TAUNTON, Mass. – With five matches left to go in Wednesday night’s dual meet at the Rabouin Field House, Milford led by 20 points and the Hawks seemed ready to cruise to the win. Taunton was heading into the strength of its lineup, but the Tigers needed to not only win those matches but bring in maximum points in each one to have a shot at winning the meet.
Four pins later and Taunton was in the lead 39-35. Luke Donis stepped onto the mat for the final match of the night, at 160, knowing that simply winning his bout wouldn’t be enough to keep Milford’s unbeaten season alive. The sophomore got a quick takedown, but gave a point back. With 33 seconds left in the first period, Donis got the upper hand, got his opponent on his back, and heard the ref slap the mat for a meet-winning pin.
Milford pulled out the 41-39 victory, securing a perfect league campaign and a third straight outright Kelley-Rex division title.
“It’s always a good match, Milford coach PJ Boccia said about competing in the Hockomock League. “You never have an easy Wednesday match. To win the title outright, it’s great for these kids. They’ve put in the work. My juniors and seniors have been in the youth program all the way through, so for them to work together and that was a true team win there.”
The Hawks have faced some of the top programs in the state this season, but Boccia knew that Taunton was going to be the most difficult matchup that the Hawks had seen so far.
“I was a little more nervous,” Boccia admitted. “I know they’re having a great year and the way that the matchups fell I knew it was going to be a close one. We wrestled Shawsheen and Minnechaug and Lowell, and Taunton gave us the closest [meet] so far.”
Taunton was denied at least a share of its first wrestling title, but for head coach Adilson Galvao being in the race to win the Kelley-Rex crown for the second year in a row was a sign of the progress that the Tigers have made as a program.
“We’ve gone from zero wins and maybe 30 losses,” Galvao joked, “to always being in the title hunt in the Hockomock. For years we always pushed that you have to work in the offseason.” When asked if he thought there was a turning point on Wednesday, he added, “It was kind of how we planned it. We knew it was going to be close.”
The meet started at 170 and the Tigers made a lineup adjustment that helped put them in front early. Sean Donovan put the Hawks up first with a dominating 17-2 win, which he led almost from the first whistle. Taunton answered back with Elijah Prophete taking over at 182 and earning a second-round pin.
Ethan Harris, who normally wrestles at 182, was moved to 195 to face Milford’s Matt Donis. Harris led 2-0 after one and had a 5-0 lead in the second before an escape and takedown by Donis cut into the lead. A reversal with just eight seconds left in the period extended Harris’ lead to 7-3 heading to the third. Both wrestlers had an escape and takedown in the third and Taunton grabbed the three points.
Boccia said, “Our 195 has been on a tear and he wrestled him great, that’s one of their best wrestlers, and it’s Matt’s first year in the varsity lineup. Taunton winning at 182 and 195 was a win for them, a good decision on his part. Other than that it kind of went right around where we thought it would be.”
At 220, Logan Frank controlled his match from the outset, but then a flurry of moves ended in his earning a pin with just four ticks remaining in the second period.
Taunton was in front 15-5, but it was Milford’s turn to enter a strong portion of its lineup. Nebraska-commit Hampton Kaye-Kuter needed only 31 seconds to earn a pin at 285. At 106, Derek Marcolino continued the momentum when he got a pin with 11 seconds left in the second period, putting the Hawks up 17-15.
Milford’s roll continued at 113, as Aidan Baum got a pin a minute into the second. Robby Lyons made it four straight pins for the Hawks right at the end of the opening period of his match at 120. It quickly became five straight pins and a 35-15 lead when Mike Boulanger got a pin at 126 less than a minute into the match.
Now it was the Tigers who needed a spark, but they were about to bring some of their toughest wrestlers to the mat to try and produce a comeback.
At 132, Xavier Sandoval continued his impressive season with a pin 1:09 into the match. Anthony Vieira came out intent to do the same at 138, leading 7-0 after the first period, but it took another 1:40 before he finally ended his match and secured the six points. Ben Mandeville followed by pinning his opponent with 20 seconds left in the first period at 145.
The Tigers trailed just 35-33 with two matches remaining. John Mandeville stepped onto the mat with the mindset of not settling for three points. He came close to getting a pin at several points in the first, but had to wait with a 9-0 lead. A quick takedown in the second, turned into a pin that gave Taunton the four-point edge.
Galvao explained, “The kids that got all those pins in row, that’s just experience. We kind of knew that was our strongest part of the lineup, so that just came down to experience.”
It was a dual meet that didn’t seem to have a turning point. Most of the favorites did exactly what was expected of them and got the max points. Donis was no exception at 160, as he sealed the win for the Hawks by earning the team’s sixth pin of the night.
With Taunton producing teams capable of winning titles, Milford turning into a perennial power, Sharon winning the Davenport, and the traditional powers like Foxboro, North Attleboro, and Franklin, Galvao praised the depth of the league for preparing teams to meet tough challenges.
“Last year we had four or five teams winning sectional titles,” he said, “and I feel like every team we’ve wrestled in the Hock, whether we think they’re having a down year, a down year is still a good year for them. It helps our team get ready for the state tournament.
Milford (18-0) will host a tri-meet with Algonquin and Hopkinton on Saturday. Taunton (12-2) will travel to Sandwich for a quad meet this weekend before closing out league play with a visit from North Attleboro.