2022 MIDDLESEX League champion winner Melrose High wrestling celebrates after their tremendous 37-33 victory over Wakefield at the Brawl in the Hall at Memorial Hall. (Raj Das edphotos.com)

 


League champ Red Raiders earns 2nd at Duals

 

By JENNIFER GENTILE

MELROSE—The Fourth Annual Brawl in the Hall between the Melrose and Wakefield high school wrestling teams lived up to its name on Wed., Feb. 2 at the historic Memorial Hall in Melrose, a now-favorite venue of both teams. And in purest form, Melrose and Wakefield entered the building both unbeaten at 5-0 and considered state contenders. But only one could emerge as the undefeated league champ and that honor went to Melrose, who topped Wakefield, 37-33 in a down-to-the-wire thriller.

It was the first Brawl in the Hall victory for Melrose since their 2019 season. Wakefield beat Melrose last spring and took the Brawl victory in 2020 before Melrose beat them at States.

Memorial Hall was simply radioactive with fans from both communities packing the stands. Key pins over the night included from Alec McLaughlin, Steve Fogarty, Shea Fogarty and and Nico Chiulli, while junior Dom Delgado effectively won the night for Melrose with a clutch 12-11 decision that closed the door on a Warrior comeback. Even more, Melrose senior captain and 2020 state champion Sean Thomas earned his 100th win as a Red Raider against Wakefield’s Bryan Fabbri. Clearly, it was a night of epic celebration.

Melrose head coach Larry Tremblay could only speak of pride from the effort. “What a fantastic win, and it didn’t go according to script. We had to strategize and move kids up in weight classes and some wrestlers came through with unexpected wins. It was just wild.”

Melrose started 6 points up when Wakefield forfeited in the 106-pound weight class, giving Melrose’s Marco Albanese a victory. A tough Mike Thomas pushed Wakefield’s Gavin Bayers to three sets in the 113 before falling 12-4, putting Wakefield on the board, but behind, 6-4. In the 120, Sean Thomas earned his historic feat with a 10-4 major decision against Bryan Fabbri in a long bout that was all Thomas domination. Coach Tremblay saluted his 2020 state champ. “Because of the pandemic and the abbreviated season last spring, he could have had his 100th win long ago and may have been primed to hit 150 this year. But, this was a big night for him and he’s one of the top technical wrestlers in the state.”

Wakefield would narrow the gap when Andrew Valley took a decision in the 126 against freshman Quinn Fogarty in three, hard-fought rounds to cut the lead to 10-8. Melrose’s junior captain Alec McLaughlin had the crowd on their feet with the Red Raiders first pin of the night against Wakefield’s Tommy Grover, who recently won in the Lostano Tournament. McLaughlin’s huge pin at the whistle proved critical to Melrose’s victory. “Alec was a real game changer,” says Tremblay. “I can’t understate how important that pin was for us. He wrestled great.”

Melrose’s Alex Tremblay had one of the more unique bouts of the night against Wakefield’s Oisin Cullen. Cullen had an early takedown to gain two points then dominated the second round, increasing his lead to 14-3 but Tremblay would chip away and nearly pin Cullen after a reversal and headlock. In the third round, Cullen was in trouble when Tremblay got on top of him, but he flipped Tremblay and got on top for the pin. The overall score turned to 16-14. After, Wakefield’s tough Nick Roberto would also prevail over Oto Albanese in the 145 with a late pin and that gave the Warriors their first lead of the night at 20-16.

The Red Raiders regained the lead thanks to dynamite efforts from brothers Steve Fogarty (152) and Shea Fogarty (160) whose back-to-back pins had the crowd on their feet. They defeated Sean Callanan (152) and Zach Arria (160) respectively which put Melrose back again with a lead of 28-20. “I can’t say enough about these two,” the coach says. “Steven and Shea are two of the biggest gamers I’ve seen in the whole state. They have come up huge for us in recent meets.”

