BEVERLY — With the Northeastern Conference title on the line last night, the Salem High wrestling team went with their heavy artillery against arch-rival Beverly right out of the gate.
But while Salem's big guns recorded victories to put the visitors up early, it was a hard-earned victory from the hosts' smallest wrestler, Jonah Feingold, that propelled the Panthers to a 30-29 win and their fifth straight NEC crown.
"Both teams had beaten everyone else (in the conference), so it was winner-take-all (last night)," said Beverly head coach Mark Thomas. "They definitely came out after us right off the bat. But the strength of our lineup all year has been the middle, so we knew we would get some (points) back coming around."
Trailing 12-0 after Salem's Andrew Romeo (220 pounds) and freshman Christian Corcino (heavyweight) recorded pins, Feingold and the Witches' Pete Duffy locked horns in the 106-pound weight class in what proved to be the most competitive match of the evening.
Feingold held a slight advantage through most of the third round, but with 20 seconds left Duffy pulled a switch and regained position — and a one-point lead. Without panic, Feingold reciprocated the move and found his way back on top of Duffy, earning two points and an 8-7 victory just before time expired.
From there, Beverly (12-5 overall) outscored Salem 27-17 over the final seven matches for the victory.
Beverly finished its NEC season undefeated at 6-0 while Salem, which was wrestling shorthanded last night because of some injuries to key guys, finished up conference play at 5-1.
After the match, Feingold spoke about giving his team a lift.
"It motivated me a lot and made me think I really needed to do well and win this for my team," explained Feingold. "I was thinking over and over 'There is no way I can lose this for my team; I need to win.'