But when it comes to success, it was a different sport that experienced the success.
In wrestling this season, the Hock saw history be made at the league championship meet as well as multiple individual State Champions. Even more so, there were a couple of wrestlers that went on to have success at the New England Championship meet.
First, it was Canton senior Chris Sullivan and made his way through arguably the most talented weight class – 152 – at the Hockomock League Championships. His win in the finals wasn’t just another win either, it made league history.
With a victory in the final over North Attleboro’s Austin Renzi at 152, Canton senior Chris Sullivan accomplished something that had never been done before. The Bulldogs all-time leader in career wins — with more than 130 — became the first wrestler to bring home four Hockomock championships in a career.
“It’s tough to put it into words,” said Sullivan shortly after being named the outstanding wrestler at the tournament and having his milestone announced to the assembled crowd. “I was just surprised when I first heard it, but it’s excellent. I’m excited.”
The fourth title did not come easy, especially after Sullivan bulked up in the offseason and made the jump in weight class from 132 to 152. Against Renzi, who has won more than 100 matches in his own successful high school career, Sullivan scored early points and then held on for the final period to claim the title on by a score of 5-2.
He remarked, “He’s a good kid and he wrestled 52 last year, so he has a lot of experience at that weight class — I bumped up from 32. Making that jump isn’t easy.”
Even after winning titles in his first three seasons, Sullivan admitted that it was still a rush to bring home a championship this weekend. He said, “No, it’s special. It’s always a tough tournament and I wrestled a tough kid in the finals so it’s a good feeling.”
As his career at Canton winds down, Sullivan, who is interested in attending the Merchant Marine or Coast Guard Academy and wrestling at the collegiate level, was able to reflect on how far he had come in four years. He could not have imagined all the success that has come his way.
“I didn’t expect to win states as a sophomore or anything like that, you know. But I’m happy with how things worked out and now I’m just getting through this season and looking forward to college.”
On Saturday, the Franklin wrestling team added a team title at the Hockomock Championships to the league title that the Panthers had earned during the dual meet season. Franklin had five individuals bring home Hockomock titles and garnered 256 points as a team to hold off rival North Attleboro (225 points) to win the team crown at the meet, which was held at Oliver Ames.
Stoughton finished in third place with 167 points and was the top Davenport team, beating out the host Tigers by 13 points.
Franklin head coach Carmine Callace noted that the Panthers had 13 of their 14 entrants place. The lone Franklin wrestler not to place was Pat Glynn, but he also picked up two wins by pin to help the team’s overall score.
“We do have a lot of depth; we do and that really helps,” Collace explained. “Today was a real team effort because we had some tough matches in the semis, but nobody got down on themselves and they all battled back.”
The first four finals were all won by Panthers. Mike Copolla started things off with a hard-fought 5-3 win over North’s Devin Spratt at 106 pounds. Cam Kelly (pin), Ben Zogby (17-1), and Dan Pisani (9-0) each followed with convincing victories to push the Panthers ahead of North in the team standings.
“In the last couple of weeks, we’ve been gaining the momentum and confidence and I think that’s why we wrestled so well against North Attleboro in the dual [meet],” said Collace.
He added, “We started off a little slow, but that was to be expected. Who wants to win matches in December? You want to win matches in February and March.”
Franklin senior Cam Kelly and Lincoln-Sudbury senior Mac Hamilton have become quite familiar with each other on the mat this season.
The top two wresters in the state at 113 pounds, according to masswrestling.com, Hamilton and Kelly have squared off twice this season, with Hamilton besting Kelly at both the Lowell Holiday Tournament and in the title match at last weekend’s Division 1 Central sectional.
And while it’s highly possible that the two could meet again at next weekend’s All-State meet, they first had some business to take care of Saturday night, as they met at the Division 1 State tournament.
For Kelly, the third time was the charm, as he scored a third-period takedown to knock off Hamilton 2-1 and win his first divisional state title.
“I’ve worked my whole life to try and get to this point so I could win,” said Kelly, who finished runner-up at 106 last year in this tournament. “I knew I was good enough to beat this kid. After facing him twice already, we started to know what he was like and my coaches helped train me and show me what I needed to do to win. I executed everything successfully today. He’s a tough wrestler, but I ended up being able to pull through.”
