Submitted by Paul Ahern
The Needham High School wrestling team's strong post-season run came to a halt in the quarterfinals of the Division 2 State Championships at Tsongas Arena on Sunday, Feb. 19, where they dropped their final match to South Sectional Champ North Attleboro, 40-28.
With several wrestlers out of the line-up with injuries, the Rockets needed to bump wrestlers up a weight class or two, a strategy that proved more successful in their opening round bout with Keefe Tech, winning 43-36.
Down 30-6 halfway through the meet, the Rocket middleweights stepped up against a tough Central Sectional opposition. Juniors Islam Baiev, Brett Cohen and John Cronin, as well as seniors Martin Gal and Cam Chisholm, pinned, while senior captain Andrew Caylor, wrestling up two weights, downed a state-qualifying opponent, 9-6.
Junior Tak Hirayama, also up two weights, gave the Rockets a major decision, 18-4.
In the quarterfinals where the Rockets faced North Attleboro, Needham pulled juniors Mark Carroll and Mikhail Khibkin from the bench, where they were nursing injuries, and the two performed exceptionally well. Carroll responded with a pin, and Khibkin, a major decision, 13-4.
Baiev came from behind late in the third period to pin; John Cronin, wrestling up a weight, got his 30th win of the season, pinning a sectional finalist in the first period; and Chisholm earned his 40th win of the year, his 38th by pin.
"We did what we needed to do [bumping the line-up] to advance past Keefe Tech, but it left us with some mismatches against North Attleboro," coach Nick Gamble said.
Before the loss to North Attleboro, the Rockets had won seven of their last eight. The loss brought their final record to 16-6-1.
Needham relied heavily on underclassmen to get them as far in the last duel meets, sectional and state tournaments. Freshman Travis Szetela (who finished the season with an outstanding 13 varsity wins, including an important pin at sectionals), sophomores Zach Goldman, Ben Glickman and Ilan Shenar, and junior Andrew Kingston each had big wins along the way.
The three All-State qualifiers—Carroll, Khibkin and Chisholm—take their hopes of a New Englands berth to Salem this week, where they'll face the best of all divisions in Massachusetts. The top six will move on to the New England Championships in Providence the following week.