LAWRENCE ֱ Some things for Nate Blanchette just donֱt change.

ֱWinning is the great motivator. Iֱm just a true competitor. I hate losing so much,ֱ said our two-time reigning ֱ-Tribune Wrestler of the Year. ֱI feel like if I donֱt work hard at practice, if I donֱt do the things I need to succeed at the next level, I wonֱt be good at this level.ֱ

But things are a little different this year for the Central Catholic senior. A more mature ֱ dare we say a bit calmer and even more methodical ֱ Blanchette hits his final Raider season relaxed with his immediate future set.

Shortly after winning his title at nationals last spring, Blanchette, of Methuen, committed to wrestling in the powerhouse Big-10 Conference. His college-choice fretting is done ֱ early. All he has to do is stay on top of the books and focus on piling up the mat wins.

ֱItֱs so great. I committed pretty early and got to sign nice and early,ֱ said Blanchette, one of the prized signees in Rutgers Universityֱs top five rated recruiting class.

ֱRutgers is a beautiful school. Everything there in the athletic department feels brand new. Thereֱs super high-technology, and they are super-big on recovery. The coaches want to win, but theyֱre keeping it fun. Their practices are so hard, I just want to be in that room working with all those guys.ֱ

Big-10 wrestling is as big as it gets. Four of the top six teams at the NCAAs last spring were Big-10 teams, including national champion Penn State. Half the individual finalists came from the conference as well.

Up first, though, is the high school season in which Blanchette will bid for his third straight New England championship.

Blanchette expects to campaign at 175 pounds, which is bad news for most anyone in the region at that weight class.

Heֱll, of course, see his share of forfeits in dual-meet competition, something heֱs grown to expect and accept.

ֱI get forfeits all the time,ֱ he said. ֱFreshman and sophomore year, it was a little annoying, going out there, warming up, getting ready to wrestle, and then you donֱt have a match. Now, itֱs a sign of respect. I understand it now. Coaches have to do whatֱs best for their team and their kids.ֱ

Blanchette promises that there are additions to his already vast arsenal of moves. Clearly, the success has not spawned a lick of complacency.

ֱThereֱs always additions to my game. Every practice, I learn something new,ֱ said Blanchette, who allowed one takedown all last season.

ֱThereֱs always a thought in me that people might be outworking me right now. If you outwork everyone and youֱre better than everyone, youֱre probably not going to get beat.ֱ

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