New Hampshire wrestling plows ahead; Astros on hold

Courtesy photoPinkerton’s Jack Mackiernan, on top, was a New England placer last year. There will be no New England tourney this year. For the Astros, there will only be a state dual meet tournament — maybe.

Well, it’s better than nothing.

That’s the general view of coaches and athletes in New Hampshire who are gearing up for the wrestling season, which begins next week.

Unlike in Massachusetts, which has postponed wrestling until the spring due to the coronavirus pandemic, New Hampshire is going forward with wrestling this winter, although the season will be abridged and different, and there will be restrictions.

There will be no tournaments during the season, with only two dual meets per week allowed, on Wednesday and Saturday. That will give each school a maximum of 10 duals, although most will have much fewer. The season will conclude with a state dual meet tournament spread over four dates in a two-week span.

That format will provide teams with a definite goal to shoot for, something which coaches generally applaud.

“In one sense, it’s exciting and it (a state dual-meet tourney) is something we’ve talked about it for a long time,” said Timberlane coach Dan Donovan. “This year, we’re just happy to have something. I’m looking at this year as a bonus year.”

Windham coach Tom Darrin, who coached for more than two decades at Reading (Mass.) High, has always been a proponent of state dual meet tournaments and helped establish the format in the Bay State at the start of the century.

“I’ve always liked the concept and it especially makes sense this year with what’s going on,” said Darrin.

Salem coach Nick Eddy agrees that the dual meet tourney “is better than nothing,” but he laments that there will be no individual state tourney. “It’s really unfortunate, especially for the seniors.”

As for Pelham coach Bob Riddinger, who could have his most competitive team in years, he’s also happy to have the season-ending dual meet season, but he also wants to try to keep the individual tourney in some form.

“The individual tournament is not completely off the table yet,” said Riddinger. “I’d say there is a 5-10% chance we could still have it.”

Whatever the case, all of these coaches have more to be satisfied with than Pinkerton’s Dave Rhoads. His administration won’t allow regular season dual meets and the jury is out on the dual meet tourney.

For now, all the Astros can do is work out with no specific goal in sight.

“I’m just hoping to compete in the dual meet tourney,” said Rhoads. “We’re in a holding pattern, but at least it’s an option. Originally, any wrestling wasn’t an option at Pinkerton.”

Because of the uncertainty, the Astros currently only have 14 wrestlers working out which, says Rhoads, is about 30 less than their usual turnout.

But those out are doing their best to remain optimistic.

“They’re upbeat and working hard, doing the best they can to move forward,” said Rhoads.

All in all, it’s not an ideal situation for New Hampshire wrestling and it’s far from ideal for Pinkerton.

Still, it is something which, thus far, is more than can be said for Massachusetts. 


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