In consolation rounds, wrestlers getting second chance to succeed
HOLYOKE -- It's a deflating feeling to lose in high school postseason competition. Typically, it means the end of the road for you and/or your team.
That's not the case in wrestling. It certainly wasn't the case for 13 Berkshire County wrestlers Saturday. They suffered losses in the Western Mass. Division III meet at Holyoke High School, but recovered to qualify for this week's state meet via the consolation brackets.
They join Berkshire County's four individual Western Mass. champs -- Mount Everett's Bradley Lupiani, Mount Greylock's Devin Pelletier and Johnny Colon, and Monument Mountain's Robert Yvon -- in an elite group that will travel to Foxborough on Friday to grapple with the rest of Massachusetts' best Division III wrestlers.
Taconic's Jordan Knowlton is one of those wrestlers who was beaten in the championship semifinals, but earned his spot in the consolation bracket, a.k.a. "consys" or "'wrestlebacks." At 160 pounds, Knowlton was pinned by Franklin Tech's Kyle Laffey in the semis, but rebounded by pinning Sabis' Kyle Pingree to secure the top-four spot needed to qualify for states. He's one of four Braves advancing past Western Mass.
"As soon as I got pinned, I was a little mad," Knowlton said Saturday. "But I had to bounce back, think positive, and just go out there and wrestle."
In a typical two-day Western Mass. tournament -- which Saturday's meet was supposed to be until a late-week snowstorm called off Friday's matches -- wrestlers would have some time to stew over a loss, learn something from it or both. With the meet being completed in one day, nobody had time for that. There was only time to prepare for the next shot and avoid a second loss, which would mean elimination.
"You've got to regroup pretty fast," Mount Everett coach Dave Lupiani said. "You can't lose the match right off, because then, you're out. ... Basically, if you make it to the semis, you're safe on placing."
Team champion Monument Mountain found itself in that situation Saturday. The championship semifinals proved to be a major test for the Spartans, as Yvon was the only one of eight semifinalists to win his match and reach the championship round.
Still, the Spartans have six wrestlers in the state meet next week, with three -- Nate Cormier (120 pounds), Mark Leon-Duque (170) and Jonah Christianson (182) winning two consolation matches to place third. Heavyweight Jacob Hines had the toughest road to states, losing in the quarterfinals but going 3-1 in the consolation bracket to place fourth.
"You're never not looking at things [ahead of you]," said Christianson, who placed third at 220 in last year's Western Mass. tournament, but took second at states. "I give myself a little bit of time, but I'm always still looking at things."
That's the kind of attitude Lupiani wants to see from his wrestlers, too. "If he comes back and gets third, that's a wrestler you want to have on your team," he said. "He's motivated and doesn't give up. That's who I'd pick."
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