Sanford senior Sam Anderson works for a takedown during a match at the New England Interscholastic Wrestling Championships in Providence on Saturday. Anderson would finish second in the 170-pound weight class. JASON GENDRON PHOTOGRAPHY

Sanford senior Sam Anderson works for a takedown during a match at the New England Interscholastic Wrestling Championships in Providence on Saturday. Anderson would finish second in the 170-pound weight class. JASON GENDRON PHOTOGRAPHY

PROVIDENCE — Heading into the 2018 New England Interscholastic Wrestling Championships Sanford senior Sam Anderson had pretty much accomplished everything he could have ever dreamed of during his high school career — except for bringing home a medal from Providence.
The two-time state champion was able to cross that off his wrestling bucket list on Saturday as Anderson made a run all the way to the New England finals and would take home a second-place trophy from the region’s premier tournament.
“It was just crazy, mind-blowing, astonishing — I wowed myself,” said Anderson moments after he received his 170-pound runner-up plaque.
After going 1-0 on Friday night, Anderson knew he needed just one more win to secure a medal.
“I just came into (Saturday), waking up, eating breakfast and just worrying about that first match. No matter what happens if I won my first match I would be ecstatic, and that’s exactly what happened,” said Anderson, who quickly realized he had a shot to climb even higher on the podium. “I won my first match and I was glad, but I knew that I had a chance to make the final. I knew I just had to wrestle tough.”
The senior earned a hard-fought 11-8 win over Woonsocket’s Rogelio Gonzalez in the quarterfinals to clinch no worse than a sixth-place finish. Next up would be a semifinal match with Chelmsford’s Joe Vecchione — and the Sanford standout dominated the bout from the opening whistle.
Anderson, who is the Sanford all-time wins leader, got off to a fast start and never slowed down as he punched his ticket to the finals with a 12-5 victory.
“I was just like ‘when’s the joke over? How much did you have to pay this kid?’” Anderson joked about his reaction after the semifinal win.
Sanford head coach Brent Coleman will be talking about the moment Anderson clinched his spot in the finals for years to come.
“I mean it’s the most phenomenal feeling a coach will ever have just to see one of their kids succeed, and think about all the hard work he’s put in since he stepped on a Sanford High mat,” said Coleman. “It’s times like this that when I’m old and gray — I know I’m gray already — but when I’m old and grayer, it’s those stories that I’m going to tell my grandkids, my great-grandkids.”
Southington’s Paul Calo would be standing in Anderson’s way in the finals, and the Connecticut standout controlled the match the entire way as he picked up a 9-0 major decision and grabbed his second straight New England gold.
Anderson knew the finals match was going to be an uphill battle against the now two-time New England champ.
“It was great. I’m always embracing the challenge,” said Anderson on facing Calo. “I’m always willing to go out there and put it all on the line. He’s just really tough, really powerful but last time I wrestled him, last year, he tech falled me — I’m closing that gap, closing that gap slowly but surely.”
Coleman believes he can use Anderson as an example for both wrestlers and everyday kids who may be struggling to overcome obstacles in their lives.
“I work with kids now and help them get beyond some of the struggles, try to help them persevere and I use kids like Sam to help them and motivate them because from the moment Sam stepped his foot on a Sanford High mat he was ready to do anything and everything to prepare for right now,” said Coleman.
Sanford assistant coach Paul Rivard knew there was something special about Anderson from the moment he met him during a middle school wrestling practice.
“It’s exciting. I met Sam my first time (when he was in) seventh grade and I was filling in with (former head coach) Nate Smith. We got to meet Sam and see his affection and passion for wrestling,” said Rivard. “He was just abnormal but in a good way. He was crazy and hungry about wrestling and that’s the kind of guy you want in the room, and the kind of guy that’s going to persevere and win matches like he did today.”
While some people inside the Providence Career and Technical Academy may have been surprised to see Anderson in the finals, the people closest to the senior knew he could get the job done.
“I think a lot of people didn’t think that he’d make the finals, but I think the people surrounding him had that belief, and he had that belief in himself that he was more than just a (bottom of the) podium (wrestler), that he could do something special,” Rivard said.
This past summer the Maine Amateur Wrestling Alliance honored the 1964 and 1967 Sanford High School teams that won New England team championships. Anderson was thrilled to add to the program’s storied tradition 51 years after the last Sanford wrestler reached the New England finals — and he’s hoping to be an example for future Spartans.
“It’s just huge. It’s really just practicing hard, showing up willing to give it all that you have. I’ve got to teach that to the youth kids, I’ve got to teach that to the junior high kids — if you believe in yourself and you’re willing to go to dark places in this sport, which you have to, you will get the results that you want,” said Anderson, who would love to see someone match his trip to the finals and grab gold in the future. “Just being able to come back to my town and show that it’s not any secret, you’ve got to want to be a New England champ to actually be one. You’ve got to do everything right leading up to that point to be a New England champ. I’m just really happy.”
Rivard believes Anderson’s success will help drive the wrestlers coming up through the Sanford program.
“I think it’s special. I think it’s something that we’re going to be able to go back to the youth club, my junior high club and the high school and say ‘look at the hard work he put in during the offseason. If you’re willing to at least do half of what he does, you’re going to reach the levels that you want to reach,’” said Rivard. “It’s asking them who wants to be the next guy? Who wants to be the next Sam Anderson? Or better, who wants to make their own name for themselves?”
Anderson is hoping to add to his wrestling resume next year when he starts his college career — and it looks like he will be competing close to home.
“I’m pretty firm on being a Huskie and being with the home crowd,” said Anderson on “pretty much” being committed to the University of Southern Maine in Gorham.
The New England runner-up has loved what he has seen from coach Mike Morin’s squad.
“They look like young guys just blowing everyone out of the water. They are so young, they have so much time to develop so I just want to grow with them and develop with them. I want to be part of something,” said Anderson. “They are good now but that’s not where they want to be. They’re never the type of (program) to be complacent and stay where they’re at. They are always looking to improve and that’s exactly how I am. I’m always striving for more and striving for the next best thing.”
Watching USM’s Dan Del Gallo win the school’s first Division III national title last year and current Huskies Peter Del Gallo and Austin Shorey reach nationals this season has certainly provided motivation for Anderson.
“It’s huge just knowing that you have those resources, too. Knowing that Dan Del Gallo is a national champ but it’s everything around him. I’m a firm believer that it’s not just the person that’s the good wrestler, it’s definitely the environment and what’s around. Having that first-ever national champion there sets the goal high for Peter and everyone else like who’s going to be the next one?” said Anderson.
Anderson will soon be making noise on the college mats, but he will be remembered in the Sanford wrestling room forever.
“I’ve done everything that I’ve set out to do. I just wanted to place at states as a freshman, I got fourth place and was so happy. I wanted to make it to New Englands as a sophomore, I made it to New Englands. I wanted to win a state title my junior year, I was able to do that — and then place at New Englands my senior year, so no regrets whatsoever,” said Anderson of his Sanford career. “I’m just really glad and happy. I wasn’t the same wrestler when I walked in as a freshman but I left as a senior a much better man and I’m just a much better all-around person because of the sport.”
— Sports Editor Pat McDonald can be reached at [email protected] or at 282-1535 ext. 322. Follow the Journal Tribune Sports Department on Twitter @JournalTsports.


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