Cardenales wants history

  • Isaiah Cardenales, of South Hadley High School, celebrates after defeating Brandon Daniels, of Gateway Regional, High School in their MIAA sectional championship match. Gazette staff/file

  • JERREY ROBERTSGino Viamari, front, of South Hadley, works toward a pin against Adam Clement, of Mahar, in the 132-pound class, Wednesday in South Hadley. JERREY ROBERTS

  • Clayton Yanosky, right, of Granby, enters the season seven wins shy of 100 for his career. Gazette staff/file

For the Gazette
Published: 12/9/2016 12:40:44 PM

Isaiah Cardenales can make history.

If the South Hadley senior can claim the Western Massachusetts 113-pound wrestling championship, he will have gone where no other Tiger has gone before.

Another win during the sectionals would make Cardenales a three-time champion. That has never happened in the history of the program.

“Isaiah’s done very well for us the past couple of years and he’s ready to go,” coach Kevin McNeill said “He’s looking forward to this year.”

Even more amazing is that Cardenales has been wrestling for only three years. He picked up the sport in lightning speed and has emerged as one of the region’s best lightweights.

“He’s an athlete,” McNeill said. “He’s a very quick learner, and he loves the sport.”

His friend, former sectional champion Chris Rojas, who graduated from South Hadley in 2014, convinced Cardenales to come out for the team as a freshman. Cardenales was not eligible to participate as a freshman, but he worked as hard in the classroom as he does in the gym to put that behind him.

Never one to back down from a challenge, Cardenales, who has placed twice at states at 106 pounds, can also reach the 100-win mark this season. He enters the season with a career record of 71-13.

“We’ve had four two-time champions before, but never three,” NcNeill said. “He thinks about it, but he is just focused on working hard in the game every day.”

There are challengers out there for Cardenales. One is Gateway Regional’s Brandon Daniels.

Last season, Cardenales defeated Daniels in the Western Mass. Division 3 final at 106. Daniels could return at 106 or be bumped up to 113 for a possible rematch with Cardenales, who also could wrestle at 106.

Cardenales will captain a team that graduated five seniors.

“We will need to fill those spots,” McNeill said. “We have a solid group of returners with some young additions.”

How well the underclassmen adapt to the varsity level will be the key for South Hadley, which was co-champion of the Tri-County League last year with Mahar.

“We are just focusing on getting the young kids to pick up the sport, hopefully getting them to enjoy it and the kids who have been around for a little while will place at states and all-states,” McNeill said.

Cardenales may be one of the smallest wrestlers on the team, but not in the eyes of his teammates.

“They definitely look up to him,” McNeill said. “This year should be fun because there’s a lot of new energy in the room.”

Granby’s Clayton Yanosky is also looking to do better this season. He was a sectional runner-up last season at 182.

Northampton will look to keep a strong tradition going. The Blue Devils hope multiple wrestlers qualify for states.

Last season, Northampton sent eight wrestlers to the Western Mass. Division 1 championship. Five of them qualified for states.

The Blue Devils will miss Luke Harrison, who soared to the finals at heavyweight during his senior year last season. Northampton will look for others to step up to fill the void.

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