Wrestling: Hampshire Regional’s Alex Willard seeks WMass title


Staff Writer

Published: 02-11-2023 11:08 AM

Three Willards grace the 100-win wrestling banner in Hampshire Regional’s gym: DJ, Mason and as of last season, Alex. Only DJ and Mason are on the Western Massachusetts champion banner, a fact they reminded him of when they returned for the Raiders unveiling ceremony.

“We’re always trying to match each other or one up each other, which I think inspires us to keep pushing forward,” said Alex, a senior that has finished third every time there’s been a Western Mass tournament since he joined the team in eighth grade. “It’s a competitive and super difficult sport to get into, but having them in it with me and them constantly reminding me that they were better or they were above me at the moment, it always made me want to keep pushing to catch up.”

Alex takes some of his style from both brothers. He practiced with them for his whole life and crafted a method all his own.

“I have been able to connect with them through anything in life over wrestling. We’ve gone through the same experiences, we know how it feels to win and lose,” Alex Willard said. “It allows a connection.”

He’ll be the No. 1 seed at 152 pounds in Saturday’s Division 3 Western Mass championships at Mohawk Trail (10 a.m.) with a 26-5 record. His teammate, sophomore Adin Clifford (21-8) will be No. 4 at 145 looking for his state tournament berth.

“What we’re seeing this year is where they would have been a year ago if we didn’t lose that year (2021),” Hampshire coach Don Willard said.

Northampton senior Quane Randall earned the top Division 3 heavyweight seed at 20-3. He was third last season.

“It’s something I wanted to be since I was a freshman, my main goal is to go in and try my best to win it all,” Randall said.

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Fellow Blue Devil Schuyler Trapani will challenge for the 220-pound crown as the No. 3 seed (21-8).

Returning state placer Jake Mattson is the No. 1 seed at 195 pounds for Frontier (26-3). His teammate Conner Hoffman is No. 3 at 170 (25-4), while Miles Keefe will be No. 4 at 160 (14-6). 

“We want to advance some of our kids to states,” Frontier coach Brian Bagdon said. “We have a few that have a good shot at it. Everybody on the team has improved since the start of the year. Now it’s just about wrestling your best in the tournament and putting everything together. This tournament is all about doing what you need to do to advance.”  

Smith Vocational boasts three No. 2 seeds: Alex Martinez (23-11) at 138, Forrest McSweeney (27-10) at 145 and Matthew Small (28-7) at 132. At 106 pounds, Mateo Henriques (27-8) is the No. 3 seed.

The Gilberts of Gateway Regional also have top four seeds. Eli Gilbert (23-6), the runner up last season, is the No. 2 at 170 pounds, while Lucas Gilbert (19-7) is No. 3 at 126.

The top four finishers in each weight class advance to the Division 3 state tournament Feb. 17-18.

DIVISION 2 – Holyoke will bring three seeded wrestlers to Northbridge on Saturday (10 a.m.) aiming for state tournament berths.

Jayden Santiago is third at 220 pounds, while Steven Santiago (113) and Omar Gomez (285) are both sixth.

Granby has three wrestlers in the top six as well: Jr Ramsey is the No. 3 seed at 195 pounds, Simon Speek fifth at 106 and Nathan Benson sixth at 120.

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.]]>