MANSFIELD, Mass. – On Wednesday, the Panthers were recognized for their impressive season, which includes only one dual meet defeat to Marshwood (Maine) in a tournament in Merrimack, N.H. over the weekend.
Mass Wrestling named Franklin the top team in the state, across all divisions, and the Panthers went out on Wednesday night against Mansfield in the James Albertini Gym and showed why they are so highly regarded.
Franklin won the opening eight weight classes of the dual meet, four of them by pin and another by tech, and lost only two of the 14 matches on its way to a comprehensive 59-8 team victory. With King Philip losing to Oliver Ames in another of Wednesday’s dual meets, the Panthers also clinched at least a share of the league title with one dual meet remaining.
“I told the kids that we have a target on our backs,” said Franklin coach Carmine Collace about the message before the meet against the Hornets. “Teams are going to come out and wrestle us hard and they’ve got to step up. If they want to remain the No. 1 team in the state, then you’ve got to wrestle tough and they did.”
Jordan Carlucci set the tone with a quick first round pin at 106 pounds and Ian Bakalars (113) followed with a pin in the second round. Mike Racca made quick work of his opponent at 120 and gave the Panthers a dominant 18-0 start.
T.J. Remillard scored four points in the opening round of his match against Will Stratton at 126 and, as much as the Mansfield grappler tried to find a way to score, held on for a 4-0 win. Brian Farrell followed that with another strong performance at 132 to pick up the 15-0 victory and five points for the Panthers.
Tom Zogby had a second round pin at 138 and Dylan MacLean got a very quick pin at 152, but in between at 145 was one of the matches of the night between Caleb MacLean for Franklin and Mansfield’s Ciaran Connolly.
MacLean took a 2-0 lead into the second round and regained the lead with a takedown after Connolly’s reversal knotted up the scores. The final round was the loudest that the crowd and the two benches got (by far) as Connolly pulled even again with another reversal and looked like he might have the upper hand in the match, until an escape inside the final 15 seconds earned MacLean a hard-fought 5-4 win.
“A couple guys stepped into the lineup, we bumped a couple kids in there and they won,” said Collace. “The kids wrestled hard in practice, the conditioning is good, their confidence is building…but we still haven’t won anything. We’ve got some stuff to work on.”
Mansfield coach Mark DiSanto wrestled against Collace and Franklin during his high school career, so he knew what to expect from the Panthers on Wednesday.
He said, “They have a solid team all-around. Every single kid on that team is very good and they’ve had that for years. He’s a great coach, respect him a lot, I know him very well and they have a strong program. They work hard and it shows on the mat.”
Despite the final score, DiSanto took several positives away from the meet. “The final score is what it is,” he said, “but we take each match one at a time and see how each individual did. We’re in the right direction. Kids are fighting off their back and that’s what we like to see.”
Jayden Curley got Mansfield its first points of the night with an 8-2 win at 161 pounds and then freshman Vinnie Holmes continued his stellar rookie campaign with a 17-1 tech at 170 that made the score 41-8.
“I can count on him to go out there and wrestle a good match,” said DiSanto of Holmes. “He works his tail off and he’s got a bright future ahead of him. It’s good to see him continue to win.”
Evan Hernandez and Bruce Johnson had back-to-back pins for Franklin at 182 and 195 and Jack Coughlin came from behind with five points in the third round to beat Ford DelVecchio at 220. Brian Perry closed out the dual meet with a 12-5 win at 285, capping off an impressive night for the Panthers.
“We practice hard every day, even the day before [a meet],” said Collace. “I don’t believe in go easy the day before. If you do things right the day before than it carries over to the match.”
He added that Franklin was looking forward to the Hockomock Championships on Saturday. Collace said, “If you want to be an all-star it comes from the league championship and it’s been pretty competitive. The league has gotten better and you can see, Mansfield is going to be a good team. They’re going to give us payback in a couple years.”
Mansfield took home the team title at the Cape Cod Invitational over the weekend and DiSanto is counting on that to carry over into this weekend’s league meet.
He said, “We’re coming off a good tournament at the Cape Cod Invitational, so I think we can take that momentum from winning that tournament and I think they can take that experience into Hocks…rather than tonight.”