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Telega a champ for 3rd-place Tech

  • Kyle Brunelle of Franklin Tech tries to stay on his feet with Sabis’ Khadir Zachary in an attacking position in their title bout at 126 pounds Saturday at Taconic High School. RECORDER STAFF/JEFF LAJOIE

  • Frontier’s Miguel Olvera-Aguilera (right) and DJ Willard grapple in the 160-pound championship match won by Willard. RECORDER STAFF/JEFF LAJOIE

  • Franklin Tech’s Spencer Telega (right) tries to outmaneuver Hampshire Regional’s Michael Baldwin during the title bout at 152 pounds during Saturday’s WMass Div. III championship at Taconic High School in Pittsfield. Telega edged Baldwin, 3-2, for the title. RECORDER STAFF/JEFF LAJOIE



Recorder Staff
Sunday, February 11, 2018

PITTSFIELD — The ebbs and flows of a wrestling match aren’t for the faint of heart.

After Hampshire Regional High School’s Michael Baldwin scored an escape to tie the score early in the third period of the 152-pound championship bout, Spencer Telega clawed back. No. 1 seed in his bracket, the Franklin County Technical School senior scored a takedown with just 50 seconds remaining. Baldwin cut the deficit to 3-2 with a point in the final 10 seconds, but Telega held on tight and secured his first sectional title at Saturday’s Western Massachusetts Division III Wrestling Championships held at Taconic High School.

“I knew he was going to be tough,” admitted Telega of Baldwin, who he also defeated via a close decision during the regular-season. “I really had to grind it out. That takedown was obviously big.”

Telega’s individual title was the only one for the local teams, as Recorder-area wrestlers went 1-3 overall in championship matches.

After taking third place at 160 pounds at WMass a year ago, Telega opened his season at 160 pounds before deciding to cut weight and compete at 152. It wasn’t easy, but he managed to navigate the waters of a grueling regular season and entered the WMass tourney as the top seed.

“It’s always nice to see kids who put in a lot of work rewarded with a sectional championship,” Franklin Tech head coach Joe Gamache lauded of Telega. “He hit a point this season where he wanted to try and wrestle at 152 and you have to be very disciplined to make that happen. He’s put the work in over his career here. It wasn’t easy, especially in the final … he had to earn it.”

Telega’s path to a championship wasn’t easy. After receiving an opening-round bye, he was pushed in the Friday quarterfinals by ninth-seeded Dakota Wood of Southwick-Tolland Regional High School. A second-period escape was the difference, as Telega won that match by a 3-2 margin.

“I waited all day to wrestle and it wasn’t a good match at all,” he admitted. “I knew coming back that I was going to have to wrestle better (on Saturday).”

The senior did just that, earning a second-round pin against fifth-seeded Jake Erali of Smith Vocational & Agricultural High School in the semifinals to punch his ticket to the title bout.

Three other area wrestlers reached championship matches Saturday. Telega’s teammate Kyle Brunelle, seeded second at 126 pounds, gave top-seeded Khadir Zachary of Sabis International Charter School everything he could handle in the title bout. Trailing 4-0 in the third period, Brunelle scored a reversal with 38 seconds left to pull within 4-2. But Zachary answered with a reversal of his own in the waning seconds, and captured the 126 title thanks to a 6-2 decision.

“He had a good tournament,” said Gamache of Brunelle, a sophomore. “He was seeded second and that’s where he finished, so you can’t complain all that much about it. It was a close match in the finals. He was disappointed but he’s got bigger goals moving forward into the state tournament.”

Brunelle won both of his matches leading into the championship via pinfalls, including a third-period win over Taconic’s Zach Mathes in the semifinals.

Frontier Regional School senior Miguel Olvera-Aguilera had quite a tournament. Originally seeded seventh in the 170-pound weight class, Olvera-Aguilera decided to enter the 160-pound field this weekend and his positioning was shifted to the No. 2 seed in that field.

