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Newport Wrestlers Take Center Stage at Opera House

  • Referee Mark Ryder whistles the match between White Mountains' Forest Pribernow, above, and Newport's Ben Gallagher as complete after Pribernow scored a pin in the 182-pound weight class in the meet at the Newport Opera House in Newport, N.H., on Jan. 2, 2018. Newport brought their mat and other equipment from their practice facility at a Parlin Field Airport hangar to compete in the Opera House for the first time in school history. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • White Mountains' Dominic Berry, right, tries to maneuver out of a hold by Newport's Gavin Lovely in the 195-pound weight class at the Newport Opera House in Newport, N.H., on Jan. 2, 2018. Lovely eventually won with a pin but White Mountains won the match, 42-28. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.White Mountains at Newport wrestling in Newport, N.H., on Jan. 2, 2019. White Mountains won, 42-28. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Newport's Marius Edwards takes White Mountains' Kaiden Cunnington to the mat in the 152-pound weight class during their meet at the Newport Opera House in Newport, N.H., on Jan. 2, 2018. Edwards won the match, 9-1, and White Mountains won the meet, 42-28. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Newport's Jordan Warburton, right, takes down White Mountains' Connor Walther in the 132-pound weight class during their meet in the Newport Opera House in Newport, N.H., on Jan. 2, 2018. Warburton won the match with a pin. White Mountains won the meet, 42-28. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Newport — Amy Bailey, executive director at the Newport Opera House, had never seen a high school wrestling match before Wednesday night. Following along, she admitted, was a little difficult; the rules of a match can be a little hard to discern to the untrained eye.

But the venue made it hard to look away. Newport High’s wrestling team, for the first time, hosted a home meet against White Mountains on the ground floor of the Newport Opera House’s performance center, surrounded by second-level seating and a chandelier spotlight that gave the allure of a 1950’s boxing match. The only thing missing was the black-and-white picture and a microphone hanging from the ceiling.

“I think it’s great; I love it,” said Bailey, who’s worked at the Opera House for the last 3½ years. “I’ve never watched this before, I don’t really know what’s going on. ... I don’t understand wrestling at all, but I think this is awesome.”

White Mountains won the match, 42-28, with four Newport forfeits. The Tigers’ Jordan Warburton, Mike Wilkinson, Josh Sharron and Gavin Lovely all won their matches on pins.

Sophomore star Sharron said the environment was something to remember.

“It was pretty special,” Sharron said. “First time in Newport history. It was a great experience, and I thought we wrestled really well as a team.”

Newport’s wrestling program has been around for decades, competing its home matches on the gymnasium floor at Newport Middle High School. Moving the event to the Opera House was the longtime dream of P.J. Lovely, director of the Newport Recreation Department, who said he remembered a time when the theater was used as a multi-purpose facility, one that even hosted boxing matches.

Bringing a home wrestling match there was the first step toward giving the space that diversity. Bailey is all for it.

“We’d been talking about it for years,” Lovely said. “We finally pulled the trigger and did it. It’s cool. ... We had a boxing club and had two boxing matches here maybe 20 years ago. This is something different. Maybe now we can do more stuff.”

Zakk Sharron, in his first season as Tigers coach, returned sophomore middle weight star Josh Sharron, his brother, and heavyweight standout Gavin Lovely this season; Josh Sharron won a NHIAA Division III state title at the 126-pound weight class as a freshman last season, while Lovely narrowly fell at 170 at states last February.

A Newport wrestler named Sharron who enters the season in the statewide spotlight is not exactly news. Zakk and older brother Tyler, now wrestling at Minot State University in North Dakota, are both championship-caliber wrestlers who have come through the Tigers’ program. Josh said he’s trying not to think too much about the familiar pressure of having a target on his back.

Josh Sharron won his match against White Mountains’ Jayden Vashaw at the 145-pound weight class on Wednesday with a pin 46 seconds in.

“I know there are expectations: my older brother, Tyler, my oldest brother ... I just focus on getting better,” Josh Sharron said. “That’s my goal, to get better each day. You can always work on technique; you can never be good enough. Always get better. There’s always someone out there working harder, better than you.”

Warburton defeated the Spartans’ Connor Walther at 132 pounds with a pin in the second period. Wilkinson won at 138 over White Mountains’ Tom Paquin with a pin 1:19 into the match. Newport’s Marius Edwards won at 152 by points, 9-1, over the Spartans’ Kaiden Cunnington. Lovely won by pin over White Mountains’ Dominic Berry at 195 in the second period.

White Mountains got wins from William Rutherford, who beat Hayden Patenaude at 160 with a pin 27 seconds in; Forest Prabernow, who pinned Ben Gallagher 1:26 in; and Kevin Curnane, who pinned Luke Bartlett one minute in.

“It made me feel like I was in a 1950’s boxing tournament,” Zakk Sharron said. “We had talked about it before the season; we wanted to do something special. We made it happen, finally.”

After one match, Bailey might be hooked. The theater had about 60 spectators sitting on the second-level bowl surrounding the mat, some of whom Bailey hoped will check out the Opera House’s other offerings.

“P.J. and I have been talking about getting boxing in here, something that would bring some different people into the Opera House,” Bailey said. “We do a spring musical, a fall play, we do some dances. ... (To diversify) what we can do. It’s a beautiful building.”

Josh Weinreb can be reached at jweinreb@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.