Geoff Smith | From the Baseline: Adversity didn't keep Cormier from winning another wrestling championship
PITTSFIELD — All of the individual champions from Saturday's Western Massachusetts Division III wrestling championships have a story to tell, but watching each wrestler celebrate their win at Taconic High School, the reaction from Monument Mountain's Sam Cormier felt a little different.
Talking with him afterward, it was apparent why.
Cormier, now a three-time Western Mass. champion, spent most of this winter acting as a de facto assistant coach for his team. That's because he broke his leg during a match in December. During his stint on the sideline, Cormier had to sit and watch as his teammates all got their moments in the tournament spotlight.
Saturday, he got to join them also.
"Looking over at the end, I saw my buddy Caden [O'Rourke], my little brother [Ely Cormier], my buddy Logan [Mead], everybody go through finals matches [during the season], and I was sitting on the sidelines and cheering them on no matter what," Sam said. "So to get my hand raised, put up that three, and look over and see all of them sitting there supporting me like I did them — that really felt awesome."
Wrestlers are without a doubt some of the toughest athletes in high school sports. The physical toll of one single match is great, let alone an all-day tournament. Couple that with the fact that Sam had a little over a week of training after getting the all-clear from his doctor, and Saturday was far from a guarantee.
But Sam, who earned the top seed at 145 pounds despite his layoff, proved why he was, and is a sectional champion. In the second round of the championship match Saturday against Hampden Charter's Shaunari Buckhannon, Cormier turned a 4-1 advantage into a 12-4 one, then scored one more takedown in the third round to finish off his 14-4 win. There must have been some rust, but Sam's skill belied any pain he might have been feeling in his leg.
"I mean, third time, it gets sweeter and sweeter every year," Sam said of winning Western Mass.
Another interesting subplot Saturday was seeing a pair of brothers step out for the championship round callouts. Sam and Ely Cormier were one set, while Mount Everett's Zack and Nick Lupiani also came out together for the title bouts. Talk about a cool and unique feeling for brothers to get.
What's even more interesting, is that Zack has done it before, while Sam almost got to share a moment with his older brother, also.
"I did it last year with my older brother [Anthony]," Zack said, "except we both ended up losing. This year, we both came out on top and it was nice."
"It was the first tournament that I could walk out on the crossmats," Nick added, "it felt pretty good."
Sam Cormier, meanwhile, came in third in 2017, when his brother, Nate, took first.
"Just having that feeling of what it would have felt like for [Nate] to see me walk out," Sam said, "knowing that's my older brother, and just for me, I work with [Ely] all the time, we spend time at home, we spend time everywhere, watching matches, going over stuff.
"Just to know I helped him get to where he is, that was a special moment for me."
One aspect of a wrestling tournament that gets overlooked is how schools get mats to their gyms. It's taken for granted, because, well, mats are needed for a wrestling surface.
But Saturday, there weren't three green Taconic mats inside the gym. Instead, the wrestling teams from Mount Greylock and Monument Mountain brought their mats in.
"Luckily we know the coaches, so it's just a phone call and we'll plan it," Taconic coach Jeremy Tetreault told me. "Usually we'll get them together. [Pittsfield Schools Athletic Director] Jim [Abel] will shut the gym down the night before we do something like this, so we are setting up and we practice anyway. It's kind of hard, but once we get the date set and everybody together, then it just happens."
For the record, at least two of the mats were made by the company Resilite, which calls itself "the mat company." I Googled the cost of a mat just to see what it would come out to. A custom mat — which I assume most schools would want — required a quote, but the site did have overstock generic mats up for sale — to the tune of a cool $10,300.
Now I understand why each school only has one.
I was curious also how schools got mats around. I know I've heard one horror story of a local AD having to rent a U-Haul truck to get one across the county. For Tetreault, Taconic's mat moves thanks to a pick-up truck and a trailer owned by assistant coach Derek Powell.
Collaboration makes everything in life easier, and that's certainly the case and on full display in the wrestling community.
"It's great. We all wrestle each other, but at the end of the day, we'll go to states next week and we'll all be pulling for each other because we're from the west," Tetreault said. "It's good, it's good to have those guys."
Geoff Smith can be reached at email@example.com, @GSmith_Eagle on Twitter and 413-496-6254.
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