Winter sports preview: Hampshire Regional wrestling returns talent

  • Hampshire Regional’s Michael Baldwin, front, competes against Hampden Charter’s Tyreece Cherival in the 160-pound final during the 2019 Western Massachusetts Division 3 championships in Turners Falls. Staff Photo/Dan Little

  • Frontier's Jackie Phong, left, competes against Taconic’s Isiaha Hartman-Caesar in the 285-pound final during the Western Mass. Division 3 championships Saturday afternoon in Turners Falls. Staff Photo/Dan Little

  • Joe Podolak, left, of South Hadley, competes against Taconic’s Mike Lafreniere in the 132-pound final during the 2019 Western Massachusetts Division 3 championships in Turners Falls. Podolak transferred to Smith Vocational and will be a top wrestler for the Vikings. Staff Photo/Dan Little

  • South Hadley's Joe Podolak, top, competes against Taconic's Mike Lafreniere in the 132-pound final during the Western Mass. Division 3 championships Saturday afternoon in Turners Falls. Staff Photo/Dan Little

  • Emmett Seibert, right, of Granby, works toward a pin against Alex Willard, of Hampshire Regional, in the 106-pound class, Jan. 2, 2019 at Hampshire Regional. STAFF PHOTYO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Frontier's Ito McMillan competes against Monument's Sam Cormier in the 145-pound weight class during the 2018 Eagle Holiday Classic, Saturday afternoon, in Turners Falls, Dec. 22, 2018. Staff Photo/Dan Little

  • Michael Baldwin, right, of Hampshire Regional, takes down Tyreece Charival, of Hampden Charter, in the 152-pound class Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018 at Hampshire. Baldwin won by decision. STAFF PHOTYO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 12/13/2019 10:00:36 AM
Modified: 12/13/2019 10:00:24 AM

The Hampshire Regional wrestling team is returning a lot of its talent from last year, and then some.

“We’ve got 19 kids out for the team this year. ... That is the biggest group I’ve had in a few years,” Raiders coach Todd Bryant said. “The numbers are good.”

Hampshire brings back senior Michael Baldwin (182 pounds), who finished third at the Division 3 state championship meet last season.

“We are looking for him to take a top spot this year,” Bryant said.

Freshman Alex Willard (120) showed great potential as an eighth grader last season. He placed third at the Div. 3 Western Massachusetts championship meet.

“I’m looking for him to come into his own,” Bryant said. “He has a lot of promise.”

Senior Mason Willard (170), brother of Alex, is another competitor with potential that could make an impact for the team this season.

The Raiders placed fourth at the Western Massachusetts Division 3 Tournament last season. Although the program has a lot of wrestlers this winter, Bryant feels that the unknown will be whether or not the team can fill the eight weight classes and give the program a good shot to compete at a team level.

“I’ll have to see where these kids are and where they map out,” Bryant said.

The team’s practices have been competitive and productive to start the season.

“It’s a great practice room. ... It’s a big room,” Bryant said. “We’ve got some great veterans helping these young kids in terms of the growing and progressing. … That modeling, putting those really good kids out there and using them as examples. … I’m excited.”

Players to watch

Jackie Phong (285) returns for Frontier Regional this season. The junior won the heavyweight title at the Div. 3 Western Mass. tournament last winter. Ito McMillan (152) is approaching 100 career wins and placed fourth at the sectional championships last season. Jake Mattson (145/152) also returns for the Red Hawks after placing fourth at Western Mass. last winter.

Joseph Podolak (138) joins the program at Smith Vocational after competing for South Hadley last season. The senior placed third at the Western Mass. tournament, seventh at the state championship and is approaching the 100-career win milestone. James Biddulph (170) placed third and Eric Leet (195) placed sixth at the Western Mass. meet last season and return for the Vikings.

Sophomore Joseph Deprey (113) placed sixth at the Div. 3 state championships last year and returns for Granby. Junior Maddox McPherson returns for Northampton after taking fourth at last year’s WMass Div. 1 tournament and placing fourth at the state meet. Holyoke’s Moses Oquendo (106) also returns this season after placing fourth at last year’s WMass Div. 1 tournament.

