Wrestling preview: Franklin Tech seeks fourth straight title in crowded Suburban League North

  • Franklin Tech's Kyle Brunelle, left, competes against Taconic’s Zach Mathesin in the 138-pound final during the Western Mass. Division 3 championships in Turners Falls last season. Brunelle, the defending sectional champion, keys a deep Franklin Tech roster this winter. Staff FILE Photo/Dan Little

  • Mohawk's Dylan Wooldridge competes against Minnechaug's Ethan Jacobson in the 160-pound weight class last season. Wooldridge is a key returning wrestler for the Warriors this winter. Staff FILE Photo/Dan Little

  • Frontier's Jackie Phong reacts after pinning Taconic's Isiaha Hartman-Caesar in a match last season. The defending WMass Div. 3 champion in his weight class, Phong and the Red Hawks are hoping to knock Franklin Tech off its perch atop the Suburban League North. Staff FILE Photo/Dan Little

  • Franklin Tech's Brody Wood, top, competes against Mahar's Peter Tattan in a match at 182 pounds last season. Tattan is a top returning wrestler for the Senators. Staff FILE Photo/Dan Little

Staff Writer
Published: 12/17/2019 9:34:11 PM
Modified: 12/17/2019 10:29:20 PM

Three of the five Franklin County wrestling teams finished with winning records in 2018-19, and a number of standout wrestlers made deep runs at the sectional tournaments.

This winter should offer the same, as 15 area wrestlers return after placing in their respective sectional tournament a season ago.

Dual meets begin tonight, with all five area teams in action on the mats.

To win the Suburban League North Division, teams must find a way to dethrone Franklin Tech. The Eagles have raised title banners three years in a row and return a roster that should have them in a great position to potentially add a fourth banner in their gym come spring.

Franklin Tech will have stiff competition, however.

Mahar brings back a deep roster that saw five members place at sectionals last year. The Senators should only improve from their 11-4 record.

Frontier returns its longtime coach and also has hopes of making a run at the Suburban North title. The Red Hawks have come close to grabbing the crown the past couple of years. 

Athol must replace the loss of a state champion wrestler, but the Red Raiders have a young roster ready to compete with talented underclassmen.

Mohawk Trail, the lone local team not in the Suburban North, is looking to be more competitive in the Tri-County League this winter.

Here’s a closer look at the five area teams: 

Athol

COACH: Brandon Jeffrey, 2nd season

LEAGUE/DIVISION: Suburban North/3

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 1-6, 9th at CMass

ROSTER:Seniors — Logan Kirwan. Juniors — Isaac Dodge, Logan Wornham, John Hicks. Sophomores — Josiah Gauthier, Caleb Cox, Luke Inniss, Cain Young, Devin Maxwell. Freshman — Thomas Seamans. Eighth-graders — Riley Reed, Doug Monte, Roy Kane, Riley Young, Nate Torres. Seventh-graders — Josh Stevens, Aiden Melanson, Sawyer Lefsyk.

OUTLOOK: Without Chris Waslaske, the Red Raiders will definitely look much different this season.

Waslaske took first in the Central Mass. Div. 3 tournament, and followed that up with a Division 3 state ttitle at 182 pounds last year. Simply put, he was the top area wrestler and without him in the lineup this year, the Red Raiders will need younger competitors to step up.

That starts with a sophomore and a junior, the only two returning placers for Athol. Sophomore Caleb Cox took fourth at 152 in the Central Mass. Div. 3 tournament a year ago, while junior John Hicks placed fifth at 195. Cox is bumping up to 160 this season while Hicks is staying at 195. Both should be heavily counted on to score for the Red Raiders, and should once again find themselves on the podium at the tournaments later in the season.

In the Red Raider Invitational that opened the season last weekend, Hicks took second and Cox placed third.

One other positive for Athol is the youth on the roster. Logan Kirwan is the lone senior Red Raider this season.

Franklin Tech

COACH: Mike Aiken, 1st season

LEAGUE/DIVISION: Suburban North/3

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 9-1-1, 2nd at WMass

Roster:Seniors — Peter Saladino, Colin Pettis, Kyle Brunelle, Ethan Corchesne. Juniors — Noah Fuess, Brooks Medeiros, Cam Tuttle. Sophomores — Will Rosenburg, Joshua Brunelle, Matt Jordan. Freshmen — Jonathan Freeman, Noah Welch-Smith, Brody Williams, DJ Hataway.

OUTLOOK: Longtime assistant Mike Aiken takes over a Tech program that is loaded with talent and should be one of the better teams in the area this season. 

The Eagles are led by senior Kyle Brunelle, who won the WMass championship at 138 pounds a season ago. Brunelle should once again be one of the top wrestlers in the area this season, as he already took first at the Red Raider Invitational this past weekend. Brunelle and Colin Pettis will serve as team captains.

