Eagles in the hunt for a WMass title

  • Franklin Tech’s Spencer Telega (top), shown wrestling Frontier’s KC Mattson, is the top seed at 152 pounds at this weekend’s WMass Division III Wrestling Championships at Taconic High School in Pittsfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Frontier’s Ito McMillan (blue), shown battling Franklin Tech’s Noah Fuess, is seeded third at 145 pounds at this weekend’s WMass Division III Wrestling Championships at Taconic High School in Pittsfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Frontier’s Jaden Sadlowski, right, and Franklin Tech’s Connor Pettis are seeded No. 2 and No. 5 at 132 pounds at this weekend’s WMass Division III Wrestling Championships at Taconic High School in Pittsfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

Recorder Staff
Thursday, February 08, 2018

The competition should be wide open for a championship this weekend, when the Western Massachusetts Division III wrestling title is up for grabs at Taconic High School in Pittsfield.

Defending-champion Monument Mountain Regional High School captured the 2017 title by some 50 points, but this year’s battle for the top spot should be much more competitive. The competition opens Friday, with opening rounds, at 3:30 p.m. and finishes Saturday with semifinals and championship bouts. The semifinals are set to start at 10 a.m. Saturday. Title fights are slated to begin sometime between 3 and 4 p.m.

“The top three or four teams, I don’t think there’s a lot of separation there,” explained Franklin County Technical School coach Joe Gamache. “It’s going to be a pretty competitive tournament and I think the overall team title is really up for grabs.”

Gamache’s Eagles scored a fourth-place team finish a year ago, the best performance at a sectional championship in program history. Now, the two-time Suburban League North champions are right in the mix for a chance at their first WMass title.

“We’ve set some higher goals this year,” admitted Gamache, whose team went 14-3 during the regular season. “We have some individuals who have a legitimate shot to compete for an individual championship. And as a team, if we get enough of our wrestlers wrestling to their potential, we could be in the mix for that team title as well.”

Franklin Tech has two wrestlers seeded first in their respective weight classes. Senior Spencer Telega is the No. 1 seed at 152 pounds, while classmate Chris Ludwig is the top seed at 182 pounds. Telega’s lone loss to the competitors in the 152-bracket this winter came against No. 3 seed Tyreece Cherival of Hampden Charter School of Science. He handily defeated No. 2 seed Michael Baldwin of Hampshire Regional High School, and finished with a sterling record of 34-8 this season.

Ludwig (33-7) hasn’t wrestled the No. 2 seed at 182 pounds, Taconic’s Tanner Hastings, but he has fared well against other wrestlers who have defeated Hastings. Mohawk Trail Regional High School’s Gabe Bower (23-10) in the No. 5 seed at 182 pounds, while Frontier Regional School’s Joey Hildreth (23-13) is seeded third.

With Telega, who was third at 160 pounds last year at WMass, and Ludwig, who was fourth at 145, both being seniors, Gamache said he expects them to be able to handle the pressures that come with competing in the WMass tourney.

“Your more experienced kids might be more used to the big stage,” he said. “The hope is that if any of your experienced kids get to a final, they won’t freeze up. You rely on your older, more experienced guys to kind of lead the way for some of the younger kids.”

There should be some very competitive weight classes this weekend. At 170 pounds, three locals are in the mix as seeded wrestlers. Franklin Tech’s Brody Wood (32-13) is the No. 3 seed, while Mohawk’s Mason Biagini (22-3) and Frontier’s Miguel Olvera-Aguilera (14-3) are seeded sixth and seventh.

The 138-pound weight class could also be a very entertaining tournament. Sabis International Charter School, which has the most seeded wrestlers in the tournament, has the top seed at 138 in Jalen Rogers (31-1). Frontier’s Connor Pettis (32-7) is the No. 3 seed, and Franklin Tech’s Colin Pettis, who was fourth at 120 last year, is No. 5.

While Sabis’ Christian Rivas is undefeated at 30-0 and is the No. 1 seed at 120 pounds, expect some upsets and chaos in that bracket full of scrappy grapplers. Frontier’s Bailey Murry (28-11) is the No. 5 seed there, while Tech’s Peter Saladino (29-15) has the tools to make a run out of the No. 6 seeded spot.

For Franklin Tech to make a run at a team title, the Eagles will need strong performances from their wrestlers seeded near the top. Kyle Brunelle (33-9) is the No. 2 seed at 126, while Jaden Sadlowski (24-14) is No. 2 at 132. Ayden Stacy (20-18 record, 195 pounds) and Walker Picard (4-1, 220) are No. 3 seeds for Tech, while Caleb Ellis (17-17, 113) and Tim Fritz (19-21, 160) are listed as No. 4 seeds at their respective weight classes.

“The teams that win WMass championships typically have one or two of their wrestlers seeded near the top get upset,” explained Gamache. “They’re forced to rely on those unexpected guys because there are always surprises and upsets. You need to have those next guys ready to step up and pick up their teammates.”

Frontier, which was the runner-up in the Suburban North this winter, is well represented with seeded wrestlers. Jackie Phong (22-7) drew the top seed of any Red Hawk wrestler, and he’ll be the No. 2 seed in the heavyweight class at 285 pounds. Hampden Charter’s Ahkmet Azizov is the top seed after compiling a 10-0 mark.

After a good season at 145 pounds, Ito McMillan earned the No. 3 seed in the field. McMillan went 29-9 this winter, and he’ll look to contend in a field that also features Mohawk’s Dylan Woolridge (17-8), the No. 5 seed.

Frontier teammate Nate Austin (23-13) is seeded fourth at 195 pounds, while the Red Hawks will look for contributions in the lower weight classes from Jake Mattson (25-12) at 106 and Tanner Finch (21-14) at 113. Both wrestlers are seeded fifth. Finch, a freshman, won the WMass title at the-98 pound exhibition weight class a year ago.

Mohawk’s Jameson Dailey-Pecor leads the Warriors as the team’s top-seeded wrestler in the tournament. Dailey-Pecor, who went 22-4 during the season, is No. 2 at 160 pounds. That field is led by Hampshire Regional High School’s D.J. Willard, who was the runner-up at 160 a year ago and enters with a 33-4 record.

Mohawk’s Tristan Keyser-Parker (18-9) is seeded sixth at 106 pounds.

Gamache said that in order for the Eagles to get off to a good start, he’s asking his wrestlers to be more assertive, especially in the early rounds.

“The big thing for most of our guys is sometimes we have a tendency to be a bit more reserved and not dictate the pace of the match,” he explained. “We’ve preached they have to dictate the pace of the match and be more aggressive. You don’t want to walk away from it losing a close match feeling like you left things out there.”

The top four finishers in each weight class will earn automatic invitations to the MIAA Div. III State Tournament, slated for Feb. 16 and 17 at Wakefield High School. Fifth-place finishers will serve as alternates.

Live updates of the WMass Tournament will be available online at https://arena.flowrestling.org/