Hamilton, who entered the match with a 38-2 record this season, got himself on the board in the first period with an escape.
After a scoreless second period, Hamilton chose to start the third in the neutral position, trying to wrestle to his strength. But Kelly, who came in at 44-3 on the season, executed a well-timed takedown for the two points and controlled the match the rest of the way from the top position to come away with the victory.
Kelly wasn’t the only Panther to place first, however, as senior Griffin Tighe bested Springfield Central’s Matt Paris 3-1 at 195 pounds.
“This means that my entire wrestling career has been a success,” said Tighe, who was fourth at the same weight class last season. “This is what I’ve been shooting for since I was a freshman. It’s all I wanted. All-States would be the cherry on top, but this is the one I had to get over. It’s like a feeling I’ve never had before. It’s awesome.”
duo weren’t the only ones that went on to find success at state tournaments. In Division 2, three Hockomock wrestlers won state titles. North Attleboro’s Austin Renzi (152), Milford’s Grady D’Antonio (285) and Stoughton’s Frank Girolamo (220).
Frank Girolamo of Stoughton was an underdog on Saturday night, even when he made it to the finals of the Division 2 State Wrestling Championships at North Andover High. Girolamo isn’t your typical 220-pounder, unless you’re creating a Flutie Class within that division.
Girolamo, you see, might need help to hit 5-foot-7, which makes for a difficult journey through the ranks of the heavyweights, and even more so when he landed in the final against Pembroke’s Brendan Benoit, who goes about 6-3.
That was exactly the matchup at last week’s D-2 South Sectional, and in that case, Benoit went home with the crown after a 4-2 victory. But this time Girolamo reversed that result, defeating Benoit with a 4-1 decision after one of the night’s most exciting bouts.
After a scoreless first period seemed to be in the offing as the two grapplers pushed for position, Girolamo suddenly threw Benoit over as the buzzer sounded, netting a 2-0 lead. Neither man could score in the middle period, and the third frame began the same way. Benoit was awarded a point when the Black Knight athlete was penalized for stalling, which pulled it closer at 2-1. But Girolamo was a bulldog, wrapping his foe up and controlling him over the final minute to score two more big points to clinch it.
“It’s extremely tough for me to wrestle someone as tall as him,” said Girolamo. “My only moves in that first period involved basically picking him up. I knew from out match last week I didn’t want him on top of me – he spent the whole second period last week just ripping my shoulders. After I got charged that point for stalling in the third period here, I knew I had to pick up the pace.”
A state championship is always a nice way to cap off a wrestler’s career, as Girolamo, a senior, can well appreciate. But it means even more in his case, since he couldn’t compete last winter. Transferring from Xaverian in the middle of the school year, Girolamo had to sit out last season.
“It’s been great to come back and have a season like this,” said Girolamo, whose work ethic so impressed the Black Knights’ coaching staff that they named him a captain, even though he was essentially a rookie to the team.
“Frank is a hard worker, but also a very athletic kid,” said Stoughton coach Michael Carroll. “Due to his height, I think people are always underestimating him. They especially underestimate his speed, how quick and athletic he is. Tonight, we knew this Pembroke kid has a great knee pick, so we wanted to try and stay away from that, and out-hustle him. Nobody expected Frank to even be here, and after last week, nobody expected him to beat Benoit, but this whole season has been a big makeup year for Frank.”
At the All-State meet, Cam Kelly came in second at 113, Merrigan placed second at 138, Sullivan placed second at 152, North Attleboro’s Evan Packert came in second at 170, Tighe won the 195 division, and Girolamo came in second at 220.
At New Englands, three wrestlers made it all the way to the final four. Tighe bowed out in the semi-finals at 195 and Kelly and Merrigan each placed second in all of New England.
#6: True Teammates
#10: The Rivalry Rematch
#11: Vaulting To The Top
#13: The Brick Wall
#14: Making A Big Splash
#15: The Buzzer Beater
Honorable Mention: The Finalists
2012-2013: The Complete Countdown