Raiders’ Waslaske wins crown

Recorder Staff
Sunday, February 11, 2018

A change of geography did little to slow down Chris Waslaske on Saturday.

The Athol High School junior captured his first individual sectional title, as the Red Raiders competed in the central Massachusetts Division III Wrestling Championships for the first time after being realigned out of the WMass Tourney this winter. Waslaske, the top-seeded wrestler in the 182-pound weight class, dominated the competition to capture the championship and pace the local wrestlers in the event held at Wayland High School.

“Chris was smothering,” said Athol head coach Phil Saisa of Waslaske’s performance, which featured just one point allowed in four points. “I don’t think he gave up a takedown all day long. He was pretty dominant. Up until the finals, there wasn’t a kid who physically matched up with him. Hopefully, it bodes well for the next few weeks.”

After pinning his opening-round opponent in just 54 seconds, Waslaske earned a 15-0 technical fall victory in the quarterfinals. He continued his dominance with a 12-0 major decision win over Quabbin Regional High School’s Harry Riendeau in the semifinals, and took care of business in the finals against Bellingham High School’s Max Deisadze via decision, 5-1.

Waslaske, who was the runner-up at 170 pounds at last year’s WMass tourney, entered this season after an impressive postseason run following that sectional performance. He took fourth at the state tournament, and was the only local grappler to pick up a win at the All-State event.

“Confidence is a funny thing,” said Saisa of Waslaske’s form after the postseason run. “You have to be careful with it. But Chris has absolutely handled it the right way. He’s gained a level of confidence from last year but still continues to work incredibly hard. That’s what you need to do.”

Waslaske wasn’t the only Athol wrestler to compete in a championship bout Saturday. Sophomore Jon Mahony nearly joined him atop the podium, as the No. 4 seed in the 106-pound field was one period away from a CMass title.

Mahony, who advanced to the finals after a convincing 6-1 decision over top-seeded Harley Davidson Blanchette of Tri-County Regional Vocational Technical High School, held a 7-4 lead after two periods against second-seeded Benny Herrera of Ashland High School. Mahony was flagged for a one-point locked-hands technical violation early in the third period, however, and Herrara used the opening to pick up an escape and a takedown that ultimately gave him an 8-7 decision and the 106 title.

“Obviously, that locked-hands call had a pretty negative impact on the match,” said Saisa. “He made a mistake that came back to get him. He’s only a sophomore, and sometimes those things happen.”

Still, Mahony’s tournament run was impressive.

“He’s been wrestling tough the last few weeks and he’s really shown signs of getting better and better,” Saisa lauded. ” There’s still a lot of room to grow for him, but getting to the finals was huge.”

Athol, which finished 10th as a team with 80½ points, will send three wrestlers to this weekend’s MIAA Division III Tournament at Wakefield High School, as Dakota Gilman qualified thanks to a fourth-place showing at 195 pounds. Gilman was unseeded but battled back from an opening-round loss to snag a pair of wins and punch his ticket to the state tourney.

“(Gilman) has to go against Chris every day in practice, so he goes and wrestles one of the tougher kids in the state every day and doesn’t complain about it,” Saisa said of Gilman. “He’s got the heart and work ethic that kept him in it all day, and he totally deserved what he got.”

Two Mahar Regional School wrestlers reached the finals, as Henry Ndayisaba was the runner-up at 138 pounds and Cole Emery captured second at 195 pounds.

Ndayisaba was seeded fifth at 138 pounds, but he picked up a 7-5 decision over top-seeded Joe Wagher of Quabbin in the semifinals to get into the championship bout. Ndayisaba built a 7-0 lead in the third period against Wagher and held on for the tight win.

In the championship against Tri-County’s Kevin Carlucci, the No. 2 seed in the field, Ndayisaba saw his run come to an end with a pin right at the end of the opening frame.

At 195, Emery, seeded second, defeated Gilman in the quarterfinals and pinned Dedham High School’s Jamie Weldon in the semifinals. That put him in the title bout against top-seeded Spencer Fetrow of Holliston High School, who earned a quick takedown and secured the championship with a pin in 24 seconds.

Ndayisaba and Emery helped Mahar to an eighth-place team finish with 92 points. Joining the duo at the State Tournament will be Peter Tattan, who finished fourth overall at 182 pounds after winning three matches as the No. 3 seed in the field.

Two other Senators snagged podium finishes. Adam Clement was sixth at 145 pounds after going 3-3 on the day, while Todd Chiasson added a sixth-place performance at 152.

Athol sent just six wrestlers in total to Wayland, but four of the six wound up placing after Caleb Cox was sixth at 126 pounds. Joe Gray went 2-2 at 160 but finished just outside placing.

“All six of our kids won at least match, so that was nice to see,” said Saisa.

Dedham won the team title comfortably, posting a score of 256 points. Host Wayland was the runner-up with 201½ points, followed by third-place Quabbin with 176½.