Western Mass. D-III Wrestling: Taconic earns 3rd title in 4 years, as 6 Berkshire County wrestlers take individual crowns
TURNERS FALLS — The Taconic wrestling team rolled into Franklin Technical School as the Western Massachusetts Division III champions. The Braves walked out the same way.
Taconic had four individual champions, led by repeat winners Zabion Powell and Shawn O'Shea, as the Braves rolled to victory with 239.5 points. Franklin County Tech was second with 156 and Hampden Charter was third with 154.
"I don't think we've ever done that," said O'Shea. "I also don't think we've had two kids win it back to back. That's the first time too. It just feels good for me and Zabion to come out here and do what we do best."
Powell won for the second time at 145 pounds, while O'Shea won at 195. Taconic's other champions were Mike LaFreniere at 132 pounds and Dylan Burke at 182.
It was Burke who lost last year in the Western Mass. final at 170 pounds to Monument Mountain's John Field, but then came back and won the state Division III title at that weight.
"It feels good," said Burke. "I've been trying to get here for three years. I just got it this year.
"I have a state title, and I just want to go for more."
As a team, the Braves won four individual titles, finished second two other times, had two wrestlers finish third and three more finish fifth. Hampden Charter had three individual champions, good for No. 2 among the 17 teams in the tournament.
"We won back in 2016. In 2017, we kind of fell off a little bit and finished fifth," Taconic coach Jeremy Tetreault said. "Last year we won, so this is back-to-back and that's pretty good. It's something that the kids are proud of."
Taconic's win makes it four straight for Berkshire County teams since the Braves won in 2016. That hiccup in 2017 opened the door for Monument Mountain to claim the Western Mass. Division III title.
The Spartans didn't have that kind of day on Saturday, but coach Simon Jones' team did notch a pair of champions. Caleb Pollard won the title at 113 pounds, while Sam Cormier earned his second championship in as many years, winning at 152. Last year he won the title at 132.
O'Shea and LaFreniere both won their 100th matches on Saturday. O'Shea's came in the semifinal, while LaFreniere won his title on win No. 100.
The Braves might have had a rough week preparing for the championships. They shook that week off at Franklin Tech.
"Practice wasn't really what we wanted it to be all week," Tetreault said. "I don't want to say I was leery. I knew the talent was there, but what are we going to see. Overall we did really well."
When did the Taconic coach know that his team was going to do this well?
"I think in the semifinal matches and the [consolation] semifinal matches. We brought 13 kids and we placed 11 out of 13 just from those matches alone," said the coach.
The final championship of the day for Taconic came at 195, when O'Shea scored a hard-fought 3-2 win over top-seeded Nate Austin of Frontier. After a scoreless first period, O'Shea scored three in the second and then hung on.
In a match like that, one mistake could have cost O'Shea. It was something he realized.
"Stay low, work my moves, work what I know based off of what he's doing and just try to get underneath him," O'Shea said. "You can't make any mistakes. It's very hard."
In Burke's final against Hampshire's Kobe Clifford, the Taconic wrestler had to come from being down 4-2 in the second period. Burke scored five points to lead 7-4 after two periods. But Clifford cut the lead to 7-6 before Burke got his final two points with 15 seconds to go.
"It's kind of crazy and it boggles your mind in the match," Burke said, when asked about wrestling with a one-point lead. "You've just got to clear your mind and get a takedown to win it."
Powell and O'Shea did something that is very difficult. Not only did they win back-to-back titles, but they did it in the same weight class.
Powell led 1-0 after two periods, but Sabis' Jalen Rogers got an early point to tie. Overtime beckoned, but with five seconds remaining, Powell got a takedown and the 3-2 victory was his.
"My big thing was I had to score on him in neutral because the last time we wrestled, it was 0-0 going into the third," Powell said. "That was my thing. I had to take him down. Of course, I couldn't take him down until the very end."
