Taconic Invitational wrestling tournament: 4 locals claim individual crowns as Braves placed 3rd as team

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GEOFF SMITH - THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE
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PITTSFIELD — The second annual Taconic Invitational wrestling tournament was held Saturday at Taconic, and when the dust settled on the mat four different Berkshire County wrestlers walked away with individual titles, while several others finished as runner-ups.

The host team got two champions in Dylan Burke (182 pounds) and Mike LaFreniere (132), while Ryan Scott finished second at 145. As a team, the Braves finished third on the day with 152.5 points. Wayland, with three individual champions and three runner-up finishes, came first with 222.5 points, while Minnechaug was second with 172.

"I think we did great," LaFreniere said of his team's performance. "Props to Dylan. I couldn't keep this team where it is without him.

"Me and him love to lead this team, it's what we do."

Elsewhere, Monument Mountain took home a pair of individual titles, through Caden O'Rourke (195) and Logan Mead (220). Colin Kinne also finished second at 99 pounds.

"It's a really big confidence boost. For me and my team individually," Mead said. "We came with a team of seven, two of us walked away as champs and another was second. For a team of seven, I'd say that's pretty good."

Mount Everett's Zack Lupiani finished second at 126 to round out the Berkshire County contingent in the championship round.

The finals started at 99 pounds, with Kinne squaring off against Musa Tamuradze of Hampden Charter. Tamuradze jumped out to an 8-0 lead in the first period and was up 10-1 after two minutes. The deficit proved too large for Kinne to overcome, as Tamuradze went on to post a 16-7 decision.

Next up was Lupiani at 126. To call his match contentious would be an understatement.

Going into the third period, the score was tied at 2-2. Lupiani, starting in the bottom position, escaped to put himself up 3-2, but then Minnechaug's Cam Ice hit a reversal to make it 4-3 in favor of him. Lupiani responded with a reversal himself, but Ice responded, and just before the whistle blew to end the third period, he got a takedown to record a 6-5 win.

LaFreniere followed, and ended the losing skid for county wrestlers. While he was unable to pin Franklin Tech's Josh Brunelle, LaFreniere dominated from the start and shut him out, 7-0. LaFreniere did not drop a point in any of his matches on Saturday.

"It feels great. Tough opponent, he hung in tight, I couldn't pin him," LaFreniere said of winning. "He stayed tough and was a really tough bottom rider. I was able to capitalize from neutral, and then from bottom get escapes and takedowns, and that was enough to push me over."

The second-quickest pin in the championship round came at the expense of Scott. The sophomore drew a tough draw in Hampden Charter's Shanauri Buckhannon, and Buckhannon pulled a few quick moves then dropped down the pin in 38 seconds. Oddly enough, there were pins at 38 seconds, 39 seconds, and 40 seconds in the championship round. The fastest pin in the championship round was 32 seconds, by heavyweight Matt Morris (Wayland) over teammate Reid Vanslette.

Burke capped Taconic's day on the mat at 182. The senior is a state champion, but he admitted that Saturday was as nervous as he has ever been.

"Honestly, it was probably one of the most nerve-wracking matches I've ever wrestled," he said. "We were both going back and forth, the whole match, and I just came up with the [point] to win."

The match was low-scoring. The first period ended at 0-0, and Burke only took a lead into the final period when he started from bottom in the second, and got an escape.

In the final period, Hampshire's Michael Baldwin got an escape to tie the match up, but Burke got another takedown to go up 3-1. Baldwin managed to get one more escape point, but couldn't figure out a way to get Burke down for a takedown, and the two points that would have swung the match.

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"He's a great competitor, earlier in the year we had a really tough match, and neither of us want to lose," Burke said. "It's just nerve-wracking for both of us."

When Burke finished, it was the Spartans that helped close out the night.

O'Rourke's match was one of the closest in the finals. Squaring off against Wayland's CJ Brown, O'Rourke held on for a 6-5 decision.

