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Local wrestlers ready to rumble

  • Above, Frontier's Tanner Finch is a promising wrestler for the Red Hawks after winning the 98-pound WMass title. Below, Athol’s Chris Waslaske will look to get back to the State meet. Recorder FILE PHOTOS

  • Franklin Tech's Chris Ludwig takes down Hampshire Regional's Mason Willard during their match Wednesday, January 25, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Mount Greylock's Devin Pelletier wrestles Athol's Chris Waslaske in their 170-lb. match during the D3 Western Mass tournament at Pioneer Valley Regional School Saturday, February 11, 2017. RECORDER STAFF/MATT BURKHARTT

  • Franklin Tech's Spencer Telega finished third at western Mass. last season and should be one of the top wrestlers for an Eagles’ team that looks to repeat as Suburban League North champions. RECORDER FILE PHOTO



Recorder Staff
Monday, December 11, 2017

The consolidation of the majority of the local teams into one league this winter should make for a competitive wrestling season.

Defending champion Franklin County Technical School welcomes Mahar Regional School, Athol High School and Frontier Regional School up to the Suburban League North, while Granby High School rounds out the five-team slate.

Mahar won the Tri-County League a year ago, ahead of Athol and Frontier. Mohawk Trail Regional High School is the lone local school that remained in the TCL, and the Warriors are joined by Gateway Regional High School, Pathfinder Regional Vocational Technical High School and Smith Vocational & Agricultural High School.

“The leagues are more designed on location and geography of the schools this year,” Franklin Tech coach Joe Gamache explained.

Here’s a closer look at the area teams, which got underway with tournament competition on Saturday before beginning dual meets Wednesday.

Athol

It’ll certainly be a change for the Red Raiders this winter, as three-time defending WMass champion Merrick Decker graduated after a storied career on the Mallet Gymnasium mats. Decker won three consecutive sectional titles at 120 pounds, and he was also a near-guaranteed victory throughout the dual-meet portion of the season.

“Every year you have two or three guys you count on going into a match and Merrick was certainly one of those guys for us,” admitted Athol head coach Phil Saisa. “But that’s pretty much the cycle of athletics and Division III high school sports. You lose those really high-quality kids and you hope you have a couple new guys who can step up and take on that role.”

Athol, which also graduated Ryan Hulbert who was third at 195 pounds a year ago at WMass, does have a high-profile competitor back on its team. Junior Chris Waslaske joined Decker on the postseason circuit a year ago, reaching the All-State meet where he was the only local athlete to win a match.

Waslaske, who was the runner-up in WMass at 170 pounds before finishing fourth at the Div. III state tournament to earn the All-State invite, should pace an Athol squad that finished 13-8-3 overall last year, 4-1 in the league.

“He’s in between 170 and 182 this year so we don’t know where he’s gonna end up, but he’s not substantially bigger than last year,” explained Saisa of Waslaske’s expected weight class. “I think he’ll certainly win a lot more matches than he’s going to lose. He’s worked hard and has become a pretty good leader for us.”

Athol does have some other key returning wrestlers at its disposal. Junior Ryan White was sixth in WMass at 132 pounds a year ago, and he won the Red Raider Invitational on Saturday to open the season at 138 pounds.

Eighth-grader Caleb Cox was fifth at WMass at 113 pounds last year and moves up to 130 where he should be solid, while sophomore Jon Mahony scored a fifth-place showing at 106 pounds a year ago as a freshman.

“We’ve got a lot of shuffling,” explained Saisa, whose team finished third at last year’s WMass championship — best in the area. “We’re certainly not very deep, but I think the kids we have are gonna be pretty solid.”

Eighth-grader Joe Gray (160) was third at the Red Raider Invitational after winning three matches and should be a pleasant boost to the lineup, while seniors Dakota Gilman (195) and Hayden Herk (152), junior Joe Seamans (152), freshmen Bryce Shufelt (120), Logan Wornham and Eric Fenton (113) and seventh-graders Holden Cleveland (113) and Thomas Seamans (182) round out the squad.

FC Tech

The defending Suburban League champions have a solid mix of veteran experience and promising newcomers, giving head coach Joe Gamache a roster that should again challenge for a top spot.

“We feel like this year we can hopefully make a run at defending our league title, albeit the league is slightly different this year with the realignment,” explained Gamache. “That’s one of our goals and we feel it’s within our reach. We’d also like to make a little more noise at the sectional tournament this year.”

Senior Spencer Telega helps headline a returning crew that finished fourth at the WMass Div. III Tournament a year ago. Telega, who is closing in on 100 career wins, was third at 160 pounds at last year’s WMass meet, and he returns to the same weight class this winter.

Senior Chris Ludwig was fourth at 145 pounds a year ago at WMass. He moves up to 182 pounds this winter, and again should figure into the postseason discussion for the Eagles.

Sophomore Kyle Brunelle got his season off to a strong start in the Red Raider Invitational on Saturday and should be a difficult competitor at 126 pounds after taking third place at WMass at 106. Classmate Colin Pettis was fourth at 120 a year ago and is back to compete at anywhere from 126 to 138.

Fellow sophomore Peter Saladino primarily wrestled at 113 pounds last year but should move up to 120 and compete, while senior Jaden Sadlowski looks strong at 132 pounds. Senior Matt Sullivan returns and should wrestle at 138 pounds.

Junior Brody Wood returns to 170 pounds for the second year in a row, while classmate Ayden Stacy (195) is back for his third year.

Junior Tim Fritz could be a breakout candidate at 152 pounds after biding his time the past two seasons.

