A year hiatus and a collection of new athletes can cause growing pains for a high school sports program.
But with a trio of successful wrestlers and an experienced coach, the Haverhill High wrestling team has shown promise in its opening two varsity meets of the season, despite a 1-4-1 record.
"Our team is still learning the ropes," said head coach Brian Urquhart, who has more than 40 years of wrestling experience. "I've seen a huge advance in their skill level since they started wrestling a month ago."
The team has wrestled in two varsity meets so far in the young season. The Hillies beat Saugus, lost to Salem and Masconomet at Masconomet, and tied Georgetown. Haverhill also fell to New Bedford and Pentucket at a six-team meet in Pentucket last week. The Hillies have also wrestled in junior varsity meets, including a good showing at the Sons of Italy Tournament in Wilmington.
Part of the reason for the losses is the spread of talent that Haverhill has in its weight classes. The Hillies are loaded with wrestlers in upper weight class divisions, while lacking bodies in the divisions less than 120 pounds. That forces them to forfeit matches in those lighter divisions.
"We're forfeiting three or four weight classes at six points a class," Urquhart said. "So right away, we're already down 18-0 before we even start the meet."
The bunching in weight classes is typical of a high school wrestling team. Teams are usually bunched in the 130-150 pound weight class, but don't normally have the heavier class wrestlers that Haverhill does, which can allow the Hillies to take some points in meets.
Haverhill High had big expectations for freshman Orlando Rojas, the Hillies' lightest wrestler at 120 pounds, after he won the New England Championship as part of the Haverhill youth wrestling program. Rojas has lived up to the expectations and won his first 11 matches of the season, before falling last week at the Pentucket meet.