NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

December 26, 2013

A close-up look at area holiday tournaments

By Tim Lima
Staff writer

---- — Two high school wrestling tournaments are set to take place in a showcase of some of the state’s most competitive teams and most talented competitors. Pentucket High School will be hosting 18 other teams in the Pentucket Holiday Tournament, while the Vikings of Triton High School will be attending the Lowell Holiday Tourney at the Tsongas Center.

The Pentucket Holiday Tournament

This tournament will be held on Friday in an all-day event showcasing 19 local high school wrestling teams, including Exeter High School (NH), Lexington High School and Everett High School. The meets will begin at 9:30 am at Pentucket High School and conclude at 8:30 pm. Also attending the tournament is the the Georgetown/Ipswich program led by first-year head coach Ryan Archambault.

Archambault may be new to being a head coach, but he is not new to coaching wrestling, for he was with the Triton program for years as an assistant coach before finding his way to Georgetown/Ipswich. That being said, Archambault is familiar with tournaments.

Georgetown/Ipswich is 1-2 on the year, something that Archambault chalks up to not yet “competing on an elite level.” Because of their inexperience and injuries, Archambault has altered his goals heading into the Pentucket Holiday Tournament.

“We are not entering our full lineup on Friday,” Archambault said. “We are working kids off of injuries that we are going to work into our lineup on the first of the year. Realistically, we can’t compete to win the tournament. My goal is to be in the top 10, and if everything went perfect with every kid having a career day, the top 5.”

Archambault, who has spent his life around wrestling as both a competitor and a coach, has learned that dual meets are easier to get up for. At those kind of meets, there is more of an individual feel with kids wrestling largely for their own honor and respect.

“The way I was taught and the way I like to coach is that I want the kids to get more up for a dual meet,” Archambault said. “For example, I have a young team and a first-year freshman. Our goal is to go to meets and get some of these kids a win, to win the first match of their career. When you go to a tournament like this, it’s hard to get pumped up knowing you are facing teams who are competing at an elite level, and we are just not there yet.”

The Lynnfield-North Reading program took top honors in last year’s Pentucket Holiday Tournament with 151 points. Pentucket finished the tournament they host in third place with a score of 116. This great finish last year is something that Pentucket head coach Dennis Puleo knows will be tough to match this year. His team heads into this tournament very young and experienced, and have been battling injuries.

“We are looking to win individual championships and a realistic top-10 finish,” he said.

The LowellHoliday Tourney

Triton has attended this tournament for decades. This is an event that is far larger with schools attending from all over New England. Sixty-four teams will be competing in this competition that spans over two days at the Tsongas Center.

“It’s almost like a mini-New England tournament,” said Triton head coach Shawn McElligott. “Normally you have the top state tournament finishing team in Division 1, 2 and 3 there from Massachusetts. The top teams from New Hampshire will also be there, as will the top returning champion in Vermont. I don’t know if Maine is going to be there, but Rhode Island will send one or two teams.”

Attending this tournament is nothing new for Triton — nearly becoming a holiday tradition over the past four decades.

“We went every year in the 1970s through the 1990s,” McElligott said. “We stopped in 1996 and went to the Pentucket Holiday Tournament, but in 2006 (the Lowell Holiday Tournament) brought us back and we have been going since.”

Getting up for big meets is nothing new to Coach Mac’s team, for they are eager and ready to go in every dual meet they have. The feel, preparation and strategy of a tournament is far different, however.

“It’s two different feels,” McElligott Said. “Dual meets are more geared toward the wrestlers individually. It’s a different game plan for how they wrestle a match in a tournament. In a dual meet, they may be more cautious, where in a tournament it’s easier for them to take more risks, especially if they are losing. This is because getting pinned won’t hurt us as a team in the long run.”

Because of the staggering number of teams competing, winning isn’t a realistic goal for the Triton Vikings. That doesn’t mean, though, that McElligott’s crew will enter the tournament without objectives.

“A goal that we always have is to be the top Division 3 school that goes there,” he said. “We have been in the mix the past six or seven years. We want to be in the top 20 and would like to be able to crack that at some point.

The Boyle brothers, Mark and Luke, were significant in last year’s Holiday Tournament and could make noise this year. Mark Boyle took fifth last year, while Luke Boyle just missed the placing round. Along with the Boyles, Jake Durkin, Cody Nixon and sophomore Alec Moffat have had strong seasons so far this year and are expected to help the Vikings greatly.

“(Moffat) didn’t wrestle last year, but I kind of wish he did,” McElligott said. “In a three-week period, he has progressed quickly. He has great balance and strength. He’s an athletic kid with good hand-eye coordination. He’s 3-1, one of his wins coming when he pinned his opponent to win our match against Quincy. In his one loss, he was outweighed by 60 pounds. He’s trying to learn the game, but he has done very well. To be above .500 is a big accomplishment for any sophomore kid, but he has progressed very quickly for us.”

Triton High School heads into the tournament with a 3-2 record, fresh off their victory against Georgetown/Ipswich on Monday morning.