“He’s always been stuck in weight classes with some pretty tough kids so I think this year there’ll be a good shot he’ll be our 152 throughout the season,” Gamache said of Fritz.

Senior Jack Fuller (170/182) and sophomore Ian McClure (145/152) are on the squad, while a sizable freshman class includes Mark Allen (106), Caleb Ellis (113), Noah Fuess (138/145), Justin Dobias (138), David Grover (152/160), Austin Ellison (160/170), Brianna Snyder (220) and Cameron Tuttle (285).

The Eagles, which finished 17-3 overall a year ago and a perfect 6-0 in league matches, open with an independent dual meet against Westfield High School Wednesday in Turners Falls.

Frontier

It’s Year 2 for head coach Brian Bagdon in South Deerfield, and his roster has a nice contingent of returning wrestlers.

The Red Hawks went 13-12-1 overall a year ago in competition, including a 3-2 mark in league action. Frontier finished 12th out of 20 schools at last year’s WMass Div. III championship, with four wrestlers earning top 5 finishes there.

The good news is that the team’s top performers from the WMass meet all return to the mats this winter.

Senior Connor Pettis picked up his 100th career win in the fifth-place match at 126 pounds at WMass. Pettis, who also wrestled at the state meet as a junior, will be in the mix at 132 or 138 pounds as an anchor of the Frontier squad.

Senior Miguel Olvera Aguilera also finished fifth in WMass at 195 pounds last year and earned a state meet trip. Olvera Aguilera, who is closing in on the 100 career victory mark as well, has slimmed down and should be a top performer at 160 or 170 pounds.

Junior Josiah Murry took fourth place at WMass at 138 pounds a year ago, and he’s back as a contender at 145 or 152 pounds for the Hawks. Murry joined Pettis and Olvera Aguilera as state competitors last year.

Frontier freshman Tanner Finch won the WMass title at 98 pounds a year ago. While 98 pounds is not a regular-season class that schools compete at, the championship was not counted toward team scores but served as a chance for younger wrestlers on teams to get a chance to compete at WMass.

Finch, who wrestled at 106 pounds during his eighth-grade season, should be in the mix at 106 or 113 pounds this winter.

Senior Joe Hildreth (182) returns for Frontier, as do juniors Nate Austin (170/182) and Eric Trueswell (152).

Sophomores Andrew Logan (160/170), KC Mattson (145/152), Rearkeous McMillan (138/145) and Victor McNutt (132/138) all return to the fold, while freshmen Avery Tuttle (126/132) and Jackie Phong (285) are also back. Eighth-graders Dan Gesualdi (152/16), Julienne Kinsman (152/160) and Bailey Murry (120) join newcomers Connor Hoffman (138/145) and Jake Mattson (106/113), both seventh-graders, to round out the roster.

Bagdon, in his 13th year as a varsity coach overall, enters the season with 94 high school coaching wins. He won 100 matches as a wrestler at Frontier and added another 100-plus during a collegiate career at Roger Williams University.

Mahar

Last year’s Tri-County League champs ran the table with a perfect 5-0 mark in the division. Despite a couple of key losses to graduation in the forms of Ben Gilmore (third at 170) and Matt Herk (sixth at 220), the Senators have plenty of talent to once again compete after moving into the Suburban League.

Sophomore Todd Chiasson is expected to be a top performer at 152 pounds, and he captured fifth place at WMass a year ago at 138. Chiasson got his season off to a strong start, snagging runner-up honors at the Red Raider Invitational.

There are several Senators to watch this winter, including a few who joined Chiasson with strong finishes in the season’s first tournament.

Freshman Henry Ndayisaba looks good at 138 pounds, and it’s his third year wrestling on the varsity team after seeing action at 120 and 126 pounds last year as an eighth-grader. Ndayisaba won three matches in the Red Raider Invitational to take third at 138.

Junior Adam Clement is penciled in at 145, and he recorded four wins on Saturday in the highly-competitive weight class. Clement makes the move up to 145 after finishing last season at 132.

Sophomore Peter Tattan won five matches on Saturday to take third place at 182 pounds. Tattan won eight matches a year ago at 160 pounds after picking up four victories as an eighth-grader.

Juniors Justin DeDiego (132) and Ed Bennington (160) both look strong during the early-going, while senior Cole Emery (195) is also on the roster.

The rest of the lineup skews very young, with eighth-graders AJ Newman (170) and Robbie Watkins (106) joining seventh-graders Xander Roberts (113), Luke Chiodo (120) and Jeremy Vezina (126) all making their varsity debuts.

Mohawk

The lone Tri-County League team from the area this winter, the Warriors enter the fray in hopes of competing with foes Gateway, Pathfinder and Smith Voke as the independent slate opens tonight on the road at Hampshire Regional High School.

Mohawk will turn to its few experienced wrestlers on an overall young squad to lead the way. Junior Mason Biagini is a co-captain along with senior Jameson Dailey-Pecor, and both have been on the squad since its inception as a varsity program two years ago. Biagini will likely wrestle at 170 pounds while Dailey-Pecor competes at 160 pounds.

Senior Gabe Bower got his season off to a strong start at the Red Raider Invitational in Athol over the weekend, finishing third at 195 pounds thanks to a trio of victories via pinfall. Bower could also fit into the lineup at 182 pounds.

The rest of the roster features Tristan Keyser-Parker (106 pounds), Nate Wooldridge (120), Jaden Moore (132), Jakob Bower (138), Dylan Wooldridge (145), Quinton Romer (152), Kaitlyn Randall (145), Aeva Hazlett (160) and Ethan Bower (195).

“We are still a young team, but I have some dedicated and talented freshmen,” offered Mohawk coach Mark Biagini.