MANSFIELD, Mass. – Even the parents were out of their seats, creeping closer to the mat, and counting down the final seconds of the night’s final match. Mansfield junior Noah Jellenik laid flat on his stomach, holding off Franklin’s Riley Downing and waiting for the final horn to sound.
As the ref waved his hand to signal the end of the match, Jellenik, who is in his first year as a wrestler, rolled onto his knees and threw his hands in the air in triumph. On three edges of the mat, his teammates, coaches, and Mansfield alumni hugged, cheered, and celebrated, as the Hornets moved one giant step closer to securing the program’s first ever Hockomock dual meet title.
Although Downing won the 285-pound match 6-2, Jellenik had accomplished his only goal, which was to avoid a pin. With the Panthers only earning three points in the final match of the hotly-contested dual meet, Mansfield held on for a 30-27 victory.
“Do not get on my back,” Jellenik said with a laugh when asked about his strategy going into the match. Trying to reflect on how he felt after securing the win, he said, “Wow, it’s kind of surreal right now. I’ve known these guys almost my whole life, at school and around town, and I’ve known the dedication they’ve put into the sport and to just be here for them and to support them is a hell of an honor.”
Mansfield coach Mark DiSanto said, “He showed so much heart tonight. Noah dug down deep and he pulled it out for us tonight. He was supposed to come out last year but during football season he tore his ACL. He watched last year. He went from manager to winning us the Hock.”
Downing nearly ended the celebration before it started. He was within an inch, maybe less, of earning a pin and pulling out a tie for his team, but Jellenik wriggled free enough to get back on his stomach and run out the clock.
“It would’ve been kind of a fitting ending considered how close it was,” said Franklin coach Carmine Colace. “This was a great dual meet. I’m proud of the kids. It’s like, what more could we do to change the outcome? Not much considering how we wrestled. They wrestled great, we wrestled great, and it was a lot of fun.”
It was a match that featured strong performances even in defeats, as the teams combined for only three pins and kept things tight throughout the match – Franklin’s 9-0 lead was the largest of the entire dual meet.
“That was a complete team effort, every weight class…We couldn’t have asked for more,” DiSanto said. “Every kid fought. I don’t even know what to say. That’s an unbelievable Franklin team there and they took us to the limit but we stepped up tonight.”
Drew DiFilipo got things started in strong fashion for the Panthers with a 15-0 win to earn five points at 106 pounds and Jake Carlucci earned another four points with a 12-0 win at 113 pounds. Although Franklin got nine quick points, both Stefan Wells and Noah Price were able to avoid the pin in each match.
Mansfield got on the board at 120 pounds when Max Farley earned a pin with 45 seconds left in the second period. At 126, it was Franklin’s turn to battle and avoid the maximum points. Antonios Seavastos, who had been originally scheduled to wrestle at 120, got two points in the first period and that was the only scoring in his match with Alex Fracassa to tie the meet at 9-9.
“Bumping [Sevastos] up to 126 was a good move,” Colace said. “Even though it was only a three-point match, our kid has won a lot of matches this year, so it was a good strategy on their part.”
The Panthers got the lead back at 132 with Jordan Carlucci earning their only pin of the night, ending his match just 17 seconds into the second period. Kenny Sauer earned a 9-1 win at 138 and put Franklin ahead by 10 points. Will Stratton got three points back for the Hornets at 145 with a take down seconds into his match, which he held onto for a 2-0 win.
DiSanto continued to make adjustments to his lineup to try and get his team the best possible match-ups. It really became a math problem, calculating how many points the Hornets would need from every match to get the team win. At 152, Ciaran Connolly stepped in and moved the regular rotation up a weight class. Connolly not only put in a solid performance but he also snagged a 4-1 win that moved Mansfield back within four.
“We go through every single matchup multiple times and how we can do it differently,” DiSanto explained. “We have a lot of talented kids behind our good kids, so we just tried to maximize our points by getting those other kids in. Tonight, Ciaran, we needed to get him in there and he came through.”
C.J. Glaropoulos won 4-2 in a hard-fought match against Caleb MacLean at 160 to make it 19-18 and his brother George followed with an equally tough win, 6-2, against Dom Sackley (who nearly caught Glaropoulos on his back in the first period) to give the hosts their first lead of the night. That lead extended to eight points when Jayden Curley took to the mat. The dominant senior had no problems jumping up a weight, as he got a pin just 37 seconds into his match.
“I attack every single second of the match that I can,” said Curley about his approach to the match. “I really don’t like to let up. Every match I go into with the same mentality, which is to score points and put people on their back.”
Franklin’s Dylan Nawn was also pushed back a weight class and he jumped in at 195 and won 19-4 to cut the lead to 27-24 with just two matches left. Ethan Nirenberg put the Hornets on the brink of the win when he got a 3-0 win at 220, after keeping Matt Walker from escaping in the second and then getting an escape and a fall in the third period.
It was 30-24 heading into the final match. Jellenik was cheered on by the raucous Mansfield home crowd and led 2-1 heading into the third period, while keeping his distance from Downing. He started the third period on the bottom and Downing nearly took advantage and turned that into a decisive pin, pushing Jellenik to the brink, but the ref’s hand stayed up in the air.
“That was amazing,” Curley said about Jellenik’s match. “That was just the heart we needed.”
He added, “It means everything in the world. Obviously, we still have other matches left in the Hock but this was the big dog that we had to take down. Even in individual matches, it all comes from how we work in the room.”
Mansfield (14-4, 2-0) still have two dual meets remaining in the league season, including a tricky one against King Philip, but this was the meet that everyone was focused on. A win next Wednesday against Taunton will secure at least a share of the first league title in program history.
Franklin (13-3, 2-1) will be back on the mat on Saturday at Chicopee before facing KP net week.
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