Re­silient Rock­ets hit new heights

Boston Herald - - AUTO -

Th­ese may be the glory days for Need­ham wrestling, but there was a not too dis­tant time when it wasn’t so glo­ri­ous.

‘‘Th­ese kids didn’t win a lot as fresh­men, but they stayed with it and got bet­ter ev­ery year,’’ Need­ham coach Stephen Tun­ney said. ‘‘Of the 20 fresh­men, 14 of them stayed with it, and the suc­cess we’re hav­ing this sea­son be­longs to them for stick­ing it out.’’

The first sign had the po­ten­tial to be a spe­cial sea­son came in De­cem­ber when Need­ham cap­tured the Way­land Tour­na­ment, one of top five meets in the state.

‘‘That put us on the map; peo­ple be­came aware of us,’’ Tun­ney said. ‘‘We had been go­ing there for years and I ex­pec­ta­tions of go­ing there, do­ing well and fin­ish­ing in the top four. But to go and win tour­na­ment was a great thing for our kids.’’

From there, Need­ham went on to cap­ture the Belmont In­vi­ta­tional in ad­di­tion to dual-meet wins over Bay State Con­fer­ence ri­vals Wey­mouth and Fram­ing­ham. The win over Wey­mouth was the first for the Rock­ets over Wild­cats since they joined Bay State Con­fer­ence in 1995. ‘‘Our kids were re­ally pre­pared for that match,’’ Tun­ney said. ‘‘I think the con­fi­dence they got from winning Way­land and Belmont was dif­fer­ence. A lot of times, wrestling is 90 per­cent men­tal and our kids were ready.’’

The top wrestler for the Rock­ets is se­nior Jor­dan Michel­son, the No. 1-ranked 140-pounder in

state. Michel­son ce­mented his po­si­tion at the top of the moun­tain by winning Low­ell Hol­i­day Tour­na­ment.

‘‘Jor­dan has a unique style, he’s very tough to take down,’’ Tun­ney said. ‘‘He’s in­cred­i­bly strong and has a great work ethic. The younger wrestlers see him and what it takes to be­come a cham­pion.’’

James Car­roll stars at 130 pounds, while Nate Gold­man has been su­perb at 152 pounds. Car­roll usu­ally pairs up with Michel­son in prac­tice and the ex­pe­ri­ence has helped both, while Tun­ney com­pares Gold­man to for­mer Need­ham star Dan Fox for his in­ten­sity and sheer force.

Car­roll and his younger brother Mark (103 pounds) are Tun­ney’s neph­ews. While some wrestling coaches aren’t nec­es­sar­ily wild about coach­ing rel­a­tives, Tun­ney feels it has not cre­ated a prob­lem at all.

‘‘We have pretty closely knit fam­ily, so this hasn’t been a prob­lem for us,’’ Tun­ney said, adding that he of­ten has as­sis­tants Jeff Wi­towski, Ryan McGovern and Nick Gam­ble work with them to min­i­mize any po­ten­tial prob­lems.

The lineup is se­nior-laden with eight pro­vid­ing lead­er­ship: Tyler Turn­bull (119), Lo­gan Turn­bull (125), Michel­son (140), Gerry Ban­non (145), Gold­man (152), An­ton Ser­han (160), Brian O’Keefe (171) and Joe McMa­hon (215).

Some­times, a loss isn’t such a bad thing. Take Mas­conomet, which re­sponded to an early-sea­son loss to Tewks­bury by rip­ping off five con­sec­u­tive wins to im­prove to 7-1.

‘‘That’s prob­a­bly the best thing that could have hap­pened to us,’’ coach Brian Mintz said. ‘‘They learned that you can­not just show up and win, that’s some­thing (as­sis­tant coach) Nick Eddy and I stressed to the kids. Then we told them that they couldn’t be afraid of get­ting roughed up, oth­er­wise they’ll never be a qual­ity team.

‘‘From that point on as unit, they de­cided that, no mat­ter what hap­pens, they would not roll over and play dead.’’

Lead­ing the way for the Chief­tains is se­nior cap­tain Nate Hooper, who is 18-1 at 112 pounds — the only loss com­ing to de­fend­ing New Eng­land cham­pion Sam Shames of New­ton North. The other cap­tain is 160-pounder Peter Bros­towin, who has ei­ther a pin or a tech­ni­cal fall in each of his 19 wins.

‘‘The most im­por­tant thing you want from any cap­tain is reli­a­bil­ity,’’ Mintz said. ‘‘I know if Nick or I aren’t in the room, they can run the show and do as good a job as we do as far main­tan­ing dis­ci­pline and in­ten­sity. There’s noth­ing worse than hav­ing a bad cap­tain, but we have such great cap­tains that they make it easy.’’

Other key wrestlers are 103pounder Justin Lawrence, who has pinned eight straight op­po­nents, and 215-pounder Jor­dan Krull, who is 16-6 on the sea­son. Mintz calls Krull a true suc­cess story in ev­ery sense of the word.

‘‘Jor­dan came as a 300pound fresh­man and de­cided to set some per­sonal goals for him­self,’’ said Mintz. ‘‘Thank­fully, those goals co­in­cided with wrestling and he’s gone on to have a real good sea­son.’’

The Her­ald will be­gin tak­ing stand­ings to­day be­tween noon and 5 p.m. League rep­re­sen­ta­tives may call 800-464-1819, email to hss­[email protected]­her­ald. or fax to 617-619-6430. Please ver­ify all fax and e-mail trans­mis­sions with a fol­low-up call.

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