DERRY — It was a bittersweet evening Wednesday for the entire Pinkerton wrestling team.
But, for different reasons, especially for freshman Michael Ziniti and senior David Hammond.
The Astros finally got to wrestle, after getting shut down for the entire regular season by COVID precaution. They made the most of it with a 42-12 victory over a skeleton Exeter team in the first round of the Division 1 state dual-meet tournament.
“It’s just great to get out here and have a meet after what we’ve been through,” said Pinkerton coach Dave Rhoads.
His wrestlers couldn’t agree more, especially the five Astros who actually took to the mat against the numbers-lacking Exeter team. But, in particular, Ziniti and Hammond.
Ziniti pinned Exeter’s Jasmine Laferte at 113 pounds, in the meet’s first match, in just 12 seconds.
He had high expectations for the season after a decorated career in middle school. Starting in the fifth grade, he won four straight middle school state titles and he has been an impressive wrestler for The Barn in Kingston.
With a background like that, Ziniti had what seemed like an attainable goal.
“I wanted to be a four-time (individual) state champion,” said Ziniti. “Now that won’t be possible (without an individual state tournament). At least, we get to wrestle a little, but it’s still disappointing. I like practice, but I’ve really missed not competing because that’s what I like to do.”
“He (Ziniti) is going to be a good one,” said Rhoads, whose team advanced to Saturday’s quarterfinals at No. 1-seed Timberlane. “He has a lot of talent. I compare him to (former standout) Shayne McCann when he was a freshman.”
Ziniti, of course, will still have three more years to make his mark on high school wrestling. But not so for Hammond, who is a captain and four-year varsity wrestler.
He will likely have just one more meet in his career after entering the season with 88 wins and setting his sights on the coveted 100-win plateau.
“I feel that 100 wins is everyone’s goal and it’s pretty disappointing that I won’t get there,” said Hammond. “I can’t get too mad about it because we got something (out of the season), but I would have liked to wrestle more.
“Practice is great, and we were able to practice, but practice isn’t usually the end game.”
Hammond also had a short stint on the mat Wednesday. He made quick work of Exeter’s Mitchell Lennon at 138 pounds, recording the fall in 1:05 of the first period.
He’ll have far more of a challenge Saturday in the D1 quarterfinals.
Pinkerton hits the road against Timberlane in what could be the conclusion of a career that began in the third grade when living in Vermont.
“It’s been a nice journey, and I’m going to miss it (wrestling) when I’m in college, but I got out of it what I wanted,” said Hammond, who is leaning toward attending Rutgers next year. “Wrestling has done a lot for me.”
In addition to Ziniti and Hammond, Nathan Lindquist also had a pin for the Astros, at 126 pounds. He fell behind 2-0, but recovered quickly with a reversal and a fall in 1:05.
Exeter won two matches, at 132 pounds and 145. Senior Alexander Gilbert, who just came out for the sport as a junior, was wrestling his first varsity match at 145 for the Astros and got his first varsity takedown before being pinned by Tyler Kenney.
Pinkerton 42, Exeter 12
113: Michael Ziniti (P) pin Jasmine Laferte :12; 120: Michael Follo (P) by forfeit; 126: Nathan Lindquist (P) pin Brendan Phillips 1:05; 132: George Varghese (E) pin Sophie Rench 2:38; 138: David Hammond (P) pin Mitchell Lennon 1:05; 145: Tyler Kenney (E) pin Alexander Gilbert 1:38; 152: Ryan Gordon (P) by forfeit; 160: Marcus Sconza (P) by forfeit; 170: Jack Mackiernan (P) by forfeit
Records: Pinkerton 1-0