PROVIDENCE — After losing a one-point match in Friday’s R.I. Wrestling Championship quarterfinals to eventual state champion Moulaye Sangare, West Warwick 152-pound senior Luis Salazar gamely battled his way through the consolation bracket to move within a win of his first trip to New Englands.
But, there Salazar was, with potentially just two minutes left in his Wizard wrestling career and trailing La Salle’s Mason Bernard by three points.
“He escaped in the second period – like all of my opponents do – and then he got a takedown in the last few seconds, which is unacceptable,” Salazar said. “I fought through it and I didn’t give up.”
Bernard made a big mistake early in the final period when he locked his hands on top to gift Salazar a point, but before the action could be stopped to award the point, Salazar secured a reversal to even the match. Salazar then earned two near-fall points with a tilt before a Bernard escape earned Salazar a 5-4 win and third place in the 152-pound weight class.
For the first time in his career, Salazar will wrestle at New Englands, which takes place Friday and Saturday at the Providence Career and Technical Academy. Salazar will face Grayson Allen of Haddam-Killingworth (Conn.) in a pigtail match with the winner facing Vermont state champion John Stawinski of Essex.
“It feels great,” said Salazar, who won the North Providence and Smithfield Invitational titles this season, while finishing second to South Kingstown’s Mason Duran at the South County and Hurricane Invitationals. I’ve been in a lot of finals and only finished first twice, so to actually finish for once felt very good.
“I’m going to carry the momentum into New Englands now. I want to win some matches, make some noise and definitely make it to the second day.”
Salazar wasn’t the only Wizard to return home with a medal because talented 120-pounder Jacob Hamilton battled back from a one-point loss to John Myers in the 120-pound semifinals to finish fifth thanks to three wins in the consolation bracket.
Hamilton pinned Pilgrim’s Mike Sanville, who upset the Wizard in the first round of the Smithfield Invitational, in his first consolation match before pinning Ponangaset’s Declan Beltran in the second period to earn a medal.
Following a loss to Thomas Mountain of La Salle in the consolation semifinals, Hamilton ended the season with a 7-6 victory over Jorden Daponte of Toll Gate to finish fifth.
Hamilton and Salazar’s performances, along with Juan Urena’s trip to the 195-pound quarterfinals, helped the Wizards score 68 points, good enough for a tie for 13th with Division I North Kingstown.
The Wizards lost their two talented seniors in the quarterfinals in excruciating fashion. Salazar felt he should’ve been rewarded fort a takedown early in his match against Sangare, but the Clipper earned a 5-4 victory. Salazar won four consolation matches, including two by pin.
Urena dropped a 4-3 decision to 195-pound runner-up Nate Moreira of North Providence Friday night and then he suffered a 3-2 defeat to Jamel Washington of Juanita Sanchez in his first match Saturday morning.
Mason Pacheco (2-2 at 126 pounds) and Josh Capaldi (3-2 at 138 pounds) also had winning records for the resurgent Wizards.
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