By Matt Jenkins
---- — The way David Giovannacci remembers it, his affinity for wrestling wasn’t exactly a first-period pin.
It took a little time, but once wrestling got its grip on Giovannacci it seems nothing could keep him off the mat.
Giovannacci is nearing the end of a spectacular high school wrestling career, and the Landmark School senior from Topsfield is focused on going out in the most memorable way possible.
Despite wrestling on a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), Giovannacci has been perfect in the 220-pound weight class this season — including a recent victory in the Eastern Independent League Tournament. Now, he heads into this weekend’s New England Tournament at Brooks School in North Andover as the No. 1 seed and has the championship on his mind.
“I think there are a few (opponents) who are looking pretty good, but I definitely think I can win the tournament,” said the 17-year-old Giovannacci, who has handled all of his competition wrestling for the private school in Beverly with relative ease this winter, having won all but two of his matches by pin (and those two were technical falls).
His record — which is up to 28-0 — and statistics speak for themselves. Giovannacci’s season has been impressive in its own right, but mix in the fact that if he were sitting out due to injury, no one would even blink.
A torn ACL usually takes close to a year to recover from after surgery and rehabilitation. Giovannacci tore his over the summer while competing at a wrestling camp in Pennsylvania.
Instead of opting for the surgery and missing the season, however, Giovannacci looked at his other options. He chose to battle through it and will have surgery in the offseason.
“I don’t necessarily do everything the team does (in practice). I can’t do much running, so I ride the bike a lot and I did physical therapy before the season to get my hamstring as strong as possible,” Giovannacci said. “I wear a special brace when I practice and during wrestling tournaments and dual meets.
“I’m definitely a little protective of it and have adapted my style of wrestling to make sure I don’t put it under any more danger than necessary. So far, it’s holding up great.”
Growing into hisweight class
Giovannacci started wrestling as a second grader in the Masconomet Youth Wrestling program, but didn’t really start to love the sport until he began wrestling for the varsity team at Landmark.
“David is unique to us because he’s been wrestling varsity matches here since the seventh grade. It’s truly special to see him reach the pinnacle of New England wrestling,” Landmark Athletic Director Brook Sumner said. “We’ve watched him grow from a little kid to a young man.”
Giovannacci’s father, Ron, was a high school wrestler and urged his son to take a shot with the sport. “I wasn’t really getting any good at any other sport, so I thought I’d try it,” he said. “It wasn’t really my thing for awhile.”
As a seventh grader, Giovannacci was exposed to wrestling at a higher level, often matching up with athletes three or four years older than him.
He was already wrestling at 220 pounds as a freshman which, at that weight especially, meant he was frequently battling seniors and post-graduates.
He always seemed to hold his own and started seeing exceptional success as early as sophomore year. He was an alternate for nationals as a sophomore and ended up getting a spot when another athlete couldn’t attend. Last year he qualified for nationals again.
Giovannacci’s development over the past few years has been impressive.
“I’ve always been wrestling seniors and post-graduates, mainly,” he said. “It was kind of like freshman year I grew into the weight class. I was getting beat because I was chunky my freshman and sophomore years. Now, I fit right into the weight class.”
‘A huge blessing’
Giovannacci, who has a language-based learning disability and started at Landmark as a third grader, has benefited from the coaching of current head coach Kyle Pietrowski and former head coach Rick Simula.
Finding his place at Landmark, both academically and athletically, has been a blessing. He’s looking forward to heading off to college next year, where he hopes to study business.
“I was struggling (before Landmark); I was in all types of support classes. (Then) I came to Landmark and they really used their teaching methods and I was really successful with it,” Giovannacci said. “It was a huge blessing and thankfully, I live pretty close. My mom is a teacher and she was able to get me diagnosed early and get me here, which has helped me grow as much as possible.”
Everything has lined up for Giovannacci since arriving at Landmark. Now, he’s hoping he can reach all of his wrestling goals.
“My goal has always been to place at nationals,” Giovannacci said. “I mean, it’s a very tough tournament, but it’s something I think I can do.”