Frontier Regional

COACH: Don Gordon, first year

LEAGUE/DIVISION: Suburban North/3

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 19-9-1

2019 WMASS TOURNAMENT: Sixth

RETURNING PLAYERS: Seniors — Ito McMillan (152), KC Mattson (170), Vic McNutt (132), Spencer Mabius (126); Juniors — Jackie Phong (285), Tanner Finch (145); Freshmen — Jake Mattson (145/152), Forrest Riddington (120); Eighth grade — Wyatt Finch (106), Dylan Camp (160/170)

NEWCOMERS: Junior — Joshua Lavigne (130); Sophomores — John Puchalski (106), Payton Sladeski (106), Freshmen — Miles Keefe (145), Conner Hoffman (182/195), Dylan Clemente (182), AJ Mihalak (285), Seventh grade — John Santiago (106), Zachary Brennan (106), Josh Sawin (106).

OUTLOOK: Gordon returns as the program’s head coach after serving as an assistant. Phong (285) placed first at the WMass championship last season. “Over the years I’ve had some good heavyweights, he’s the real deal,” Gordon said. McMillan and Mattson each placed fourth at sectionals. “Hopefully the young kids will learn by the example that the veterans show and try to get better each day,” Gordon said.

Gateway Regional

COACH: Jeff Bourdon, first year

LEAGUE/DIVISION: Tri-County South/3

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 9-9

2019 WMASS TOURNAMENT: 17th

RETURNING PLAYERS: Seniors — Brett Bonenfant, Tim Basak; Juniors — Joseph Holmes, Nicolas Wolfgang; Sophomores — Garrett LaBranche, Aiden Mann; Eighth grade — Elijah Gilbert, Dalton Savoy; Seventh grade — Benjamin Pritchard, Matthew Small

NEWCOMERS: Junior — Dominic Zajko; Freshman — Sean Forgue; Seventh grade — Joel Precanico; Sixth grade — Jack Rahilly, Colin Shockley, Lucas Gilbert, Casey Paiva

OUTLOOK: Bourdon served as an assistant the last few years. Bonenfant and Basak will be looked to for leadership. Gilbert has shown promise in practice and could be a difference-maker for the team.

Granby

CO-OP: Amherst Regional

COACH: Joe Denette, 15th year

LEAGUE/DIVISION: Suburban North/3

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 9-16-2

2019 WMASS TOURNAMENT: Ninth

RETURNING PLAYERS: Junior — Edward Glaszcz (182); Sophomores — Jenna Learned (132), Gavin Gilburg (145), Abram Speek (145), Eric Puffer (145), Isaiah Meijas (285), Joey Deprey (126), Eric Puffer (145), Jacob Benson (126); Freshman — Danny Gauvin (113)

NEWCOMERS: Junior — Megan Eisnor-Janosz (126); Freshman — Shane Gaj (132); Eighth grade — Nate Benson (113), JJ O’Connor (126), Quinn Speek.

OUTLOOK: Dupree placed sixth at states last year and will be one of the headliners for this year’s group. Abram Speek and Glaszcz return after solid campaigns last year. “We are looking to keep building on what we built last year,” Denette said.

Hampshire Regional

COACH: Todd Bryant, 15th year

LEAGUE/DIVISION: Suburban South/3

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 14-3

2019 WMASS TOURNAMENT: Fourth

RETURNING PLAYERS: Seniors — Kobe Clifford (182), Michael Baldwin (182), Mason Willard (170); Juniors — Joshua Morin (182), Bryce Illingsworth (152), Max Abel (152), Nathaniel Picard (120); Freshman — Alex Willard (120)

NEWCOMERS: Senior — Gideon Touchette; Freshmen — Owen Touchette, Austin Reilly, Evan Carmody; Eighth grade — Rylan Illingsworth, Harland Miller, Luke Johndrow (128); Seventh grade — Jason Jones, Adin Clifford, Elijah Picard, Miguel Delagado

OUTLOOK: A large group of newcomers will give the Raiders a push this season. Baldwin finished third at the state championship last season. Alex Willard placed third at the WMass championship. Mason Willard (170), brother of Alex, is another competitor with potential who could make an impact.

