Heavyweight Rich wins title

The Recorder
Last modified: Sunday, February 21, 2016
*Archive Article*
Kane Rich had to wait until nearly 11 p.m. Saturday night to get a shot at a WMass title, but, yes, it was worth the wait.

The Franklin County Technical School senior heavyweight scored a pin over Mount Greylock Regional High School’s Hunter Abriel with four seconds left in the second period to earn the 285-pound title during the WMass Division III Wrestling Championships.

During past years, the tournament took place over two days, but this season the championships took place on Saturday only, and things fell well behind schedule. The championship matches did not begin until after 9 and Rich, wrestling at the heaviest weight, had to wait for every other match to finish before he got his chance.

Rich entered the tournament as the top seed and he did not disappoint, although it did not come easy. His best finish came last season when he finished sixth at WMass, so he found himself in unfamiliar territory reaching the finals.

Abriel, the third seed, came out and established himself, showing that even though he was giving up some weight to Rich, he was going to be a force to be reckoned with. Abriel scored a takedown and a near fall near the end of the first period to take a 4-0 lead into the second. He then began the second period in the down position and made it 5-0 midway through the period when he scored an escape, sending both wrestlers back to neutral. The grapplers did not do much for the next 40 seconds, and as the clock ticked to less than 20 seconds, it looked like Rich was going to go into the third period trailing, 5-0. But looks can be deceiving, because that’s when things started changing. Rich scored a takedown, immediately got Abriel on his back and just before the period ended Rich finished off his opponent. The hulking grappler was nearly speechless trying to explain his success afterwards.

“I don’t really know what I was thinking,” he said about falling behind 5-0. “I just wanted it really bad. I’ve wanted this for many years now.”

While Rich was the only Recorder-area champion, he was not the only finalist. A pair of Athol High School wrestlers also took part in the championship round. One of those was two-time defending WMass champion Merrick Decker, who was the top seed at 120 pounds. Decker pinned all three of his opponents on his way to the finals, where he took on the second seed, Dean Technical High School’s Giovanni Rios. Unfortunately for Decker, he has been dealing with what appeared to be a rib injury, and a hard slam by Rios hurt Decker late in the first period. After an injury stoppage, Decker was forced to forfeit the match due to an injury with Rios leading 2-1.

Decker was no stranger to the finals but his teammate, Ryan White, was making his first-ever appearance at the WMass tournament and the Athol sophomore and top seed at 126 pounds won his first two matches by pin before picking up a major decision victory in the semifinals to wrestle his way to the title match. He met second-seeded Omar Velez from Hampden Charter School of Science in the finals and it looked like it was shaping up to be a tight match midway through the second period.

White fell behind 4-0 in the match as Velez scored a takedown in the first period and then got a reversal in the second but White got an escape and a takedown later in the second to cut the deficit to 4-3. Velez managed to score three points in the final 30 seconds of the second period (escape and takedown) to take a 7-3 lead into the third. He then put White away in the final two minutes with an assortment of points, including a pair of near falls, and wound up with a 18-6 major division victory. White said he was happy to have made the championship bout after not wrestling last season, but said he just ran out of gas.

“I had a rough year last year, got in a little trouble and was kicked off the team, but I realized I can’t be doing that anymore and I came back this year and just did the best I could,” he said. “I had wrestled (Velez) before and lost to him by a couple of points late, but today I was just dead by the end of the match.”

Every wrestler placing in the top four in their respective weight class qualified for the MIAA State Division III Championships scheduled to take place Friday and Saturday at Taconic High School in Pittsfield. Two area grapplers took third place Saturday, and another pair finished fourth, giving the area seven wrestlers at the state meet. Anyone placing fifth will serve as an alternate if anyone in the top four can’t make the state meet. The area had two fifth-place winners as well.

Franklin Tech’s Nate Crocker placed third at 145 pounds after pinning Hampden Charter’s Khalis Kasimov in the second period of the third-place match at 145 pounds. Crocker lost in the final seconds of his championship-bracket semifinal match to narrowly miss reaching the finals. Mahar Regional School’s Gabe Marcoux also picked up a third-place finish by defeating Bart Christiano of Monument Mountain Regional High School, 6-3, in the third-place match at 195 pounds.

Two Frontier Regional School wrestlers will also be making the trip to the state meet after finishing fourth. Colin Pettis took fourth at 113 pounds after he was pinned by Mt. Greylock Regional High School’s Adam Cohen in the third-place match, and teammate Miguel Olivera suffered a first-period pin at the hands of Gateway Regional High School’s Joe Jones in the third-place match at 160 pounds.

Athol’s Trevor Mousseau earned a fifth-place medal when he pinned Mahar’s Matthew Maillet in the second period at 170 pounds, and Franklin Tech’s Spencer Telega also finished fifth on the day as he earned a second-period pin over Collin Mick of Granby High School in the fifth-place match at 152.

Three other locals joined Maillet as sixth-place finishers. Frontier’s Connor Pettis suffered an injury forfeit in the fifth-place match at 120 pounds, Franklin Tech’s Chris Ludwig suffered a 5-4 loss to Hampshire Regional High School’s Michael Baldwin at 138 pounds, and Mahar’s Ben Gilmore was pinned in the first period by South Hadley’s Ethan Flemming at 160 pounds.