County wrestlers use Mountie Invitational to prepare for postseason
WILLIAMSTOWN -- Dave Lupiani's Mount Everett wrestling squad is a little behind where he'd like it to be this season.
With three weeks until the Western Massachusetts individual tournament, the Eagles have dealt with missed practices, weather postponements, and a number of other problems.
"We do have a lot of work to do," Lupiani said. "It's a very inexperienced [team]. I had some walk-ons. I have a few guys like Bradley [Lupiani] -- he's probably the most experienced -- and then I have the middle corps of guys who have been wrestling for a short time.
"We've been trying to kick it in, but with snow days, we've been held up."
It seems, then, that the best place to start would be Saturday's Mountie Invitational meet at Mount Greylock.
All four county wrestling teams -- Everett, Greylock, Monument Mountain and Taconic -- were there, as well as 17 other teams from across Western Mass. and New England.
It was a tournament that one Monument Mountain wrestler didn't think he'd get to see from the mats.
Spartan co-captain Mike Molina, a 152-pounder, wrestled Saturday with braces on both knees. He's back from suffering a torn ligament and meniscus in his left knee during the summer, an injury that required surgery in August and looked like it would keep him out of sports until next fall.
Once Molina got a look at Monument practices from more of a coaching standpoint, though -- and once he got a little assistance from a teammate -- he sped up the recovery process as much as he could, and returned to the mats around Christmas.
"When I started coaching, I'd come to practice and watch," Molina said Saturday. "Sebastian [Zapata] had a knee pad; he said I could use it. I tried it on, did what I do and I felt good."
As of Saturday evening, Molina was 3-1 in the tournament, still wrestling in the consolation brackets. In his only loss, a quarterfinal decision in favor of Chariho, R.I.'s Skyler Van Horne, Molina didn't limp or shuffle off the mat. He walked off, with no signs of any knee problems.
That's how the Monument captain wants it.
"I felt I had to come back," he said. "Being a captain really pushed me to do it."
Other wrestlers, like Taconic 220-pounder David Jones, were glad to have the opportunity to face some of the top wrestlers in the region, as well as work on their technique and conditioning.
"All the teams are here," Jones said. "You're going to see every team here at Western Mass., except for like three."
With the added teams from Connecticut, Rhode Island and Vermont, the Mountie Invitational might even be tougher than the sectional tournament. That's how Taconic interim coach Jeremy Tatro sees it, anyhow.
"If you can place [in the] top four here, you've got a good shot at placing top-four at Western Mass.," he said. "With the level of competition at this tournament, I'm happy now [with the Braves' performance]."
Tatro figures his Braves saw about three-quarters of the roster they'll face at the Western Mass. meet.
"We're using this as a warm-up," he said.
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