H.S. Wrestling: Multiple athletes looking to win titles at Central Mass/Western Mass sectionals

Frontier’s Javion Cabrera, top, competes against Smith Vocational’s Colin Pascal in the 285-pound weight class last week in Northampton.

Frontier’s Javion Cabrera, top, competes against Smith Vocational’s Colin Pascal in the 285-pound weight class last week in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

By THOMAS JOHNSTON

Staff Writer

Published: 02-09-2024 8:23 PM

It’s time for local wrestlers to go out and prove themselves against the best of the best. 

The wrestling postseason gets underway on Saturday with sectional tournaments. Franklin Tech, Frontier and Mohawk Trail will travel to Williamstown to compete in the Western Mass. Div. 3 sectionals at Mt. Greylock while Athol and Mahar will head east to Ashland High School for the Central Mass. Div. 3 sectionals. 

During the regular season, the Eagles and Bears finished in a tie for first place in the Suburban League North after their dual match on Tuesday ended in a 37-37 tie. 

“It was a great match,” Franklin Tech coach Mike Aiken said. “We’re a young team going against an experienced team. Our group has gotten a lot better as the season has gone on.” 

Those who earn top four finishes in their respective weight class at sectionals will advance to the MIAA Div. 3 state tournament, which begins Feb. 16.

At the 2023 Central Mass. sectionals, Mahar placed ninth while Athol took 14th. One of the big reasons for the Senators’ top 10 finish was Abduli Gilmore, who won the title at 113 pounds. Gilmore went on to win a state title in the weight class. 

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Gilmore, a junior, is now at Athol, where he’ll be looking to defend his crown on Saturday. Joining Gilmore from Athol will be Aiden Kirwan, who took second at 160 as a junior last winter. 

Riley Reed (170) and Riley Young (220) earned sixth place finishes as juniors and will be looking to make it to states for their senior year. 

Mahar has a young squad and graduated both fourth place finishers as well as a fifth place finisher from a season ago.

Brackets and seeding for the Central Mass. tournament were not available at press time. 

Two Franklin County schools earned top 10 finishes at the Western Mass. Div. 3 sectional last year, with Frontier placing ninth and Franklin Tech taking 10th. Mohawk Trail earned a 13th place team finish. 

The Redhawks got in the top 10 with two first-place finishers in Conner Hoffman and Jake Mattson, but both were seniors. Frontier does return two third-place finishers — Wyatt Finch at 120 and Javion Cabrera at 285 — who will be in the mix for titles this time around. Finch, a senior, is seeded No. 5 at 120 while Cabrera, a junior, is the No. 2 seed at 285.  

Redhawks eighth grader Ber Calhoun is the No. 2 seed at 106. Jocelyn Antes is the No. 9 seed at 126, Konnor James is seeded No. 7 at 150, Edward Mieczkowski enters at No. 6 at 175 while Alex Schreiber is seeded No. 6 at 190. 

Franklin Tech’s Collin Eddy walked away with a second place finish at 182 as a junior and returns seeking a first place finish his senior year. Atlithonatiu Gonzalez-Jayne came away with a fifth place finish at 195 as a sophomore in 2023 while the Eagles picked up freshman Landon Purington, who joined Tech from Mohawk Trail. Purington finished fourth at 113 as an eighth grader at the Western Mass. Div. 3 sectionals. 

Carsten Couture had a big season for the Eagles and the sophomore is the No. 3 seed at 120 on Saturday. Purington is the No. 3 seed at 132, Madix Whitman is the No. 6 seed at 144, Wyatt Whitman is seeded No. 6 at 150, Jacob Martin comes in at No. 4 at 157, Izaya Romer is the No. 5 seed at 175, Eddy is seeded No. 3 at 190 while Dillon Laffond is seeded No. 6 at 285 for Franklin Tech. 

“It’ll be interesting to see how it goes,” Aiken said. “We haven’t seen a lot of the teams we’ll be wrestling against because we wrestled out east a lot this year. We don’t have many common opponents. It’ll be interesting to see how this team has grown and how we fight in an advancement tournament. For a lot of our kids it’ll be their first time doing that.” 

Aiken has had the Eagles travel around to compete in the best tournaments they could find during the season, hoping to prepare them for the postseason. 

“We’ve been learning as we go, stomping through the mud and figuring things out,” Aiken said. “It’s a hardworking group. I’m excited for tomorrow. It’s fun having a group of kids that have been working this hard to accomplish their goals. We’ve been in tougher tournaments all year. The kids won’t be scared of the moment. I think they’ll find more success tomorrow than they have in the tougher ones during the season. They just have to believe in themselves and execute.”

Mohawk Trail has a small team of just six wrestlers, yet two placed at sectionals last year. Will VanVleet, who earned his 100th career victory last Friday against Northampton, placed second at 220 during last year’s sectionals. Junior Logan Moore placed fifth at 138.

VanVleet enters Saturday as the No. 2 seed at 215. Wade Purington is seeded No. 8 at 106 and Moore comes in as the No. 3 seed at 150.