The high school wrestling season kicks into gear this weekend, and the four Berkshire County teams all begin their quest for individual and team Western Massachusetts and state championships.
The highlight of the Berkshire County wrestling season will come on Feb. 19-20, 2016, when the MIAA state Division III championships will be contested at Taconic High School.
The Western Mass. D-III championship will be held at Southwick-Tolland High School. Last year, the D-III tourney was at Mount Greylock.
Coach: Jeremy Tetreault (third year)
Last year: 10-9
Key returnees: Austin Hotaling, Sr.; Isiah Williams, Jr.; Nick Bailey, Sr.; Mason Papirio, Sr.; Tanner Hastings, Soph.
The numbers are up from last year's Western Mass. Division III runner-up and all three of Taconic's Western Mass. champions are back, so Tetreault said that he's feeling pretty good about this year's Braves.
It's a 23-wrestler team, with four from Wahconah and nine from Pittsfield.
"We were a good tournament team" last year, said Tetreault. "We had a chance to win Western Mass.
"With our numbers, we're hoping we could be a better dual-meet team."
Nick Bailey won a Western Mass. title at 126 pounds, Isiah Williams won at 145 and Austin Hotaling won a title at 182.
Add to the mix Mason Papirio, third at 132 and sophomore Tanner Hastings, fifth at 160, and the Braves have their eye on moving up.
Coach: Ray Miro (25th year)
Last year: 27-4
Key returnees: Alex Griffis, Jr.; Hunter Abriel, Sr.; Maurice Nemtzow, Sr.; Devin Pelletier, Jr.
The Mounties dethroned Monument Mountain as Berkshire County champions and then went on to finish fourth at Western Mass.
But Miro's team comes into the season a bit shorthanded. Jude Rorke, a sophomore who was due to wrestle at 138 pounds, dislocated an elbow during practice and is expected to miss the season.
With Rorke out, the Mounties will be led by Devin Pelletier, who won the Western Mass. title last year at 152. Pelletier might wrestle at 152 or 160.
Alex Griffis, who was third at 195 last year in Western Mass., moves up to 215 this year while Hunter Abriel returns at 220. Abriel was fourth last year.
Miro said he has a 30-wrestler roster, with 23 coming from Greylock. One wrestler comes from Drury, one from Hoosac Valley and five from McCann Tech. It's a far cry from just four years ago, where seven Mounties made up Miro's roster.
Coach: Simon Jones (first year)
Last year: 18-8.
Key returnees: Eli Jones, Sr.; Bart Christiano, Sr.; Nate Cormier, Jr.; Alex Leonard, Jr.
The Spartans were one of three Berkshire squads to finish in the top five at Western Mass.
This year, Monument will be led by former assistant Simon Jones, who says the Spartans have a "very solid core of returning wrestlers to build with and a lot of talent in the room."
Monument also graduated seven veterans, including Robert Yvon and Mark Leon-Duque.
But any discussion of the Monument team starts with senior co-captain Eli Jones. Jones finished sixth at 106 pounds in last year's Division III meet. Bart Christiano, the other senior co-captain, wrestles at 195.
The Spartans do have a returning champion in Max Buffoni. As a freshman, Buffoni pinned Frontier's Emirhan Yildiz in the 96-pound final at Western Mass. That weight class is not counted toward the team totals. Buffoni moves up and will wrestle at 106 this year.
Jones said he's looking for a couple of younger to make their marks. Sophomore Dorian Page, wrestling at 126, is returning from an injury suffered last year. Sophomore Jose Segastume is a freshman who transferred to Monument from New York. He has some junior high school wrestling experience.
Nate Cormier (145) and Alex Leonard (138) are a pair of juniors who will be counted on heavily.
Coach: Dave Lupiani (25th year)
Last year: 0-14
Key returnees: Pat Fosby, Soph.; Matt Lane, Sr.
As Mount Everett is the only wrestling school without a co-op program, Dave Lupiani and Dan Lanoue don't have huge numbers. The Eagles do, however, have quality wrestlers who can make noise come February when the Western Mass. Division III wrestling tournament begins.
Start with sophomore Patrick Fosby. Fosby was second in Western Mass. at 113 pounds, losing to Merrick Decker of Athol in the title bout. Fosby ended up fourth in the MIAA State meet.
The Eagles did graduate MVP Bradley Lupiani, but two of his younger brothers are primed and ready to try and take his place.
Anthony is a freshman and will wrestle at 106, while Zachary is a seventh grader and will wrestle at 98 pounds.
The three of them and heavyweight Matt Lane all have shots at top finishes in Western Mass.