"The third period was probably the most technical that I had to be,"O'Rourke said. "Third period comes in, there was about a minute and a half left, and I really didn't want to give it up. That was the most critical thinking I've had to do in a match before."

O'Rourke had to think, because his lead was so slim. With a takedown threat always in the cards, O'Rourke had to keep Brown at bay. To start the third, the two were tied at 4-4. O'Rourke then pulled off a reversal to score two points and go ahead. Brown got an escape to halve the deficit, but O'Rourke refused to let Brown get close enough to score a takedown, or when Brown did come in close, he wrestled free to avoid the loss.

"Winning by one or two is a lot more invigorating than winning by six or seven," O'Rourke said. "It's more thrilling when you win a close match like that."

And while O'Rourke's match was close, Mead's was anything but. He recorded the 39-second pin, turning his stand-up tussle with Wayland's Luke Stitham into a fall quicker than anyone was ready for. Mead won all four of his matches on Saturday by fall, and none took more than a minute.

"I've been hearing really good things about my opponent, he's a really good wrestler, and I've been training with [O'Rourke], he's been a really big help to me to help me get where I am now," Mead said.

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The Spartans finished in a tie for fifth as a team, but considering that Monument only brought seven wrestlers to Taconic, head coach Simon Jones was happy with the day.

"No, not bad at all, and I was also really proud of Ely [Cormier] who took third at 132," Jones said. "That was a good performance for him, too. In the finals, Logan and Caden both went out there. Caden's match was a little closer, obviously, but to fight through, tied in the third period, come out with the lead and hold onto it — it was a great match for him."

O'Rourke said his training with Mead is paying off every time he steps onto the mat.

"I think it's a very healthy competition, because we are two completely different styles of wrestlers," he said. "When you practice with someone who wrestles nothing like you, it helps you a lot in time, because you know what is coming, no matter whether it's your style or their style."

Burke and LaFreniere also added Most Outstanding Wrestler to their championship trophies, with LaFreniere winning for the lower weights while Burke won for the upper weights. Taconic also had place finishers in Mike Puskey (3rd, 170), Ryan Mack (4th, 285) and Broc Healey (3rd, 120).

"It feels awesome. We are home. It just feels great. Our team wrestled well today, and we had a few champions. It was a good day," Burke said. "Mike and I work our butts off in practice. We wrestle sometimes, we just work hard, we run, we do everything we have to do to make it to the next level."

Nick Lupiani of Mount Everett was the other place-finisher on the day, coming in third at 106 pounds. Mount Greylock competed at the tournament, but no Mountie finished in a placement spot.

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Taconic Invitational championship round

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99 — Tamuradze (Hampden Charter) def. Kinne (Monument Mountain), 16-7.

106 — Paulino (Montachusett) def. Monteiro (Minnechaug) via fall at 1:23.

113 — Motyl (Minnechaug) def. Martinez (Hampden Charter) via DQ.

120 — J. Ice (Minnechaug) def. Escalante (Duggan) via fall at 4:58.

126 — C. Ice (Minnechaug) def. Lupiani (Mount Everett), 6-5.

132 — LaFreniere (Taconic) def. J. Brunelle (Franklin Tech), 7-0.

138 — Deeley (Wayland) def. K. Brunelle (Franklin Tech), 3-2.

145 — Buckhannon (Hampden Charter) def. Scott (Taconic) via fall at :38.

152 — Wescott (Berlin) def. Moore (Mohawk) via fall at :40.

160 — Burke (Pathfinder) def. Cherival (Hampden Charter), 9-7 SV

170 — Jones (Wayland) def. Willard (Hampshire), 10-0.

182 — Burke (Taconic) def. Baldwin (Hampshire), 3-2.

195 — O'Rourke (Monument Mountain) def. Brown (Wayland), 6-5.

220 — Mead (Monument Mountain) def. Stitham (Wayland) via fall at :39.

285 — Morris (Wayland) def. Vanslette (Wayland) via fall at :32.

Geoff Smith can be reached at gsmith@berkshireeagle.com, @GSmith_Eagle on Twitter and 413-496-6254.


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