He grabbed a pin in the Friday quarterfinals and edged Smith Voke’s James Buddluph, 5-3, in the semifinals, setting up a championship bout showdown with top-seeded D.J. Willard of Hampshire. Willard, the runner-up at 160 pounds a year ago, was held in check by Olvera-Aguilera in a scoreless first period. Then Willard scored a takedown and a near-fall in the second frame, and ultimately captured the title with a 10-1 major decision.

“I’m a little disappointed in that last match but overall I’m happy with the whole weekend,” said Olvera-Aguilera, who moved within one victory of 100 career wins following the semifinal round. “Dropping down to 160, you have to pick up your speed and stamina. The guys down here are a lot faster than the 170s. I was able to outwork the first few guys I faced.”

It was a breakout tournament for Mohawk Trail Regional High School senior Gabe Bower. The fifth-seeded grappler at 182 pounds, Bower opened his tourney with a pair of pins on Friday to reach the semifinals. That set up a Saturday bout with top-seeded Chris Ludwig of Franklin Tech, and Bower showed no signs of slowing down. After earning a takedown in the opening period, Bower pinned Ludwig just before the end of the frame, pulling the upset and advancing to the championship.

“I was really glad to be able to pin (Ludwig) in the first period, especially him being the No. 1 seed,” said Bower. “Just getting to the final, that was the best feeling I’ve had in my high school wrestling career.”

Bower’s championship foe proved to be a familiar one. He’s known second-seeded Tanner Hastings of Taconic since kindergarten, and Bower credits his friend with getting him into wrestling in the first place.

“He actually introduced me to the sport and ever since then I’ve loved competing in it,” said Bower of Hastings. The pair wrestled on the same youth club, the Badger Youth Wrestling Club of Pittsfield. “Up until this match though, we had never actually wrestled each other on a mat. It was pretty crazy to actually wrestle against him for a title. ‘For old times sake,’ we said.”

Hastings scored a first-period takedown before Bower cut the deficit to 2-1 with an escape. It was all Hastings from there, however, and he wound up earning a pin in the second period to claim the 182-pound title.

From a team perspective, Franklin Tech was the top local thanks to an impressive third-place showing — the best in program history after bettering last year’s fourth-place finish. The Eagles finished with 164 points, putting them behind only WMass champion Taconic (228½) and runner-up Sabis (165½). Frontier was sixth in the standings with 135 points, while Mohawk took ninth with 64.

“It’s a credit to the coaching staff and the kids we have in this program to have another solid showing this year,” said Gamache. “The dedication of everyone involved and all the work that goes into it throughout the year makes this happen.”

In addition to Telega and Brunelle, four other Franklin Tech wrestlers punched their tickets to this weekend’s MIAA Division III State Tournament slated to be held at Wakefield High School Friday and Saturday. Ludwig rebounded from his semifinal loss to Bower and finished third at 182 pounds, while teammate Jaden Sadlowski was also a third-place finisher at 132 pounds. Caleb Ellis (113) and Tim Fritz (160) scored fourth-place finishes to earn the fourth and final spots for WMass kids at states.

Tech has three alternates for the state tourney, with Peter Saladino (120), Brody Wood (170) and Walker Picard (220) snagging fifth-place showings in their weight classes.

Frontier received some strong work from its wrestlers in the consolation brackets, and as a result, the Red Hawks are sending a total of six grapplers to the State Tournament.

In addition to Olvera-Aguilera’s runner-up showing, Frontier received a trio of third-place finishes from Tanner Finch (113), Connor Pettis (138) and Ito McMillan (145). Also earning State-Tournament invites were Bailey Murry (126) and Jackie Phong (285), with both finishing in fourth place.

Frontier’s Nate Austin will be an alternate at 195 pounds after a fifth-place performance, while teammate Jake Mattson claimed sixth-place at 106.

Mohawk’s Tristan Keyser-Parker will join Bower at the state tournament after taking fourth place at 106 pounds. Jameson Dailey-Pecor will serve as an alternate for the Warriors at 160 pounds after finishing fifth, while Jaden Moore earned a podium finish at 132 pounds where he was sixth overall.