to impact on a state-wide basis.
Raiders strong again
Finding the right mix in the weight classes might be big early for Central Catholic, which is not as deep and experienced as some other years.
Of course, when you start with a cornerstone at 175 like two-time New England champion Nate Blanchette, it’s a little bit easier than one might think.
“The team will be solid throughout,” said coach Jamie Durkin. “The key part of success will be two-fold, staying healthy and making sure there is a separation of talent to different weight classes.”
Along with Rutgers-bound Blanchette are returning New England qualifiers Cole Glynn (36-13) and Caden Chase (32-18) to help lead the attack.
The trio of Iziah Santiago, Jackson Meehan and Luke Giuffrida are excited to improve off their sectional-placing seasons a year ago.
And keep an eye on freshman Rhys Dewar, who comes from quality stock. His older brother Anson was a state champion in New Hampshire for Merrimack High.
Top-tier pair leads Warriors
A pair of returning Eagle-Tribune All-Stars as freshmen, Yandel Morales and Jason Ballou have Andover High thinking big.
“We have a strong core of veteran wrestlers, a solid number of up-and-coming wrestlers, and some very athletic first-year wrestlers on this team,” said coach Michael Bolduc. “Thanks to our captains and veteran leadership, the bonding and camaraderie on this team is already noticeable. I told the team I could not be more excited for them.”
Morales, who represented Puerto Rico in the Pan-American Championships this summer, was 57-2 as a frosh, winning D1 and All-States before grabbing third at New Englands.
Ballou was 43-16, coming up huge in February to qualify for New Englands, too.
Knights bumping up
North Andover surged down the stretch last winter, claiming the Division 2 North championship. Now things get tougher as the Knights bump up to Division 1.
Gabe Spanks and Kyle Rhoton were sectional champions a year ago, and each is hungry to take things one step further.
“We have a bunch of seniors who are all great leaders and we will be heavily relying on them this year,” said coach Larry Coughlin. “I’m also looking forward to seeing some of our younger wrestlers step up and get in the lineup.”
Lancers moving ahead
Following a 12th-place finish in Division 1 North a year ago, there is energy and excitement in the Lawrence High room, where coach Rob Niceforo is working with about 70 wrestlers daily.
“We hope to improve from last year and be more competitive. We have about 70 kids on the roster, mostly first-year wrestlers in which we see a lot of potential,” said Niceforo. “They have been working hard and demonstrated a mindset to get better.”
Freshman Denzel Morales is one of those promising youngsters. The 126-pounder is the cousin of state champion Yandel Morales of Andover.
“He is a tough kid with a great attitude who works hard daily and is always looking to improve as a wrestler. We believe that he will be a great asset to the team,” said Niceforo.
Reggies turning corner
With a heaping handful of returning veterans, Greater Lawrence Tech coach Juan Nieves is enthused.
“It’s a great group of hard-working kids. Progress throughout the process is key.” said Nieves. “We should be very competitive but we should also be getting better throughout the season. Whatever you put into this sport, is usually what you get in return. This could be the team to start to turn our culture back to what it was.”
Returning sectional placers Justin Toglia, Dylan Smith, Josh Matos and Kaelib Reynolds will play major roles.
Izick Diaz, Armany Melo and Michael Deleon have shown plenty of promise.
Wildcats on the rebuild
No doubt, Whittier Tech coach Ryan Richards welcomed a young group to the mat this winter.
Senior Anthony Midolo, fresh off a fine football season for the Wildcats, is the lone returning state placer, having taken sixth in Division 2 at 160 a year ago.
He and fellow co-captain Braedan Jaber will help nurture the inexperienced kids as the season plays out.
“As a team, we are young but are continuing to build experience. Most students who join the program are trying the sport for the first time in their lives,” said Richards. “We have a lot of our returning athletes buying into off-season training, which helps not only their skills but also their confidence. We are hoping to remain a competitive team, with a few of our rising wrestlers competing for postseason titles.”
Keep an eye on junior Logan Hauck and sophomore Matheus Binda, who have looked sharp in the early going. Each was a D2 North sectional finalist last year.
Just how dangerous will the Haverhill Hillies be?