LOWELL — For the third year in a row, the Triton Viking wrestling team has reached the semifinal round of the Division 3 state tournament.
The fifth-seeded Vikings (22-4) earned a convincing 52-18 victory over the 13th-seed Scituate Sailors in the opening round, and then edged the No. 4 seed Hampshire Regional Raiders 40-39 in the quarterfinal at Lowell's Tsongas Arena yesterday.
Triton will face the top-seed Norton Lancers, the Div. 3 Central sectional champions, at 4 p.m. today at the Tsongas Arena. The state final match is scheduled for 7 p.m.
In a match that mirrored the excitement of last season's state title-clincher against Holliston, the Vikings needed a complete team effort to upend a competitive Raider squad.
With all matches finished and the score tied at 39-39, the winner needed to be decided by criteria.
The first criterion, total wins, was nullified as both Triton and Hampshire had seven apiece. The second landed in favor of the Vikings: Triton recorded six pins to Hampshire Regional's five.
"I think we've been searching all year for the total team effort," Triton coach Shawn McElligott said of the 40-39 victory. "We were close a few times this year, but today, we never fell short. They really gave a full team effort. The best of the year, and against a really strong fourth seed."
Triton wrestlers who earned victories were freshman Josh Misiano (120 lbs.; forfeit), Mark Rosmarinofksi (126 lbs.; fall at 4:53), Luke Boyle (132 lbs.; fall at 1:16), Cody Nixon (138 lbs.; fall at 0:56), Jesse Caldwell (145 lbs.; fall at 3:36), Bryan Giblin (182 lbs.; fall at 1:41), and Ryan Clay (195 lbs.; 6-4 decision), whose performance against Hampshire's Calvin Iachowicz earned rave reviews from his coach.
"(Clay) gave an amazingly gutsy performance," McElligott said. "He was basically wrestling with one arm, and still he was tremendous; nearly earning the pin when he got the kid in a cradle. One of the tougher kids I've ever coached."
Due to vacant spots at the 106-pound position and the 220/285 slot, the Vikings are giving up 12 points each time out. As a result, the Triton coaching staff has asked the team — with the exception of Giblin, Clay, and Clay Bruneau — to step up and wrestle at a higher weight class.
"They all moved up weight classes, gave great effort and came up with huge wins for us," McElligott said. "They did this for the benefit of the team and that's how you win matches."
As important as the team's victories were, McElligott made particular mention of effort in defeat. The Vikings were only able to notch the tie because Mark Boyle, Bruneau, and David Manning refused to give up in pin-falls.
"Those three losses, those are the points that allowed us to put it into a tie; that's the difference of the meet," McElligott said. "It was by far the best team effort we've had in a long time. It really racks up to last year's state final."
The opening round match against Situate may have lacked the suspense set to follow, but it was no less impressive.
A depleted Scituate roster was forced to forfeit the first four matches and cough up a quick 24 points — victories for John Boyle (113 lbs.), Mark Rosmarinofksi (120 lbs.), Luke Boyle (126 lbs.), and Cody Nixon (132 lbs.).
Winners for the Vikings were David Manning (HWT; fall at 1:30), Bryan Giblin (fall at 1:03), Clay Bruneau (170 lbs.; fall at 1:58), freshman Champ Patrick (138 lbs.; first varsity win; fall at 2:32), and Mark Boyle (145 lbs.; 12-2 decision), who has continued his excellent sophomore campaign.
"Mark Boyle was great," McElligott said. "He beat a kid by the name of Shane Healey, who placed in the states, and to wrestle above and beyond that level, that was definitely a big win."