Since he already declared this year's team the best in the history of the Manchester High School Central wrestling program, it shouldn't surprise anyone that coach Jason Cumming has set high expectations for his grapplers in the New England Interscholastic Championships this weekend.
"All four of my seniors are capable of winning a New England title," Cumming said. "I'm not just saying it; I believe it. They're all outstanding."
Twin brothers Kyle and Keaton Peterson, along with Azalkhan Sarvalov and Dylan Wyman, will represent the Little Green in the 50th annual New England meet, which opens Friday and concludes Saturday at the Providence Career and Technical Center.
"Our entire team, including John Howard and Andrew Ansah, has combined for 500 career wins," said Cumming, nearing the conclusion of his second season leading the Green. "We've never had a group on the same team with this many career wins. What they've done is phenomenal — and they're not done yet."
Kyle Peterson has set the bar high at Central. The 152-pound senior won his weight class in both the Division I and state meets, matching the feat he achieved as a 126-pound sophomore, when he became the first Little Green wrestler to win both titles. As a junior, he was runner-up in both meets at 132 pounds.
He went on to finish fourth in last year's New England meet, matching former Central standout Anthony Valentin, fourth-place showing at 195 pounds set the Central standard for the regional in 2012.
"Think about that," Cumming said of Peterson. "He's a two-time state and Meet of Champions winner. He reached the finals in both events three straight years and matched a school mark at the New Englands. There's no question in terms of accomplishments, he's become our program's best wrestler."
While Kyle Peterson's resume is outstanding, brother Keaton actually has the superior career record: 147-26 compared do Kyle's 124-35.
"Keaton started his career 31-3 in his freshman season and became one of the top wrestlers in the state," said Cumming. "His accomplishments are not too far behind Kyle."
Keaton is a four-time Division I finalist. He won the state title as a sophomore at 138 pounds and as a senior at 170. He was runner-up as a 125-pound freshman and 138-pound junior. In the Meet of Champions, he reached the finals the last three seasons, finishing as runner-up each time.
Sarvalov, who owns a career record of 126-38, came into his own the last two seasons. During his junior year, he won the Division I state title and the Meet of Champions in the 145-pound weight class. This season, he marched into the Division I meet with a 46-0 record but lost in the final second to Dan Scalzo of Plaistow's Timberlane Regional.
"That was an emotional loss for him, and it carried over the following week to the Meet of Champions, where he ended third overall," said Cumming. "I expect him to regroup and come out ready to perform at his highest level this weekend."
Wyman is two wins away from reaching the century mark in wins (to go along with 35 losses). He placed third in the Meet of Champions this season, giving Central at least three New England qualifiers for the third straight year.
"We're also there to support the other New Hampshire athletes," said Cumming. "We're hoping Timberlane wins another New England team meet. We're going to try to help them by beating some of the top wrestlers from schools trying to beat Timberlane."
Over the last 18 seasons under head coach Barry Chooljian, the Owls have won 10 regional titles, registerd five runner-up finishes and placed third once. Timberlane owns the most regional titles, followed by defending champion Mount Anthony Union High of Bennington, Vt., with seven.
Four New Hampshire athletes earned All-New England status with top-six finishes in last year's regional. Joe Chimelski of Nashua North placed third in the 195-pound weight class, and Kyle Peterson was fourth at 132. David Burke of Exeter (170 pounds) and Brendan Levesque of Bishop Guertin of Nashua (126) both placed sixth.