Taconic's LaFreniere, who pinned Joe Podolak of South Hadley in 2 minutes, 29 seconds, said after his 100th career win, he wasn't sure which one brought the bigger smile.
"I don't even know. I looked at it last week, and it looked like it was going to line up with this," he said. "I stressed out all week. It just feels really good.
"It's a tremendous load lifted off my shoulders, honestly. It's a great moment with my teammates, family and friends."
Cormier's 8-3 decision over Hampden Charter's Thomas Czartoryski was close for a while. The Hampden wrestler had cut an early 4-0 deficit to 4-3 early in the second period. The Monument wrestler, who won last year at 132 pounds, outscored his foe 4-0 the rest of the way.
"I'm not the best on top. I don't ride very well. So my game plan at the beginning of all of my matches is four takedowns in the first period," said Cormier, who came up a little short of that goal. "I didn't quite achieve that, but I got two in the first period. That's pretty good for the finals."
It marked the second year in a row that Monument won two titles. Last year it was Cormier and John Field. This year, it was Cormier and Caleb Pollard at 113 pounds.
Pollard went through his part of the bracket with three pins for victories. Like Cormier, he was top seeded, and he needed 4:04 to score a win over Sabis' Christian Kelly.
"This is what I anticipated most of the season," Pollard said. "Just try to leave it all on the mat every time."
The semifinal highlight for Taconic was O'Shea's 100th career victory. O'Shea pinned Logan Mead of Monument in 3:36, in a semifinal at 195 pounds. It was the third pin of the day for the junior wrestler, who had pinned Garrett LeBranche of Gateway and Eric Leet of Smith Vocational, before getting both of Mead's shoulders down.
O'Shea was greeted with a small plaque and a full-sized poster commemorating his 100th win. The Taconic wrestler said he was thrilled that wasn't hanging over his head before his final against Frontier's Austin.
It was a matchup O'Shea had been looking forward to. It was just back on Jan. 30, that Mead scored a 15-7 major decision over O'Shea in the Berkshire County Duals at Taconic.
"I was preparing for no one else but his match," O'Shea said. "I knew I was going to catch him in the finals, or in the semis. I worked really hard at practice all week for him, just for him."
1. Taconic 239.5, 2. Franklin Tech 156, 3. Hampden Charter 154, 4. Hampshire Regional 131, 5. Sabis 120, 6. Frontier 99, 7. Monument Mountain 95, 8. South Hadley 78, 9. Granby 66.5, 10. Mount Everett 62, 11. Duggan 54, 12. Pathfinder 51, 13. Smith Vocational 50, 14. Mohawk Trail 49.5, 15. Mount Greylock 45, 16. Southwick 44.5, 17. Gateway 25.
106 pounds — Lisandro Martinez (HC) def. Emmett Seibert (G) 5:23.
113 — Caleb Pollard (MM) def. Christian Kelly (Sab) 4:04.
120 — Christian Rivas (Sab) def. Zack Lupiani (ME) 14-5 MD.
126 — Devin Lewis (HC) def. Anthony Lupiani (ME) 1:42.
132 — Mike LaFreniere (T) def. Joe Podolak (SH) 2:29.
138 — Kyle Brunelle (FT) def. Zach Mathes (T) 10-7.
145 — Zabion Powell (T) def. Jalen Rogers (Sab) 6-1.
152 — Sam Cormier (MM) def. Thomas Czartoryski (HC) 8-3.
160 — Michael Baldwin (H) def. Tyreece Cherival (HC) 9-2.
170 — Brody Wood (FT) def. Mason Biaginni (Moh) 7-0.
182 — Dylan Burke (T) def. Kobe Clifford (H) 9-6.
195 — Shawn O'Shea (T) def. Nate Austin (F) 3-2.
220 — Romelo Medina (HC) def. Walker Picard (FT) 0:49.
285 — Jackie Phong (F) def. Isiaha Hartman-Caesar (T) 3:34.
Howard Herman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.
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