When we won league, sectional and state championships in 2012 and set a school record with 26 wins, most people thought the Lancers would be rebuilding in 2013 and lucky to have a winning season. And for good reason. We’d graduated 7 of our 12 starters and 3 of those wrestlers had been state finalists a total of 7 times, winning 3 individual state titles for Norton.
But along came 18 new wrestlers to the program, including an enthusiastic bunch of freshmen, a couple of promising transfer students with wrestling experience, a former Norton youth wrestler who had a great headlock, as well as an outstanding athlete we’d lost due to poor grades who turned things around and re-joined the team. Our 5 returning starters, along with 3 of last year’s strong JVs provided the nucleus for this year’s Cinderella team, a team that I thoroughly enjoyed coaching and will never forget.
It takes a special athlete to be a wrestler. This is a rough and tumble sport, not for the faint of heart. But it takes more than toughness. It takes discipline and character and perseverance beyond what is required in most other sports. We lift weights like football players and run stairs like track athletes, then we start our practice. We move tables and chairs, move and mop mats every day, then our practice begins. We go home and watch what we eat because we have to make weight. No other sport requires the sacrifices wrestlers endure. And we do it without complaint, knowing the payoff will come when we face our opponents. We’ve learned that hard work feels good and that the harder we work, the luckier we seem to be.
We blew away the competition at our first home quad and it was clear from the start that this would not be a rebuilding year, we were reloading! Perhaps we weren’t yet the best wrestlers technically, after all 9 of our 14 starters had been JVs last year or hadn’t wrestled. But we had a fierce competitiveness. Our boys had something to prove and wanted nothing more than to match or surpass the achievements of our 2012 team, and in the end, we had a season that compares very closely, and in some categories outshines them. In 2012 we scored, on average, 51 points per meet. In 2013 we again averaged 51 points. In 2012 we gave up only 17.5 points per meet. In 2013 we gave up 18. In 2012 we were champions in 3 of 6 tournaments. In 2013 we were champions in 2 of 4. We were league, sectional and state champions in 2012. We were league runners-up, sectional champions and state runners-up
in 2013. We won 26 meets in 2012. We won 27 in 2013! In addition, we set new individual records for most wins in a season (Travers, 45), most pins in a season (Travers, 35), and most pins in a career (Hudson, 104). We also added another Century Club member (Cuneo, 106 career wins).
It's important to acknowledge the outstanding contributions that Coach McCarthy and Coach Francis made. Everyone knows that Chris McCarthy is a police officer, one of Norton’s finest. But if you really know Chris, you know that he is a man of integrity who is all about commitment and dedication, about setting goals and keeping focus even in the face of adversity. He brings to this team a Marine’s esprit de corps, and has helped us develop a special brotherhood whose collective will allows us to adapt, improvise and overcome at times when we are faced with difficulties such as injuries or illness. He pushes us every day to run faster, lift stronger and reminds us that it is not practice that makes perfect, but perfect practice that makes perfect. For the second year in a row, Chris has led our JV team to a strong winning record and again he gets my vote for “JV Coach of the Year”.
Jeff Francis is a god-send! I can’t tell you how many people came up to me at the tournaments to say how lucky I am to have him dressed in purple and black. In addition to being one of the nicest men I know, Jeff is also one of the best coaches in the state. He knows wrestling and how to teach it and he is great with young people. He is outwardly easy-going and has a great sense of humor. But inwardly Jeff has the heart of a champion and he burns with the desire to succeed.
A few special memories of the season …
- Our come-from-behind (29-6) win (42-29) over Newton North.
- Grant fainting into a plate of sweet potatoes.
- Our 5 quad sweeps this season, especially the last one at Wayland.
- Murrin’s underdoggy seat drop at the Marshfield JV tournament.
- Winning the Peckham Tournament. (JT, Jack, Mike & Steve champs)
- Grant, Anthony & Tyler all winning JV tournaments.
- 17 people, bags and coolers on a mini-bus. Open the window, Elliott!
- Winning the sectionals and avenging our loss to Holliston. (JT & Steve champs)
- “The Vomit Comet” striking not 1x, but 2x as Steve avenged his loss to Murphy.
- Finishing 2nd at States and avenging our loss to Hingham.
- Steve’s one-armed pro-wrestling toss to pin the Tyngsboro heavyweight at States.
- Mike breaking 2 all-time NHS records (45 wins and 35 pins).
- Jack’s 106 career wins (5th place all-time, NHS)
- Mike’s “Elevator Ride to Oblivion” at All-States.
- Steve’s 104 career pins (1st place all-time, NHS)
- Tired and weary, realizing on the mini-bus ride home that our sectional championship was our 27th win of the season, a new school record!
Finally, I’d like to thank the Norton Wrestling Family who has supported our team this season. First always is Mrs. Coach (my wife Dinny), for her devotion, time and leadership. Many thanks to Andrea Cardone and all the parent volunteers who made our concession stand operation profitable and allowed us to pay for this banquet and awards for our wrestlers, to Ted and Lauren Marvel and Danny Cataldo for cooking another superb BBQ feast, and to Mike Kahn for producing our exciting highlights video.