The Black & Blue wrestling team got off to its best start in years at the Northeast Conference tournament held Saturday at Beverly High School.
The team beat Salem 33-30, for its first dual meet victory of the season. The meet against Salem was filled with highlights: Stephen Hopkins, an 8th grader wrestling at 106 pounds, pinned his Salem just opponent halfway through the first period. That pin, in what was Hopkins second bout ever as a varsity wrestler, was among the many bright spots on the day.
"Very exciting to have Hopkins as the first ever 8th grader to wrestle in the program's history,” said head coach Mike Stamison. “It'll be a learning year for him, and he's sure to take his lumps, but he is very eager to contribute, and I love having him on the team."
Another newcomer to the team, Ben Grant, wrestling at 160 pounds, recorded his first-ever pin at the halfway point of the 1st period.
Junior Maleek Newsome, wrestling at 170, pinned his opponent at the 34-second mark of the first period. And Sean Taylor, a Marblehead senior and co-captain, earned three points with a 3-1 victory for the Swampscott-Marblehead co-op wrestling team.
The team lost to Peabody 33-27, but it was a closely fought meet that felt like a win. Pins by Jake Powell, a Swampscott senior and co-captain, and Taylor helped the cause. Among the highlights of the meet against Peabody, Bazarov, a freshman who is an experienced Sambo wrestler, pinned his opponent with one second remaining on the clock in the second period. Ali Atallah, a Marblehead junior and a three-year veteran, grabbed three points with a 4-3 scramble-filled win.
Perhaps the best match of the day featured Cam Budrow who, like many wrestlers on the Black & Blue team, showed a great deal of grit and determination. Down 13-6 heading into the third period, Budrow battled back, almost pinning his opponent at one point, and won the third period 8-6. Though he lost 19-14, Budrow’s match revealed a certain toughness that could become a hallmark of this year’s team.
"Both Ben and Max had great mat awareness and actually did things I shouted out from the corner,” said Stamison. “The first match, especially at an event such as this, can give a rookie a bit of sensory overload. They both, as well as the other newcomers handled themselves maturely. I'm very impressed."
"Cam's match was tough, as he was so close to pinning the Peabody wrestler,” said Stamison. “With all of them, we have to stress basics and body positioning. We left a lot of points and wins out there, and need to tighten up that at practice this week."
The team lost to Beverly 51-12. Captains Taylor and Powell recorded pins against the Panthers. And though he lost 8-2, Newsome reminded his teammates of what it takes to go three periods in a varsity wrestling match.
Newcomers to the varsity team Brett Resnick, Ben Grant, and Taylor Negron also wrestled well. Also worth noting is this: Swampscott-Marblehead wrestled as part of the annual NEC tournament which features teams from Beverly, Salem, Danvers/Hamilton-Wenham, Saugus, and Peabody. The NEC tournament is a double elimination tournament.
The team, though some of its wrestlers fared well during the post season last year, didn’t record a dual meet win. "While it's an individual sport, it's always nice to get a team win like that,” said Stamison. “We haven't had many lately, and it was nice that it came against an always tough Salem squad."
Stamison, now in his fourth at the helm, noted the positives. "With such a young squad, you expect some nervousness from the kids,” he said.” They didn't exude that Saturday. The upperclassmen wrestled well, and the younger guys showed me that they are willing to take the next step. We have a lot of work to do, but I saw some boys become wrestlers on Saturday, which has my staff and I excited and ready to get into the meat of the schedule."
The team travels to face Shawsheen Tech on Dec. 12 and then will wrestle on Saturday in the annual Tyngsboro tournament.