BILLERICA — The wrestling room for the Shawsheen Regional Technical squad — like many practice rooms across the state — is not aesthetically pleasing.
But there’s a good chance the Rams may add some shiny new hardware to it come season’s end.
At the halfway point of the 2018-19 season, Shawsheen has established itself as one of the premiere wrestling programs in the state, one with nine senior starters and enough depth to produce multiple sectional champions and state placewinners.
That depth is evident by the Rams’ 14-2 record and fourth-place finish at the annual George Bossi Lowell Holiday Tournament, the highest of any EMass team. They are undefeated in dual meets against Massachusetts teams as both losses came last Saturday at the West Springfield Duals to Simsbury, Conn. (33-32) and Trumbull, Conn. (40-30).
All of that has added up to a second-place ranking from MassWrestling.com behind Springfield Central, the Lowell champions and winner of four of the last six Division 1 state titles. This, says coach Mark Donovan, feels like the year when teams throughout the state are trying to compete on Shawsheen’s level.
“This year is the year that we have a bull’s-eye our our back,” Donovan said. “We don’t duck anybody, we wrestle the hard competition.”
Eight of Shawsheen’s 14 starters advanced to the second day of the Lowell competition. Four placed in the top eight.
“It felt really good knowing that we could go out there and hang with everybody from New England because it’s a huge tournament,” said Vinny Foti, a senior from Billerica wrestling at 145 pounds.
“Bringing kids there and doing serious damage like we did in the first day is a big accomplishment for a team, especially for a voke school.”
Shawsheen is led Foti and by senior 220-pounder Omar Eldaly, a Wilmington resident. Both have long passed the 100-win milestone, so they’re just looking to add to their trophy case. Foti may have to wait a while to build his résumé; he dislocated his elbow on the second day at Lowell. Donovan hopes Foti can return for the Division 1 North sectional tournament on Feb. 9 at Methuen.
Eldaly, meanwhile, won the Lowell tourney and has established himself as the top-ranked wrestler in the state in his weight class. He’s also a two-time defending sectional champion who beat North Attleborough’s Mateusz Kudra — last season’s Division 2 state champion at 220 — three times last season. Eldaly has received interest from Old Dominion University and Kent State University, where former Shawsheen teammate and two-time New England champion Jake Ferri wrestles.
What Shawsheen has accomplished this year has been remarkable.
Even though the school has produced many individual champions in the program’s history, it has not been able to capture a sectional title in a meat grinder of a tournament which features defending Division 1 state champion Chelmsford, St. John’s Prep, Haverhill, Methuen, and Lawrence. Shawsheen placed third at sectionals last season.
However, the fact that the Rams — a vocational school of approximately 1,400 students — are able to compete with the top teams in the state year after year is what drives them to finally get over that hump.
“You just feel great knowing you’re that good for a tech school,” Eldaly said. “You walk around and just feel good.
“Basketball players and wrestlers get at it, just normal athletes talking about their teams, right? They can’t argue with us. We’re too good, you know what I mean? You keep your chin high when you walk through these hallways.”
■ Central Catholic became the third team to defeat defending Division 1 state champion Chelmsford, earning a 41-30 win on Wednesday night. Haverhill defeated Chelmsford, 60-19, on Dec. 12 and Shawsheen did so, 41-29, on Dec. 8.
■ Plymouth South went 3-1 at a quad meet in North Attleborough last Saturday, defeating North Attleborough, 39-28, Quabbin, 70-9, and LaSalle Academy (R.I.), 40-25. The Panthers lost to St. John’s Prep, 37-24.
■ Oliver Ames senior 195-pounder Dean Pacini picked up his 100th career win with a pin last Saturday in a 42-37 victory over Sandwich.
Meet of the Week
Wednesday, Danvers at Masconomet (5 p.m.) — Danvers and Masconomet are two of the best Division 2 teams in the North section and could vie for a sectional title next month. The meet features two of the best pound-for-pound wrestlers in the state in Danvers sophomore 120-pounder Max Leete, last season’s Division 2 state and All-State champion, and Masco senior 132-pounder Jack Darling. Darling was last season’s Boston Globe Division 2 Wrestler of the Year. He went 48-1 last season and his only loss was in the New England finals. This meet features eight state-ranked wrestlers, six from Masco and two from Danvers.Brandon Chase can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org