Titles the goal for area wrestlers at divisional state championships

  • Hampshire Regional’s Michael Baldwin, right, competes against Pathfinder’s Markys Lissaint for a first place finish at 182 pounds Saturday during the Western Mass. Div. 3 wrestling championship hosted by Taconic High School in Pittsfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Hampshire Regional’s Michael Baldwin, right, competes against Pathfinder’s Markys Lissaint for a first place finish at 182 pounds Saturday during the Western Mass. Div. 3 wrestling championship hosted by Taconic High School in Pittsfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Hampshire Regional’s Mason Willard, top, competes against Duggan’s Cassius Coates for a first place finish at 170 pounds Saturday during the Western Mass. Div. 3 wrestling championship hosted by Taconic High School in Pittsfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • South Hadley’s Cayden Henriques, top, competes against Hampden Charter’s Lisandro Martinez for a second place finish at 113 pounds Saturday during the Western Mass. Div. 3 wrestling championship hosted by Taconic High School in Pittsfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Franklin Tech’s Kyle Brunelle, top, competes Smith Vocational’s Joe Podolak in the 145-pound weight class Saturday at Franklin County Technical School in Turners Falls. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 2/20/2020 4:29:21 PM
Modified: 2/20/2020 4:29:11 PM

WESTHAMPTON — Michael Baldwin doesn’t have much left to accomplish in high school wrestling. The Hampshire Regional senior captured his second Western Massachusetts Division 3 title last weekend to qualify for his fourth straight state tournament. He became the Raiders’ all-time wins leader with his first victory at sectionals.

The only thing missing? A state championship.

“The last goal I really want to achieve is be a state champ,” Baldwin said. “My mind’s really set on that.”

He didn’t win a match his freshman year, placed fifth as a sophomore and took third last season.

“Each year I’ve been climbing up the chain,” Baldwin said. “My goal is to keep climbing and hopefully come out on top.”

He will wrestle at 182 pounds and will face Foxborough’s Sean Gallagher in the opening round. Gallagher placed fourth at the North sectional.

“I have no clue who I’m facing, and I guess I don’t care, to an extent,” Baldwin said. “I’m just gonna go, really focus on my own stuff, believe in the work, and whatever happens will happen.”

Baldwin is one of five Hampshire Regional wrestlers who will compete at the Division 3 state tournament Friday and Saturday at Wayland High School. Mason Willard also won a sectional title at 170 pounds. His first-round opponent is Andrew Breare of Dedham.

“My goal this year was Western Mass., states and everything else on top of that is gravy,” Willard said. “It’ll be fun at this point. I get to wrestle some really tough competition and learn new things.”

Willard is the latest in a family line of wrestlers. His older brother, DJ, won a state title in 2018. Their younger brother, Alex, also qualified for the state tournament as the West’s third-place finisher at 113 pounds.

“(DJ’s) helped me almost more than anyone in my wrestling career,” Mason Willard said. “Learning from him and looking up to him as the goals I want to reach, and him teaching me moves to just wrestling with him and working things out has helped more than anything.”

Adin Clifford is in the 106 field, and Nathaniel Picard will wrestle for the Raiders at 120. Clifford, an eighth grader, will face Foxborough’s James Fraser in the first round. Picard drew Tre Aulson of Georgetown-Ipswitch.

“I hope people don’t take it for more than what it is. You’re still wrestling high school kids, they’re not these beasts,” Baldwin said. “If you go out there and do what you can do, you have just as much of a chance to place or do really well.”

That confidence and sense of belief is partially instilled by Hampshire Regional coach Todd Bryant. He and the Raiders hosted other western Mass. teams in Hampshire’s wrestling room throughout the week to train together and prepare some of the region’s best for the state stage.

“Getting all these teams together and all these kids in one room makes it great. You get a lot of different coaches, everyone’s got a different perspective, we’re all here to help all the kids,” Bryant said. “The reality is I think these kids have to reassess their goals. If they prove they’re one of the best in the west, that doesn’t mean anything different when they go east. They can knock on some doors out east just as they have here.”

Smith Vocational will also send five wrestlers to Wayland on Friday, led by Joe Podolak and Casey Baldwin. Both were runners-up at Western Mass.

It’s Podolak’s third trip to the state tournament but first as a member of the Vikings. He competed for South Hadley for two years before transferring to Smith Vocational. Podolak lost to Franklin Tech’s Kyle Brunelle in the sectional championship at 138 pounds.

“I 100 percent take it as motivation. Whenever me and Kyle Brunelle wrestle, everyone says it’s like a college match,” Podolak said. “We wrestle very intensely. Win or lose against Kyle, it motivates me to be better. I realize how close we are, and I want to be better than him.”

Podolak drew Holliston’s Jay Fisher in the first round. Fisher placed third in the Central tournament.

Casey Baldwin, who is Michael Baldwin’s younger brother, will face Mahar’s Todd Chaisson in the first round at 160 pounds. Casey Baldwin was the fourth seed in the sectional tournament but battled to the final before losing to Tyreece Cherival, of Hampden Charter.

Forrest McSweeney (132 pounds), James Buddulph (170) and Race Drobiak (182) all placed fourth at sectionals for the Vikings. McSweeney will face North champion Troy Forgitano of Gerogetown-Ipswitch in the first round. Buddulph drew Mahar’s Peter Tattan, the Central champion. Drobiak will wrestle South champion Jeremy Driscoll of South Shore Tech.

Frontier Regional will send three wrestlers to states. Payton Sladieski took second at sectionals at 106 pounds. He’s got Chad Ellis of South Shore Tech in the opening round.

Ito McMillan placed third at Western Mass. and will wrestle Nauset’s Gabe Colho in the first round at 152 pounds.

Tanner Finch will face Central champion Patrick Griffin (Tri-County) in the first round at 145 pounds. He was fourth at Western Mass.

South Hadley’s Cayden Henriques is making his second straight appearance at the state tournament. He took second at sectionals after losing to Hampden Charter’s Lisandro Martinez in the final.

“It definitely motivates me. I definitely want to do better,” Henriques said. “Hopefully I can go through states and place and go to all-states.”

The top six individuals from the divisional meet advance to all-states.

Henriques’ opponent in the first round at 113 is Yussuf Nasri of Foxborough.

Noah Will also qualified for South Hadley after taking fourth at 220 pounds. He drew Saugus Peabody’s Phillip Makoci, the North Champion, in the first round.

Gateway Regional has two fourth-place qualifiers: Matthew Small at 106 pounds and Brett Bonenfant at 152. Bonenfant will face South champion Daniel Nolan of Cohasset, while Small has Norton’s Steven Chaffee, also a South winner.

Granby’s Isaiah Mejias will face North champion Dougie Clark of Saugus Peabody in the first round. He was fourth at Western Mass.

Division 1

Holyoke senior Alex Hernandex will face Marshfield’s Joe Hutt in the first round Friday at Methuen. He placed fourth at Western Mass to qualify.




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