Whether they were disgusted by the outcome — a 32-25 loss to North Andover in Wednesday’s Division 2 state wrestling championship — the opponent — whose coach faces after police found a cache of erotic photos in his attic — or both, the Natick Red and Blue wanted no part of the post-match courtesies. They refused to shake hands with the victorious Scarlet Knights and hurried out of Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Harrington Auditorium without speaking to reporters.
Natick (19-1) would have left without its runner-up trophy, if not for an MIAA official who chased down straggling captain Nathan Ziegler and ushered him toward the hardware.
It was an ignoble end to an otherwise valiant performance by the Red and Blue, who held early leads of 9-3 and 12-10, and remained in contention until the second-to-last bout. With his team trailing, 26-19, Ziegler was pinned by North Andover’s Adam Bates 5:10 into their 215-pound match. The six-point result gave the Knights (31-1) an insurmountable, 13-point lead with only one match to go.
North Andover conceded the 285-pound bout to produce the 32-25 final.
The championship loss was Natick’s second straight to mighty North Andover; the Red and Blue suffered a 38-18 defeat a year ago.
The Knights were wrestling just five days after head coach David Castricone was arrested and charged with possession of child pornography. A female student also reported seeing Castricone in the girls’ locker room at North Andover High, a claim video surveillance corroborates. The school placed the coach on administrative leave on Feb. 8, after an internal inquiry, and Castricone was arrested on Feb. 11.
He pleaded not guilty to the pornography charges on Tuesday and now awaits a pretrial conference on March 30.
North Andover, led by assistant coach Carl Cincotta, managed to ignore the disturbing storyline and win its biggest match of the season.
“We’re a wrestling team; all we can do is wrestle,” said Jake Mehlman, who lost his 171-pound match to Natick’s Glen Duffy, 9-2. “We’ve gotta work hard, and that’s what we did. We ignored all this crap, and we got it done. That’s all we focused on. We weren’t focused on anything else; we just focused in on wrestling. … Turn the TVs off, turn the computers off and just wrestle.”
Cincotta, who piloted the Knights to a 56-6 semifinal win over Marshfield on Feb. 9, insisted this match was no different than any other.
“I’ve been coaching for a long time,” Cincotta said. “A lot of people don’t realize it because I’ve been an assistant, but it was just another match. It was. I coached the same way tonight as I would if I went to North Attleboro for a JV match.”
Natick led by two after Peter Gutierrez, Zach Thomas and James Smith won three of the evening’s first six matches. But Jason Ricketts’ 4-2 decision at 140 pounds nudged the Knights ahead for a change and, as it turned out, for good.
The momentum really swung when Dan Connolly pinned Natick’s Tim Arthur with only 3 seconds remaining in their 152-pound bout. The late fall turned what would have been a three-point decision — Connolly led, 7-5, at the time — into a six-point haul and capped a 13-point run.
“That was huge,” Cincotta said. “We knew that was going to be a close match. Those three extra points were huge. That was unexpected. We knew Danny’s in great shape. We knew that hopefully later in the period we’d have a shot to get [Arthur] on his back, and Danny took advantage of it.”
The Red and Blue rallied behind Alexe Restive-Lage’s decision at 160 and Duffy’s major decision at 171 to draw within 23-19 with three bouts remaining. Even after North Andover’s Ryan Neals claimed a 2-0 decision over Arthur Rose at 189, the team match remained in doubt.
But North Andover’s Bates eliminated all uncertainty when he pinned Ziegler at 215, giving the Knights a 32-19 advantage with only one bout remaining.