Dave Lupiani knows Western Massachusetts wrestling seeds can change at the drop of a hat. The Mount Everett coach expects many of them to change before today's Division III sectional meet begins at 5 p.m. in Holyoke.
The one he won't push to change, though, is one of the most surprising.
Mount Everett 126-pounder Bradley Lupiani, the defending Western Mass. champ at 113 pounds and last year's All-Eagle MVP, is seeded second in his class behind Sabis' Brian McKnight. Both have three losses, with Lupiani having 28 wins this season to McKnight's 14. Still, Dave -- also Bradley's father -- expected the lower of the two seeds, despite Bradley having the support of many coaches.
"I told the guys, ‘The cream will always rise to the top,' " the coach said.
It's a bold claim to make, with Bradley Lupiani moving up two classes from last season's 39-win campaign at 113, but Dave wasn't backing off.
"If anyone doesn't think that, they're fooling themselves," he said.
Berkshire County got just one top spot in the Western Mass. Division III seedings, released earlier this week. Monument Mountain's Jonah Christianson is No. 1 at 182 pounds going into today's 3 p.m. weigh-ins at Holyoke High School.
Christianson leads a Monument Mountain team that has already won the Berkshire County championship, and now has its sights set on Western Mass. and beyond.
Spartans coach Gordie Soule said his charges are "chomping at the bit" and are ready to not only wrestle this weekend, but wrestle well.
"I think the kids can see it. I think they believe," the coach said. "I would even venture to guess that we have a handful of kids who are thinking about the weekend after this one [the state meet]."
The top four wrestlers in each class advance to the state meet. Six Spartans, including Christianson, are top-four seeds heading into the weekend -- Eli Jones (third) at 106; Sebastian Zapata (third) at 138; Mike Molina (second) at 152; Mark Leon-Duque (third) at 170; and Robert Yvon (second) at 195.
That group has the Spartans in great shape to contend for a team championship -- though Sabis will be a major player in the team standings as well, with seven wrestlers holding top-four seeds.
Dave Lupiani doesn't expect the recent turmoil at Sabis -- former coaches Miguel Del Valle and Alex Seid were removed from their positions last week without public explanation, according to MassLive.com -- to affect the team's standing too much. He sees Sabis as the team to beat, and feels Monument's in the discussion as well.
"I think they [Sabis] have an all-around solid team," Lupiani said. "I think they're pretty tough in about six or seven weight classes."
Don't count out Mount Greylock, either. The Mounties head to sectionals with six top-four seeds -- Jude Rorke (second) at 106; Travis Hilchey (second) at 132; Devin Pelletier (second) at 138; CJ Lillie (fourth) at 145; David O'Brien (third) at 160; and Johnny Colon (fourth) at 170.
Coach Ray Miro said his concern about the Mounties over the past two weeks wasn't about a lack of a county championship -- it was their conditioning for the postseason.
Still, Miro added the wrestlers have gotten to a level where, with the right wins, Greylock could get "seven to eight" kids to the state meet.
"The kids bought in, and I think they raised their level of fitness," he said. "I'm hoping the seeds hold up, and we'll see what happens Saturday. ... I really do think we've got a good group of four or five who can be in the finals."
Taconic takes 10 wrestlers to Holyoke, with four of them -- Nick Bailey (third) at 126, Dylan Sickell (second) at 145, Josh Broskey (third) at 195, and Dave Jones (third) at 220 -- holding top-three seeds.
All four are co-captains, along with Josh Tassone. Jones' father, also named Dave, is now assisting interim coach Jeremy Tetreault. Many of the Braves wrestlers got their start with the elder Jones coaching them in the Badgers youth program.
"I think it helps a lot," Tetreault said. "A lot of the kids we have in there now went through [the Badgers program] when they were younger. They're familiar with him, and it's a comfortable situation."
Despite low numbers, Tetreault sees Taconic's best-case scenario as a top-four team finish. He also looks for big things from the aforementioned Braves, as well as 138-pounder Mason Papirio, a No. 5 seed.
"Broskey's guys are tight there," Tetreault said. "He's beaten everybody in his weight class, so I expect him to go out there and do better than third.
"[Jones has] got to finish with his throws. He caught the kid a couple of times, but usually out of bounds or time ran out. We've got to have things going our way, basically."
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The three highest seeds in each weight class, entering today's Western Mass. Division III tournament:
106: 1. James Paul, Pathfinder (17-1); 2. Jude Rorke, Mount Greylock (31-9); 3. Eli Jones, Monument Mountain (26-11).
113: 1. Merrick Decker, Athol (23-6); 2. Omar Velez, Hampden Charter (18-3); 3. Isiah Williams, Sabis (10-3).
120: 1. Eddie Martinez, Southwick (30-4); 2. Jehu Barbee, Sabis (18-1); 3. Mike Scuderi, Gateway (23-14).
126: 1. Brian McKnight, Sabis (14-3); 2. Bradley Lupiani, Mount Everett (28-3); 3. Nick Bailey, Taconic (26-8).
132: 1. Brendan Weir, Hampshire (33-0); 2. Travis Hilchey, Greylock (38-1); 3. Gabe DeGray, Southwick (30-6).
138: 1. Chris Rojas, S. Hadley (29-4); 2. Devin Pelletier, Greylock (40-7); 3. Sebastian Zapata, Monument (30-9).
145: 1. Bobby O'Connell, S. Hadley (29-2); 2. Dylan Sickell, Taconic (25-4); 3. Brett Bean, Franklin Tech (31-11).
152: 1. Carlos Santiago, Dean Tech (32-8); 2. Mike Molina, Monument (17-12); 3. Jacob Gray, Hampshire (20-13).
160: 1. Kyle Laffey, Franklin Tech (41-0); 2. Justin Perez, Dean Tech (31-11); 3. David O'Brien, Greylock (38-5).
170: 1. Kolby Smith, Sabis (20-2); 2. David Weed, Franklin Tech (28-1); 3. Mark Leon-Duque, Monument (36-4).
182: 1. Jonah Christianson, Monument (31-7); 2. Nolan Hodgins, Granby (25-5); 3. Daytona Barrows, Belchertown (17-9).
195: 1. Riley Baker, S. Hadley (13-5); 2. Robert Yvon, Monument (26-9); 3. Josh Broskey, Taconic (26-6).
220: 1. Saul Sotto, Frontier (21-4); 2. Matt Carrier, Hampshire (24-10); 3. Dave Jones, Taconic (25-8).
285: 1. John Lachowicz, Hampshire (29-1); 2. Phillip Fernandez, Dean Tech (25-7); 3. Matt Lane, Mount Everett (11-5).
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