Before there was lacrosse for me, this weekend, there was a heavy dose of High School Wrestling. Beginning, Friday morning, I was an intermittent fixture in the living room, in front of the TV, which was casting the live stream of the New York State High School Wrestling Championships, being held in Albany. Clarke HS had five wrestlers qualify for the tournament (Gabe Cubero, Jordan Soriano, Lucas Abbatiello, Max DeLeon and Karl Osmond Bouyer) and I was able to see each one of them in action. They all wrestled tough and represented their school and Nassau County, extremely well. By the time my son Karl came home to join me, the tournament had moved to the Quarterfinals and the Wrestlebacks. Wrestling ended for the day, with Soriano still alive in the Wrestlebacks and Bouyer in the Semi Finals! The excitement in our house was palpable.
I hit the road for Springfield, Saturday morning, but made sure Karl and I would be in close contact throughout the day, so I could track the progress of the Wrestling! I arrived on the lovely campus of Western New England University (also in Springfield, MA), around Noon for the game between the crosstown rivals. It was a very cold and windy day and though it was sunny, there were snow flurries at times. Once again, The Pride got off to a slow start and were plagued by sloppy play, as they trailed 5-4 at the intermission. As has become a pattern, they came out of halftime playing so much better, they almost seemed like a different team. Credit the Golden Bears with hanging tough, through about two thirds of the second half before Springfield finally put the game out of reach. The Offense finally broke through more consistently, on WNEU’s very good goalie, and the Defense held the Bears to two goals in the second half, as the Pride won by a final score of 12-7. After the game, Diana and I visited briefly (and agreed to talk more, later – one of my favorite parts in all of this!), before she got on the bus with the team, and they were on their way.
Before leaving WNEU, I made a hotel reservation for the night in East Syracuse and got an update on the wrestling from Karl. Ozzie had advanced to the Final at 220 pounds and Soriano was still alive in the wrestlebacks at 126 pounds! I headed west out of Springfield on Route 90 for the three and a half hour drive.
I enjoyed the drive toward Syracuse, traveling through the Berkshires and then alongside the Mohawk River and the Erie Canal, racing the setting sun all the while. I lost that race, and the last hour of the ride was in darkness. By the time I reached the Hotel, Jordan Soriano had wrestled his way to 5th place, the second All State finish of his young HS career. I was able to watch the 220 Pound final via Face Time! It was not the best viewing experience, but better than nothing. Ozzie was the aggressor throughout the match, but was unable to come away with the victory. Still, it was thrilling to see him in a State Final, in the Clarke singlet! Congratulations to all of the Rams and their fantastic coaches, on an amazing season!
After a brief snow shower on Sunday morning, the sun came out and by 10am, it was a cold, but tolerable first day of March, and a good day for a lacrosse game! I was only a few miles from the LeMoyne College campus, and was eager to get there for the contest between the Mercyhurst Lady Lakers and the Dolphins of LeMoyne. I had not seen the Laker Nation since May of last year, and was really looking forward to it! As I drove onto campus and toward the parking lot, the Lakers were heading down the hill toward the field, I waved to their coaches, walking about fifty yards behind them (I know they recognized me, and probably laughed to each other about what a crazy person, I must be, to still be coming to these games!). I made my way over to the Mercyhurst Tent (the center of the pre-game tailgate activity) and have to say, it felt strange. Still, it was terrific to see the familiar faces, of so many previous games. The connection of the past few years with those players and their families, has been great and I was happy to be there to be a part of it, again (though in a different way than when Diana was still playing).
The game itself was a real tough one for the Lakers. LeMoyne is one of the best teams in the nation and they appear to be in mid-season form, despite having a new Head Coach. Mercyhurst struggled to get good opportunities on Offense and seemed a step behind the Dolphins in transition, as LeMoyne used their speed advantage, to open up a big lead by half time. The Lakers continued to play hard, in what ended up being a 19-2 loss. Mercyhurst has, only to look to the past couple of seasons, to find proof that a poor early season showing, like this one, does not mean you can’t save your season. It will take resilience and hard work and a willingness to be accountable and learn from their mistakes, but they can do it. There is a lot of talent and experience on that squad, I have faith that they will answer the bell.
Post game in the parking lot was understandably, a bit somber. But for me, I was very happy to spend a little time re-connecting with the Laker Nation. I think I may have been the last of the Mercyhurst crowd to leave (that probably means something). The four and a half hour drive home was highlighted by conversations with Diana and Karl, during which, we recapped and analyzed both lacrosse games and all of the wrestling (what can I say, it is what we do).