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High school wrestlers’ goal: Win for late captain

Devin Ness died of an aneurysm Friday. He was 18 years old.

Devin Ness died of an aneurysm Friday. He was 18 years old.

In their first wrestling meet since Oliver Ames High School senior and captain Devin Ness, 18, died of an aneurysm Friday, the team had a goal.

“Win for him, get first,” senior Jake McCabe said before his final match in his 220-pound weight class. “It’s gonna happen.”

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Ness was rushed to a hospital Thursday from his cousin’s house, where he was caring for the family’s pets with his sister. He died Friday morning, Wes Paul, the principal of Oliver Ames, said Saturday.

McCabe did win Sunday, pinning Robert Deveau of North Attleboro at Franklin High School Sunday. The team finished the Hockomock League Wrestling Championships in third place with 144 points, its best result of the season.

But the loss of Ness, one of the team’s five captains, was felt. Teammates described him as a dedicated wrestler who was helpful and kind.

“He was the hardest worker on the team by far, and he was probably the best captain Oliver Ames has ever seen,” said McCabe, who is also a captain. “He was always there for you, simply put.”

Head coach Adam Pomella said he gave his team the option to sit out the meet, but many of them decided to compete.

“I just wanted to wrestle, I guess,” sophomore Jameson Dixon said. “I felt like Devin would have wanted it.”

Dixon had his hair cut in memory of his former wrestling partner: The words “RIP Devin” were shaved into the left side of his close-cropped mohawk, and “RIP 1/25/2013” on the right.

Freshman Shey O’Connor, who wrestles in Ness’s 126-pound weight class, said he decided to sit out the meet out as a sign of respect, to let Ness’s name be slotted one last time.

“I know he would have done the same for me,” O’Connor said. “He helped out a lot, made everyone happier, and he always had a smile on his face.”

Like many of his teammates, senior captain Tim Gover, who had known Ness since fifth grade, had a tough meet.

A nosebleed Gover suffered in a match Sunday morning came back during a midday match. Blood smeared his cheeks and the mat. Still, he made it to the final round, and won third place in the 120-pound weight class.

After the match, Gover pointed up to the field house roof. Breathing heavily, with tears in his eyes, he shook his opponent’s hand and hugged his coaches, teammates, and father.

He said he never considered sitting out the meet in honor of Ness.

“He would have killed me if I didn’t” wrestle, Gover said. “To him, wrestling was everything. He put so much time and effort into it, it’s disappointing that he wasn’t here.”

Gal Tziperman Lotan
can be reached at gal.lotan@globe.com.
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