By Phil Stacey
---- — BEVERLY — In the middle of his match at 145 pounds last night — up a class from what he normally wrestles at — Terrance Saye had a moment of complete clarity.
“I was going too fast and realized I needed to slow things down,” said Saye, a Beverly High sophomore. “I needed to get (his opponent, Danvers’ John Papcostas), to do what I wanted to do.
When I was on the bottom in that last period and did a switch (to gain leverage), I said to myself, ‘I got this now.’”
Saye and his fellow Panthers certainly had ‘it’ for virtually the entire evening. They captured the program’s sixth straight Northeastern Conference championship on the strength of seven pins by defeating the Falcons, 53-12, before a healthy crowd at the Henry Cabot Lodge Fieldhouse.
A senior-heavy team, the Panthers won 10 of 12 matches last night, including the final six. They got five victories from their senior class but also three from juniors and one each from a sophomore (Saye) and a freshman (Ahmad ‘Triple A’ Alshrafi, at 107 lbs.).
“We’re pretty strong up and down the lineup for a dual meet,” said Beverly head coach Mark Thomas, whose team finished NEC competition at 5-0 and is 15-7 overall this season. “As a team we’ve had more injuries than we’ve ever had this season, but it speaks to the depth we have and willingness of other kids to step in and fill those spots so well.”
Saye, who earned an 8-6 decision over a gritty Papacostas, gave his team the breathing room it needed with his win, pushing the Panthers’ lead to 26-12. As someone who has taken his lumps in practices to better himself, the high energy 15-year-old Saye put his skills to good use as the match wore on last night.
That bout was followed by perhaps the best one of the evening, a battle at 152 pounds between Danvers’ Sam Anderson and Beverly senior Luke McDonald. The two — who had faced off just last weekend at the NEC/CAL Meet in Byfield — fought tooth and nail and went into an overtime session before McDonald secured the decisive point.
“I knew how tough he was,” the 17-year-old McDonald said of Anderson. “That was one of my toughest matches of the year.
“When we got to OT, all I could think of was (assistant football) Coach (Ben) Goodhue’s running sessions during the summer, and I told myself, ‘I am not going to let my conditioning let me down now.’”
Thomas pointed to both McDonald and Brian Perry (a 220-pound wrestler who didn’t have to compete last night) as two of the team’s senior leaders that the Orange-and-Black look up to.
“Those two guys set the tone for everyone else,” said Thomas. “They’re our barometers, the heart and soul of what we do.”
With a 17-point lead at this point, the Panthers put the pedal to the metal as junior Tom Wilbur (160 lbs.) and seniors Brendan McGee (170), Peter Reusch (182) and Brian Tripoli (195) closed out the match, and another NEC championship, with four pins in rapid succession.
Alshrafi, senior Antuan Tran (126) and junior Joey Kozlowski (132) also recorded pins for the Panthers while Jonah Feingold dominated his match at 120 pounds to each a 16-1 technical decision.
Danvers, in just its second year as a varsity program, got pins from a pair of sophomores last night: Chris Davis at 115 pounds and Chris Behen at 138. But in the end, they didn’t have the depth or experience that the Panthers possess.
“These guys are great kids who work hard, but we have a long road ahead,” said Danvers head coach Mark DeCiccio. “It takes a real team to lose and get better from it.”