No school ever has hosted all four major postseason tourneys. But Methuen’s small army of dedicated volunteers, with head coach Bill James running the point, has embraced the challenge.
“I think we’re not new to it,” said Methuen athletic director Matt Curran, acknowledging the school hosted both the D1 North and D1 state tourneys last February.
“I’ve been here four years and . . . Since I’ve been here I’ve always said to Bill, if he’s willing to put the work in, I’m always willing to support hosting [a tournament].”
Before the start of the season Methuen, equipped with a newly renovated fieldhouse, was scheduled to host the sectional and state championships. But last fall, organizers of the New England tournament (not an MIAA-sanctioned event) reached out to Curran and James, asking if Methuen would be willing to host. They obliged, for March 7-8. The Providence Career and Technical Academy has been a perennial host, but school officials asked for a year off.
Then Phil Napolitano, the wrestling liaison for the MIAA, called to ask Curran and James if Methuen could host the All-State championships Feb. 28-29. The school agreed, and the Rangers’ battalion of workers put a plan in motion.
“We always like to host the sectionals or states, at least one tournament,” James said. Methuen already hosted its own invitational on Feb. 1.
“We love to host and it’s good for our kids. We’re young and inexperienced, but they’ll be able to watch wrestling at the highest level, and hopefully that will be able to motivate them to get there.”
When setting up an all-day wrestling tournament, every second matters.
Methuen was scheduled to host Lawrence on Friday night in a varsity girls’ basketball game at 7 in the fieldhouse. At the final buzzer, James and his team were planning to set up four mats, timekeeper tables and chairs, and ropes to cordon off the mats from spectators. It’s a 60-minute changeover. For the state and New England meets, six mats will be utilized, with one more added for All-States. It’s Methuen’s version of the bull gang.
The process will be repeated each of the next three weekends.
It is an arduous responsibility to host just one tournament, let alone four. But it is a chance to show off a refreshed facility and an economic boom for the wrestling program in a city of approximately 51,000.
Aside from showing off a new floor and bleachers that now seat 1,800, Methuen also can showcase a pair of brand new mats. Off school grounds, the tourneys will generate local venue to hotels and restaurants.
Back inside the fieldhouse, money will be funneled back into the wrestling program with purchases at its concession stand.
Noreen Brown, whose son, CJ, competes at 160 pounds for the Rangers, is the point person for concessions and parent volunteers. She leans on past experience, in addition to her full-time position as a restaurant manager. Behind the scenes, volunteers rally around her to make sure thousands have food, snacks, and beverages over the next four weeks. She’ll arrive at 6 Saturday morning to set up for the sectional, and around 11 a.m. for the two-day tournaments.
“This year, it’s honestly just the rally of the parents,” she said. “E-mails, text messages, fliers. Local businesses have been donating food. People are being so generous right now, it’s crazy.”
The concessions crew is ready for the increased attendance for the All-State and New England tournaments, where the crowd could be between 2,000-3,000 in the fieldhouse.
The tale of the tape for food/drink: hundreds of bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches, 36 dozen cookies, four giant trays of macaroni and cheeses, cases of bottled water (thanks to a 2,000-bottle donation from Star Market), and much more. Will the tourney run out of nourishment?
“There’s always a worry but we do have the ability to put back in what we’re making for a quick run [to the grocery store],” Noreen said.
For All-States and New Englands, the concessions stand will be moved from a new concrete hut inside the fieldhouse to the cafeteria, where matches will be streamed live on a feed via tournament scoring operator FloWrestling. Methuen National Honor Society members also were recruited as volunteers. When the last dollar is counted, James said he’s “pretty confident” this tournament marathon will raise between $14,000 and $15,000 for the program.
“I don’t know that every community would do this, but we’re willing to take it on,” Noreen Brown said.
In addition to D1 North at Methuen, there are nine other sites featuring EMass. schools on Saturday — D1 Central (at Framingham High); D1 South (at New Bedford High); D2 North (at Masconomet Regional); D2 South (at Whitman-Hanson); D2 Central (at Marlborough High); D2 Metro (at Burlington High); D3 North (at Wakefield High); D3 South (at Foxborough High); D3 Central (at Holliston High). FloWrestling will provide live scoring updates of each tournament on its website.
Natick clinched a share of the Bay State Conference Carey Division title Wednesday with its 48-26 win over rival Framingham. The Redhawks share the league title with Brookline, which stopped Newton North, 56-18, on Wednesday.
Keep an eye on the 132-pound weight class Saturday and throughout the postseason. Seven of the top 10 wrestlers in MassWrestling.com’s rankings are in three different sections, providing plenty of parity for the next three weekends. Hingham’s Kaya Bogle
, the top-ranked 132-pounder in EMass and second in the state, is in Division 2 South. After Bogle, it gets crowded. BC High’s Donald Ryan
(third) and Weymouth’s Nore Mendes
(fifth) c0mpete in D1 South; Holliston’s Brian Garry
(fourth) and Tri-County’s Cole Guertin
(10th) are in Division 3 Central; and North Andover’s Ethan Ford
(seventh), Dracut’s Brock Desmarais
(eighth), and Tewksbury’s Danny Lightfoot
(ninth) are all in Division 2 North.
In a crowded Merrimack Valley Conference, Andover broke through as league champion with a win over Lawrence on Wednesday.
Brandon Chase can be reached at email@example.com.