Holyoke

COACH: Vin Silano, second year

LEAGUE/DIVISION: Valley Wheel/1

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: n/a

2019 WMASS TOURNAMENT: 10th

RETURNING PLAYERS: Seniors — Alex Hernandez (152), Jampiel Perez Roman (170); Juniors — Moses Oquendo (106), Cormac Norton (126), Will Alicea (160), Anthony Cruz (170), Richard Rodriguez (160), Chris Perez (182); Sophomores — Eric Lukomski (220), Avery Rodriguez (113), Ethan McClain (132)

NEWCOMERS: Seniors — Ishani Morales (120), Jalen Cortes (138); Junior — Adam Pellerin (145); Sophomore — Aidan Stark (285); Freshmen — Angel Pabon (113), Davian Concepcion (132), Dylan Lubold (145), Xavier Roman (145), Russel Rivera (152), Jacob Robles (285)

OUTLOOK: With the Purple Knights’ program doubling in recent years from 12 to 24 participants, and the school adding a new weight room, this year’s team is excited for what lies ahead. “We are really looking forward to all the new life we have,” Silano said. Morales, wrestling for Duggan academy last year, placed second at 125 in the state girls wrestling tournament. “She’s got the heart of a lion,” Silano said. Oquendo placed seventh at the state meet two years ago and is expected to have another solid season. “I think this year we can win some dual meet matches,” Silano said. “Last year I think we only had two. This year were hoping to double or triple that.”

Northampton

COACH: Josh Bialek, sixth year

LEAGUE/DIVISION: Valley Wheel/1

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 3-10

2019 WMASS TOURNAMENT: Ninth

RETURNING PLAYERS: Seniors — Evan Renauld (152), Natnael Walton (182), Sebastian Abend (132); Junior — Maddox McPherson (126); Eighth grade — Alex Martinez (106)

NEWCOMERS: Junior — Ryan Weiss (145), Sophomore — Jovan Claybaugh (120). Jesus Baez (132), Tyreese Jordan Cox (138); Freshmen — Quan Randall (220), Colin Evans (285); Eighth grade — Henry Walden (106)

OUTLOOK: With six wrestlers not returning to compete this season, the Blue Devils will have a young but promising squad. McPherson returns after taking fourth at last year’s WMass tournament. Martinez returns after an impressive varsity debut campaign last year. “Everyone that has stepped onto the mat has shown significant potential,” Bialek said.

Smith Vocational

CO-OP: Hopkins Academy

COACH: William Hearn, second year

LEAGUE/DIVISION: Tri-County/3

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 2-14

2019 WMASS TOURNAMENT: 13th

RETURNING PLAYERS: Juniors — Eric Leet (195), James Biddulph (170), Tanner Smith (145), Zach Martinez (285), Johnathan Malo (220); Sophomores — Aaron Pierce (132), Tyler Pratts (160), Race Drobiak (182)

NEWCOMERS: Matthew Chesanek (106); Junior — Joe Podolak (138); Freshman — Casey Baldwin (152), Forrest McSweeny (145).

OUTLOOK: The Vikings bring back a lot of talent. Biddulph placed third at the sectional championships and placed eighth at states. The program gets a boost by South Hadley transfer Podolak, who placed third at the sectional championships last season and eighth at states. “He’s brought a lot of leadership qualities,” Hearn said. McSweeny and Baldwin join the program from Hampshire Regional. “For the next two, three years, this program could take off,” Hearn said. “I think we’ll finish top 10 at Western Mass. this year.”

South Hadley

COACH: Brian Couture, third year

LEAGUE/DIVISION: Suburban South/3

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: N/A

2019 WMASS TOURNAMENT: Eighth

RETURNING STARTERS: Senior — Noah Will (195); Junior — Cayden Henriques (113); Sophomore — Doug Aiolupotea (220)

RETURNING PLAYERS: Junior — Eli Petrokowski (182); Sophomores — Matt Mayer (170), Bobby Bessone (145)

NEWCOMERS: Seniors — Sage Saykin (220), Dante Danilchenko (126); Sophomores — Julian Danilchenko (160), Diana Theriault (182), Isaiah Ramos (182); Freshmen — Nicolas Ramos (195), Yaritza Cabrera (106)

OUTLOOK: The Tigers will have some issues filling all the weight classes this season, but several talented individual return. Henriques placed fourth at the WMass championships. Will and Aiolupotea had impressive campaigns last season. “Those guys should compete hard,” Couture said.




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