Winning a Western Massachusetts title in any sport is a challenge. For the Berkshire County wrestlers competing in today's Division III tournament, that challenge has been at least trebled.
That's because this year's tournament, which starts at 9:30 a.m. at Southwick-Tolland High School, is a one-day affair. It's a change from recent seasons, where the Division III tournament was over two days.
"They'd wrestle up to the quarterfinals" on Friday, said Taconic coach Jeremy Tetreault. "The semifinals would be when you come in [Saturday] morning. They'd be able to rest.
"Now we're cramming it all in" on one day.
Tetreault isn't complaining, mind you, because whatever his Taconic wrestlers have to do, the rest of the Western Massachusetts Division III contingent will also have to do. There is no built-in advantage for any team.
Weigh-ins for the competitors will take place at 7:30 a.m., with the preliminary round starting at 9:30. The quarterfinals are slated to run from 10:30-noon, with wrestlebacks to follow.
Those who survive the quarterfinals, will wrestle in the semifinals from 1:30-3:30 p.m., and will then have time off until the finals that are to begin at 6:30 p.m.
In last year's tournament, held at Mount Greylock, Taconic was second to Dean Tech by seven points. Mount Greylock was fourth and Monument Mountain was fifth.
Taconic has two returning Western Mass. champions. Only one, Austin Houghtaling at 182 pounds, is defending his title. Houghtaling is the No. 3 seed in his weight class. Isiah Williams won Western Mass. at 145 last year, but he is the top seed at 152.
Williams is one of four Berkshire County wrestlers who earned No. 1 seeds in the tournament. Monument Mountain's Eli Jones is No. 1 at 113, Taconic's Mason Papirio is No. 1 at 138 and the top seed at 195 is Mount Greylock's Alex Griffis.
Several wrestlers earned top-three seeds. Anthony Lupiani of Mount Everett is the second seed at 106, while Devin Pelletier of Mount Greylock — last year's champion at 152 — is the second seed at 160. Pat Fosby of Mount Everett is the No. 3 seed at 120, Taconic's Zabian Powell is No. 3 at 132, Nate Cormier of Monument is No. 3 at 145, Cayman Mead of Greylock is No. 3 at 160, Bart Christiano of Monument is third-seeded at 195, and Dalton Peck of Taconic is No. 3 at 285.
The top four finishers in each weight class advance to next week's MIAA state Division III meet, which will be held at Taconic. As coach from the host school, Tetreault said that he doesn't want to look past this weekend.
"We've been talking about it all year," he said of possibly winning Western Mass. "That's the main goal everyone wants to achieve this year."