Kyle’s younger brother, Josh Brunelle, took third at sectionals at 120 as a freshmen, and will likely take a big step forward this year.

Noah Fuess placed sixth at sectionals a year ago at 152 and should be a tough out at 160 this year. Cameron Tuttle placed fifth at sectionals at 285 and also returns.

Senior Peter Saladino impressed in the first tournament of the year, placing second at 126 this past weekend while Ethan Courchesne placed fourth at 195. Both should be key cogs for the Eagles this season. 

Frontier

COACH: Don Gordon, 1st season

LEAGUE/DIVISION: Suburban North/3

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 11-3-2, 6th at WMass

ROSTER:Seniors — Ito McMillan, KC Mattison, Vic McNutt, Spencer Mabius. Juniors — Jackie Phong, Tanner Finch, Joshua Lavigne. Sophomores — John Puchalski, Payton Sladeski. Freshmen — Jake Mattson, Forrest Riddington, Miles Keefe, Conner Hoffman, Dylan Clemente, AJ Mihalak. Eighth-graders — Wyatt Finch, Dylan Camp. Seventh-graders — John Santiago, Zachary Brennan, Josh Sawin. 

OUTLOOK: Don Gordon returns to the mats to coach the Red Hawks after a few years away from being the head of the program.

Gordon brings plenty of experience with him. The veteran mentor has coached wrestling since 1970, and he founded the Frontier program in 1974 before coaching at the school for the next 37 years. 

The program has performed well in his absence, as the Red Hawks took third in the Suburban League North a year ago and have a roster that should once again compete for the league title this year.

It starts with Jackie Phong, who was the WMass champion at 285 pounds a season ago and should be the top heavyweight in the area this season.

Senior Ito McMillan is approaching the 100-win mark. McMillan placed fourth at sectionals a year ago and eighth at the state tournament at 152, where he will once again wrestle this year.

Frontier will have to find a way to replace two podium finishers from a year ago in Ovidiu Nichita and Nate Austin, but a large roster should help overcome those losses.

Mahar

COACH: John Speek, 8th season

LEAGUE/DIVISION: Suburban North/3

LAST  YEAR’S RECORD: 11-4, 7th at CMass

ROSTER:Seniors — Jon Mahony, Todd Chiasson, Peter Tattan, Brooke Mitchell. Juniors — Henry Ndayisaba, Anthony Nye. Sophomores — Gracin Bisceglia. Freshmen — Jeff Kidwell, Domanic Cacciolfi, Sam DeJackome, Luke Chiodo, Daniel Kidwell. Seventh Grader — Issa Gilmore. 

OUTLOOK: Senator coach John Speek is expecting big things from his team this winter.

With 40 kids on the team, Mahar should fill just about every weight class on a nightly basis. Three wrestlers — Jon Mahony, Peter Tattan and Henry Ndayisaba— are closing in on 100 career wins, and all have a good shot of reaching the milestone.

Mahony placed third at the Div. 3 state championship and was one win away from placing in All-States at 120 a year ago. The senior should be one of the top wrestlers in the area this year. 

The heart of the Senator lineup is in the middle of the weight classes. 

Ndayisaba was a force in the 152 spot a year ago, placing third at sectionals, and will be back there once again this season. At 160 is Todd Chiasson, a third-place finisher at sectionals last year. Tattan slides in at 182, having placed third at 170 last season at sectionals.

“From 152-182, we’re going to be super strong,” Speek said. “We’re pretty excited about this season. Forty kids in the room, vast majority of weight classes we have at least one wrestler returning. I think we’re strong. We’re feeling like we’re in a great competitive place to do some good work, pushing to consistently be in the top half and be competitive on a daily basis.” 

Mohawk Trail

COACH: Mark Biagini, 5th season

LEAGUE/DIVISION: Tri County League/3

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 1-14-1, 14th at WMass

ROSTER:Seniors — Ethan Bower, Lillian Van Vleet. Juniors — Elliot Gougeon, Jaden Moore, Quinton Romer, Dylan Wooldridge. Sophomores — Jakob Bower, Nate Wooldridge, Arianna Gougeon. Eighth-graders — Jacob Miller, Will Van Vleet. Seventh-graders — Logan Moore. 

OUTLOOK: The Warriors saw massive graduation numbers last year, and it showed in their record.

Mohawk Trail placed two wrestlers at sectionals a year ago, the lone one returning being junior Dylan Wooldridge.

It won’t be easy to replace Mason Biagini, who graduated last spring. Biagini made it to the Western Mass Div. 3 finals, falling to Franklin Tech’s Brody Wood at 170 pounds. 

Wooldridge wrestled at 160 a year ago, and should return there this season. He was named a captain along with fellow juniors Jaden Moore and Quinton Romer, who should both be factors on the team this season. 


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