PITTSFIELD - Taconic's wrestling squad has had a nice run of talent at the heavyweight class for the past few years. Whether it's been Joe Pasquarelli, Damion Murray or Tajaye Davis, the Braves have been able to hold their own with the rest of Western Massachusetts at what is technically the 285-pound class.
Braves coach Matt Chamberlain calls it a mix of luck and cultivation.
"I've had some talented kids at those upper weights," Chamberlain said. "I just need to pick up another one."
That's not an easy task for any coach or team in the Berkshires. Heavyweights are hard to find - and coaches have looked.
Mount Greylock coach Ray Miro, for example, looks every year. His program, by his assessment, has never really been flush with heavyweights. He doesn't have one to start this season, in fact.
"We're trying to find one," Miro said. "There's big kids out there, but they're not coming out. It's hard to really put a finger on it. It's a lot of work, and it's probably a little harder for big kids to get acclimated.
"I don't see a lot of big kids, just naturally large kids, that want to come out."
Of course, not every wrestler in a high weight class started there. Pasquarelli, who won more than 100 matches in his Taconic career and won a Western Mass. individual championship at the heavyweight class his senior year, moved up from 215 pounds in his sophomore year.
Murray wasn't going to be the Braves' heavyweight in the 2011-12 season, but he was thrust into the position when an injury sidelined Davis for the season. Murray responded with an All-Eagle season, which Davis repeated for Taconic last year. Along the way, Davis was also the Western Mass. runner-up and fifth-place finisher at the Division III state meet.
"[Pasquarelli] developed, and then once he graduated, Tajaye came in and developed really quick," Chamberlain said. "Damion had been behind him. Having someone there to bang with every day made Damion one of the top heavyweights in Western Mass. who never had a spot."
Mount Everett has one heavyweight, freshman Matt Lane, practicing with the team. Coach Dave Lupiani hopes a prospective junior will join the roster soon.
Typically, Lupiani's program has either missed a heavyweight in the order or the next-lowest class (currently 220 pounds, as per National Federation of State High School Associations regulations). Right now, with Lane the only heavyweight on the roster, Lupiani's challenge has been to find him a sparring partner on the mat. Typically, it's a young alumnus and veteran of the program who comes back to help out in practices. Other times, assistant Dan Lanoue will step in for "a couple of minutes," Lupiani said.
"Some of the guys, it's kind of dangerous for him to wrestle," the coach continued. "I think some of the competition has been graduating, so he's ... not going to really get beat up like last year. He'll be able to compete a little bit.
"It takes a couple years to get rolling. You at least need two years. By the third year, they're ready."
From Chamberlain's perspective, it's easier when a wrestler doesn't have to grow into the heaviest class. He'll likely have two in that spot (Dalton LeClair and Tyrell Council) this season.
"You always worry, because there's such a big jump from 220 to 285," he said. "Now you're taking a kid who's a small 220-pounder, maybe 200, and giving up 85 pounds to somebody. Down in those middleweights, the classes are separated by six or seven pounds."
While not every heavyweight wrestler began as a heavyweight, Miro believes that not everyone in the heavyweight class necessarily has to be heavyset.
"You get a kid that's 220 pounds, even though there's a weight class [there], and they're very athletic," Miro said. "We've had some good guys who were smaller than that."
To reach Matthew Sprague: (413) 496-6254.
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