Melrose would fall in the 170 when Warrior Theo Valenti topped Pedro Ribeiro but Melrose still led by a score of 28-24. Then Wakefield’s Luke Ickes pinned Melrose’s Tommy Keefe at 182 and regained the lead, 30-28. The turning point came in the final bouts, including the 195 and 220. Melrose would need a pin to win and fortunately that came in the form of Nico Chiulli in the 195 who pinned Joe LaMonica of Wakefield at 5:24. It’s safe to say Melrose fans went wild. Says Tremblay, “We had Nico filling in for another wrestler and he pulled through for us when we needed it.”

With Melrose bracing on to a lead of 34-30, and no room for error, junior Dom Delgado had the round of the night with a heart-stopping 12-11 decision over Ben Burdetsky. With the stakes high (a pin or major decision loss would have contributed to a Wakefield victory) the bout went three rounds and Delgado led 7-6 going into the third. Burdetsky then got two points before Delgado reversed for to tie it at 9. Delgado next gained 3 back points and Burdetsky reversed for two. With less than ten seconds Delgado clung on for a 12-11 decision. Melrose finished the deal when Melrose’s Braden Marceau fell in a decision against Nathan Ickes for a 33-37 final. From top to bottom, the Melrose team got it done to earn them their first title since 2019. Because local wrestling fans know: all roads to the ML title go through Wakefield, so it was mission accomplished.

Coach Tremblay credited Delgado for sealing the deal. “Dom’s match was incredible. He had to be bumped up a class and was just super composed out there. We’re proud of him. Who knew it would be Dom that would sway the result?”

Overall, it was a fantastic effort against an equally-impressive Wakefield team, who is coached by Tremblay’s former assistant Ross Ickes, who earned his 400th career win at Wakefield high recently. Confirms Tremblay, “Wakefield is a very tough team. So well coached. We know we will see them again this season.”

 

THE MATCH of the night might have been Dom Delgado’s epic 12-11 clinch decision in the 220 over Wakefield’s Ben Burdetsky. (Raj Das edphotos.com)

 

Melrose places second in State Dual Meet 

Energized by the win, Melrose beat the odds and became the Div. 3 State Dual silver medalists at the 2022 Massachusetts Wrestling Coaches Association Division 3 State Dual championship on Saturday at Duxbury High after falling just 39-37 to Ashland in the finals. This after picking off #1 seed Duxbury High and catapulting past higher seeded teams into the finals. It was an insane end to the meet but worth the trip to the South Shore for fans.

Melrose started the day by battling #4 Duxbury and beating them 50-28. They went on to play #1 Norton (21-0) and shockingly beat them 54-22. Perhaps they had anticipated meeting Tewksbury, a strong favorite in the north but instead in the finals faced #2 Ashland, who finally beat Melrose by that narrow victory of 39-37. It was a great appetizer for State action, as these are teams Melrose will surely face if they’d like to get back their state title they earned in 2020.

 

Those Red Raiders who went 3-0 with pins were senior captain Sean Thomas, junior Oto Albanese, and junior Stephen Fogarty. Others going unbeaten were senior captain Shea Fogarty (2 pins, 1 major) junior Brayden Marceau and freshmen Macro Albanese and Michael Thomas. Coming up with key pins were Alec McLaughlin and Pedro Robeiro and sporting winning 2-1 records were Nico Chiulli and Dom Delgado.

Coach Tremblay was equally as pleased with this effort. “The Fogarty’s (brothers) came up huge for us, once again. Overall, every one of these kids wrestled their heart out. Oto looked great, plus Sean, and our underclassmen. We were just rolling right along. If you told me we’d be second in states after losing a few kids after the start of the season, I’d say you were crazy.”

Melrose is 16-4 on the season and unbeaten in the ML with a final dual meet against Woburn on tap for Wednesday (post deadline) and an appearance at the Div. 3 North Sectionals this weekend at Tewksbury High. Expect Melrose to fight for a crown. It seems they’ve only just begun.

 

See more photos from “Brawl in the Hall” here.