Arlington athletic director John Bowler said all of his coaches are thrilled to be getting new facilities with the exception of wrestling coach Kevin Cummings.
Then again, The Pit is more than just a facility to Cummings.
With the school in the middle of a massive reconstruction, The Pit is slated to be taken down after the end of the regular season. For Cummings, who started the program in 1996 and conducted his practices and meet in the cozy confines of The Pit, he dreads the final time he enters the sacred room.
“This place is as old-school as it gets,” Cummings said. “This room is where I started the program with seven kids and three meets and now we have 43 kids in the wrestling room. I know everyone loves wrestling here because of the atmosphere – this year many of the Middlesex League teams who were supposed to host us asked if they could switch the meet in order to get one last chance to wrestle a match here.
“I remember when we were back in the GBL and we had meets here with Cambridge, it was the Battle for Mass. Ave. Then we came into the Middlesex League, we had some great meets here with Larry (Tremblay) and his Winchester teams.”
The Herald reached out to past and present wrestlers and coaches who were more than happy to share their sentiments of what The Pit meant to them. St. Sebastian’s wrestling coach Matt Willey competed at Arlington and never misses an opportunity to return every chance he gets.
“It was such a unique place to wrestle, there’s nothing like it.” Willey said. “I remember the mat light. They would shut all the lights off and the mat light would be on, it was like wrestling in a dungeon.”
“Wrestling here really prepares us for matches in tough places. We wrestled Newton South the other night and they had a great crowd and it was loud. We were able to win 45-32 and one of the big reasons was that we were used to wrestling in those type of places because of the Pit.”
Like many wrestlers who have become part of the Arlington program, Andrew Ellis had Cummings as a physical education teacher at the Ottoson Middle School, where he were persuaded to give the sport a shot. Ellis became so good at the sport that he eventually became the school’s first All-State champion in 2015.
“The Pit is such a perfect environment for wrestling,” Ellis said. “I enjoyed every day of practice here, the intensity in The Pit was great. I’ve talked to a lot of people who wrestled here and it’s going to be heartbreaking when they tear it down.”
Assistant coach Sam Kafrissen has been involved with the sport for more than four decades, hence he qualifies as an expert on wrestling venues. There little suspense as to where he rates The Pit.
“First of all, this is great place to practice,” Kafrissen said. “People comes to the matches because of The Pit, it’s a great place to watch a match. The setup makes the wrestlers feel like gladiators with the spectators looking down to see them.”
Current wrestlers Arcadio Cerezo Lizarribar, Austin Cronin and Jake Waldman have their own special memories of The Pit. Cerezo Lizarribar says it’s the perfect place to wind down if he’s had a tough day, while Cronin loves the atmosphere and the overall vibe surrounding The Pit.
“There’s just nothing like this,” Waldman said. “It’s not a state-of-the-art place, but it is old school. There’s no better place than The Pit.”
Long time coming
The immediate goal for the Concord-Carlisle wrestling doesn’t change from year to year: win the Dual County League title.
For the first time since 2005, the Patriots managed to pull it off.
Concord-Carlisle defeated Westford Academy 45-34 to seal the deal. For second-year coach Craig Carpenter, it was a long time coming, though he sensed the drought was about to end.
“We’ve been used to finishing behind Wayland, they’ve been a big obstacle for us,” Carpenter said. “When we finished ahead of Wayland at the Wayland Tournament, we started to feel optimistic. Then to beat them in a dual meet, it was a great feeling for many of us.”
Carpenter is no stranger to success on the mat. He wrestled for Bill Hahn and John Mazza at Catholic Memorial, where he won the New England title at 135 pounds in 2007 and left as the school’s all-time leader in wins at the time with 173.
He went on to compete at Harvard and joined the Concord-Carlisle staff six years ago as an assistant. When Eric Rivera stepped down, Carpenter slid into the head coach’s position.
“(Rivera) did a great job in his time here,” Carpenter said. “The youth program has been pretty solid and we are starting to see the results now. A lot of the kids who came from the program are with us and we’ve received excellent support from the parents and the administration.”
The core group is keyed by senior captains Conor Murphy (160 pounds), Bud West (152) and Joe Lavery (170), who won the Wayland Tournament in his weight class. A fourth senior, Jonathan Charles, has been a revelation as he’s gone 18-5 at 195 pounds in his first year as a wrestler. Carpenter spoke highly of the youth program, pointing to Eddie Myles (145), Kian Amouzgar (182) and Miles Mattaliano (132).
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