Lebanon wrestling’s debut campaign going better than anticipated

  • Tyler Mekus, of Mascoma, left, evades a sweep of the arm from Simon Amaro, of Lebanon, right, before taking him to the mat in Lebanon, N.H., on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022. Mekus won the match. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

  • Drew Sanchez, of Lebanon, left, and Garrett Giovagnoli, of Mascoma, right, grapple for control on the mat in Lebanon, N.H., on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley news photographs — James M. Patterson

  • Simon Amaro, of Lebanon, left, takes the upper hand in a match with Tyler Mekus, of Mascoma, right, in Lebanon, N.H., on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022. Mekus won the match. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 1/12/2022 8:07:49 PM
Modified: 1/12/2022 8:06:56 PM

LEBANON — It’s safe to say the Lebanon High wrestling team has exceeded expectations in its first season as a varsity program.

Boasting one of the largest rosters in NHIAA Division III with 24 members, the Raiders have utilized their depth to overcome their lack of experience — just four wrestlers competed for Lebanon in the 2019-20 season, when the team was still independent. The Raiders’ season last year was canceled because of the pandemic.

After snow canceled the Nor’Easter Invite at Hollis-Brookline on Dec. 18, Lebanon hosted a tri-meet against Bow and Plymouth, the top team in the division, four days later. The Raiders lost, 66-12, to the Bobcats, but sophomore Sawyer Beaulieu, one of Lebanon’s biggest bright spots this season, pinned his opponent at 120 pounds.

“This is a kid who has never wrestled before, and he’s a strong, athletic kid and there are things about him you can’t coach,” Lebanon coach Chauncey Wood said. “He’s done well against everybody in our division, and we have great hopes for him coming up with Division III state (championships) in February.”

The Raiders routed the Falcons, 54-18, that same day, including big wins by Beaulieu and juniors Logan Rafter and Dustin Jarvis, two of Lebanon’s returning wrestlers.

Lebanon picked up right where it left off after winter break, beating Winnisquam, 53-11, on Jan. 5. Five Raiders won their bouts by pin, with sophomore Abigail Stone — Lebanon’s only female wrestler — and senior Simon Amaro doing so in the first period. Jarvis, sophomore Zachary Thornton and junior Drew Sanchez also pinned their opponents, while Beaulieu won his bout by major decision.

“It’s such a foreign concept to a lot of them,” assistant coach Lucas McKittrick said. “So seeing some of them, win or lose, go out there and react the right way and do the right thing … they’ve come a long way in their courage and their willingness to go out there and take risks.”

The Raiders headed back to Winnisquam last Saturday for their first tournament, the Winnisquam Winter Classic. Lebanon had five wrestlers place in their respective weight class brackets, with Beaulieu taking second at 120 pounds. Senior Sebastian Yates was third at 195, junior Keegan Fredette third and freshman Chris Kinne fourth at 285, and sophomore Jon Eylander sixth at 220.

Beaulieu said he competed three or four times that day, but came out of it a more confident wrestler. “You need to have a cool, calm, collected mindset,” he said. “You need to know when to take shots; you need to have the timing down. I came into (the tournament) expecting a lot of tough opponents, but I didn’t think I’d go to the finals. It made me have more of a drive to want to come out here and wrestle.”

Lebanon lost its senior night meet Tuesday against Mascoma — the only Upper Valley wrestling team to compete during the 2020-21 season — 45-24, but there is still plenty of season left. The Raiders have tournaments each of the next three Saturdays, at Manchester Memorial, Bow and Kearsarge, respectively, as well as four more dual meets before the postseason.

Wood missed the Mascoma dual due to COVID-19, and three starters were out with the virus as well. Lebanon wrestlers are wearing masks while competing, which McKittrick said a lot of other schools are not doing.

But although the pandemic has impacted Lebanon’s schedule and roster numbers, Wood still said the newcomers are enjoying themselves and feel they made a good decision to try a new sport this year.

“At the beginning of the year, some of these kids weren’t sure if this was anything for them,” Wood said. “I’m extremely happy that they’ve stuck with it. We’ve had some ups and downs, but they’ve shown their grit.”

Benjamin Rosenberg can be reached at brosenberg@vnews.com or 603-727-3302.




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