Kuni, Lupiani and Rorke earn Western Mass. wrestling titles

Sunday February 17, 2013

GREAT BARRINGTON -- The Western Mass. Division III 160-pound championship match had added significance for Taconic's Travis Kuni on Saturday night.

Not only did his pin of Monument Mountain's Mark Leon-Duque give Kuni a sectional championship, but it also stands as the 100th win of his high school career.

"It was very big," Kuni said. "It meant more than anything to win this."

Kuni was one of three Western Mass. individual champs from Berkshire County on Saturday at Monument Mountain. He was joined by Mount Everett's Bradley Lupiani at 113 and Mount Greylock's Jude Rorke at 100. While Rorke's championship didn't count toward the team standings, the Mounties were still able to place third as a team behind team champ Dean Tech and Hampshire Regional.

Mount Greylock -- which also had Ross Jackson place second at 182 pounds -- was able to move up the team standings Saturday afternoon due to strong performances in consolation rounds, or wrestlebacks.

Mitch Graves (145), Cayman Mead (132) and Travis Hilchey (126) all earned third-place finishes, with four other Mounties taking fourth place.

In all, six county wrestlers competed in sectional championship matches. Monument Mountain's Alex Dupont (145) and Leon-Duque were pinned in their matches, while Jackson was outpointed 5-4 by Sabis' Tyler Popec and Taconic heavyweight Tajaye Davis injury defaulted in the second period of his championship match against Dean Tech's Brian Wodecki.

Top-four finishers advance to states, with fifth- and sixth-place finishers qualifying as alternates.

"We've got next week," Taconic coach Matt Chamberlain said. "We're still going to be in a good spot. We still have our goals. We're still right there with all the top kids in the state."

Kuni is 28-9 after his championship, winning three of his four Western Mass. matches by pin with another major decision. The pro-Braves crowd -- including his father Jim, in full Brave attire with the word "Kuni" shaved into one side of his head, and the number 160 for Travis' weight class shaved in the other side -- roared when Travis' championship win was announced in the gym as career victory No. 100.

"At states, I want to improve a little bit on cardio and keep pushing as hard as I can," he said. "I don't plan on stopping any time soon."

Lupiani improves to 29-1 with his sectional championship. He was in control throughout his decision over Hampden Charter's Ibo Usmanov. Surprisingly, Lupiani doesn't plan to take it too easy in the two days between Western Mass. and states.

"It's just like a mental thing. I can't really explain it," he said. "You have a hard practice, go home, shower up, nap, then wake up and go to states."

The Mounties, as well as all other county qualifiers for the state meet, will have little time to recover and prepare. The D-III states begin Tuesday at Wakefield.

"We have a chance Tuesday and Wednesday at the state meet," Greylock coach Ray Miro said early Saturday. "You can win a Western Mass. championship, but if you win at states, that supersedes anything at Western Mass."

Dupont, Leon-Duque and Jonah Christianson (third at 220) led Monument to a fourth-place finish in the team standings in their own gym.

Christianson's pin in his third-place match gave the Spartans a charge after wrestlebacks that didn't go as well as they'd hoped. Monument was in second place as a team after the championship semifinals.

The slip to fourth place, though, didn't bother Monument coach Gordie Soule.

"Any medal winner is great," he said. "Still, it's very positive. If you'd have told me at the beginning of the tournament that we would be in third place going into the finals, I'd have called you a liar."

To reach Matthew Sprague:
or (413) 496-6254.
On Twitter: @EagleSportsZone.


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