By Tony Capobianco
MELROSE – Saturday’s D3 North Sectional Tournament at Melrose High School was do or die time for Saugus senior wrestlers Dan McCullough and Joe Alba. One way or the other, the two captains saw their team start with a full roster and slowly but severely sorely erode to just five by the time of sections.
Alba pinned Matt Beauchesne of Tyngsborough in the opening round of the 152 pound bracket. He then fell to Wilmington’s Patrick Carroll in the quarterfinal round, despite almost erasing a 10-0 deficit with a near pin in the final minute of the third period. After winning his first match of the consolation bracket, his journey came to a close in the following round when he was pinned by Korey Scheffen of Pentucket in the final second.
As for McCullough, Saugus’s leading wrestler quickly dispatched Bedford’s Logan Weisz in the opening round of the 145 pound bracket but soon lost to Liam Donahue of Gloucester, despite holding onto a seemingly comfortable lead for most of the match. The consolation bracket felt like an uphill climb for McCullough in his last-ditch effort to return to the state tournament. He pinned his next two opponents before falling short against Jake Goodchild of Wakefield. A win against him would’ve assured a trip back to states.
But by beating Wilmington’s John Cox, McCullough secured fifth place in section and made himself into an alternate for states in the event that Donahue (4th), Goodchild (3rd), Triton Regional’s Jared Durkin (2nd) and Melrose’s Stephen MacIntosh (section champion) are not able to compete. Unless that happens, McCullough’s illustrious career ends as one of Saugus’s most outstanding wrestlers.
“I have had the pleasure of coaching Danny since he was in 7th grade,” Saugus head coach Rudy Howard said. “He is a three-time state qualifier, league All-Star and has over 80 wins in his career – two-year captain. Danny is a great kid who works hard in the wrestling room and does well in the classroom. He is well liked and respected by his peers.”
Melrose, the defending state champions and tournament hosts, won the team championship for the second consecutive season by advancing seven wrestlers into states.