Coming into the 2011-2012 wrestling season, it was believed that this could be the year of the Lancers. All season long the Norton High wrestling team challenged some of the best in Division 3 and Division 1 in preparation for wrestling the state’s best in the postseason. Getting past the Triton Vikings in the semi-finals, the Norton Lancers defeated the Holliston Panthers in a thrilling final to win the school’s first ever MIAA Division 3 Team Wrestling State Championship.
The Lancers got a break early on when Triton could not produce a wrestler at 106 pounds to force a no contest. Taking a forfeit at 113 pounds gave the Vikings a quick 6-0 lead. Fighting back, John Royale’s victory in the 138-pound match gave the Lancer a lead that they would never give up. The Triton Vikings had a chance to win after Bryan Giblin defeated Matt Pelletier in the 195-pound match, but it would require some strategy on Triton’s part.
Triton intentionally took a forfeit less than a second into the 220-pound match in an effort to avoid Steve Hudson and give wrestler David Manning a more favorable matchup against freshman Alec Donovan in the heavyweight match.
“Honestly I don’t know what happened. They just forfeited and I guess they thought they could send a guy out there and tie it up with me,” Donovan said after the match.
Under pressure to win in a match where victory meant a trip to the finals, it was all Donovan as he was leading 5-0 before the pin. Scoring an upset victory, Donovan beat Manning with a pin in the second period to send Norton to the finals against Holliston.
“You kinda gotta put that (pressure) to the side and do what you got to do to win,” Donovan said.
Starting the finals against Holliston down 12-0 due to two forfeits, wins by Brett Gallagher (120), John Norton (126), Cam Hale (132), John Royale (138) and Scott Coleman (145) helped the Lancers take a 23-12 lead after five matches and the two forfeits.
Unlike the previous matchup where the Lancers defeated Holliston 46-24, the Panthers were not pushovers as they were the first time. Three wins by the Panthers quickly gave them a 24-23 lead with four matches to go. A win by Mike Travers at 182 gave the lead back to the Lancers, but then the shuffling and strategizing began.
Thinking that Pelletier had a better shot against Holliston’s 220 pound wrestler James Kokidko than in the the 195 pound match, the Lancers took a forfeit at 195 and put Pelletier against Kokiclko. A 3-2 decision by Pelletier returned a 32-30 lead to the Lancers with one match left.
Like their semi-final match against Triton, the Lancers would need a win in the heavyweight matchup to defeat their opponent. Putting Pelletier in the 220 match meant that Steve Hudson would get bumped to the final match of the evening. For the Lancers to win the state title, Hudson had to defeat the second best heavyweight in all of Division 3, Ramon Torres. Normally a 220 pound wrestler, Hudson was giving up at least 65 pounds on Torres, meaning take downs were going to be riskier against the heavier man in a winner takes all match.
"You can’t get under his weight. I would of been screwed if I’d taken a shot,” Hudson said.
Eventually, Hudson found a way to get Torres to the ground and with 1:13 left in the second period. Torres' shoulders were pinned to the mat to give Hudson the win and the Lancers the state championship.
“I’m in shock. I don’t really believe it that much,” Hudson said, looking as if it the Lancer win had not yet hit him.
Both matches against Triton and Holliston share the theme of a team victory. It took everyone’s finest to win the title. Undermanned, the Lancers were starting matches fighting from behind and hoping to quickly regain lost points from forfeits.
“We really needed a team effort to win, we forfeited three weight classes,” Norton head coach Pat Coleman said about the finals.
With dual meet action coming to an end, the Lancers finish their championship season with a record of 22-1.
Cam Hale (132), John Royle (138), Scott Coleman (145), Jack Cuneo (170) and Steve Hudson (220) have all qualified to represent the Lancers in the All-State Tournament this Friday and Saturday at Salem High School.