North Reading Hornets Wrestling '07-'08

Roger Darrigrand, Staff Photographer

Co-op a boon for North Reading

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Monday, February, 04 By Dave Dyer
Staff writer

Don't talk to head coach Craig Stone about breaking up the Lynnfield/North Reading wrestling co-op team anytime soon.

There are currently 34 wrestlers on the team, evenly divided between the two schools, after starting the season with 40. The team enjoyed a 16-7 regular season and finished third in the Cape Ann League meet. Stone remembers five years ago when Lynnfield was by itself.

"We only had 14 kids at the end of the year," said Stone, who started the Lynnfield program 34 years ago. "You can't have a successful program like that.

"If the teams split now, they wouldn't get that distribution you need for 14 weight classes and you wouldn't get the competition you need in practice. If it's not broke, don't fix it."

Moreover, Stone has been amazed at the bond established between the Lynnfield and North Reading wrestlers. The schools are arch-rivals in most sports, but they've come together like blood brothers on the mat.

"It's far exceeded my expectations," said Stone. "The camaraderie, the socializing ... it goes way beyond the wrestling mat. It's a real team."

That couldn't be more accurate according to 130-pound senior captain Ryan Visconti of North Reading, who has compiled a 31-7 record in his third season on the mat and finished second at the CAL meet over the weekend.

"I have a lot of good friends from there (Lynnfield)," said Visconti. "It's kind of funny since we're big rivals in other sports. In football on Thanksgiving, we were facing each other and the wrestlers were saying, 'See you on the mat Monday.'"

Visconti is a perfect example, of a co-op's benefits. He played basketball as a freshman but had limited success. His younger twin brothers, Devin and Kyle (freshman starters for former Salem coach Mike Bolduc at Malden Catholic this year), had taken up wrestling several years before, so he decided to give it a try as a sophomore, something that would have been impossible without the co-op.

At first, the decision did not seem all that wise. "I was terrible as a sophomore, something like 2-20," said Visconti. "Wrestling was my least favorite sport."

But with support from his teammates, from both North Reading and Lynnfield, wrestling grew on Visconti and now he's considering staying with it in college.

"I think the (co-op) team will split up eventually because I think it (wrestling) is going to keep growing," said Visconti. "Kids are always asking me about wrestling."

But Stone and most of his squad are in no hurry for that to happen, not with how successfully the co-op has been running.

There is one problem, however. There is no agreement on a common nickname. Are they the Hornets for North Reading or the Pioneers for Lynnfield?

"We're still trying to figure that one out," said Stone.

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