THE WARRIORS are 2022 Div. 3 North champions. (Wakefield Wrestling Photo)

By DAN PAWLOWSKI

TEWKSBURY — It’s difficult to ever describe a program like the Wakefield High wrestling team as underdogs at a sectional tournament. After all, they were Div. 3 North sectional champs as recently as 2019 and they were runners-up in the last “typical” D3N tourney hosted at the Charbonneau Field House in 2020.

The Warriors were certainly expected to be in the mix on Saturday at Tewksbury Memorial High School. Were they expected to beat the host Redmen or 2020 champ and rival Melrose who had just defeated the Warriors in the Brawl in the Hall on Feb. 2?

Probably not.

Then again, even Wakefield didn’t expect all 13 of their competitors to medal. The result included two champions (Nathan Ickes and Nick Roberto), three second place finishes (Gavin Bayers, Luke Ickes, Theo Valenti), two third place finishes (Joe Lamonica and Andrew Valley), four fourth placers (Zach Arria, Sean Callanan, Bryan Fabbri and Tommy Grover), a 5th place (Oisin Cullen) and a 6th (Ben Burdetsky) as Wakefield won it all.

Eleven qualified for the MIAA D3 State Tournament held this Friday and Saturday at Game On in Fitchburg.

“That’s the most we’ve ever qualified,” said head coach Ross Ickes who was also named the 2021-22 Div. 3 North Coach of the Year. “It was the best these kids have wrestled all season. Every point mattered.”

The Warriors scored 228.5 points, just 12 more than 2nd place Tewksbury. Melrose (204.5) was third followed by Danvers (141.5), last year’s D3N champion Triton (138), Gloucester (126.5), Burlington (92), Wilmington (85.5), Excel Academy (84), Watertown (83.5), North Middlesex (58), Nashoba Tech (46) and Weston.

Ickes was perhaps most proud of the fact that every Warrior finished either at their seed or higher. Wakefield didn’t back down from anyone.

The two rounds most key to Wakefield’s victory according to Ickes was the first, were every single Wakefield wrestler pinned their opponent to rack up a quick 78 points for the team and in the consolation semifinals which allowed the Warriors to earn a combined six third and fourth place finishes, the most in the tournament.

Roberto stood atop the podium in the 145 weight class, going 4-0 on the day concluding with a finals matchup against familiar foe Otto Albanese of Melrose. Roberto, who beat Albanese in the Brawl, came away with a 10-3 decision for gold thanks to three takedowns, a nearfall and an escape. Top-seeded Roberto pinned Alex McGillivray of Burlington in the first and Rafael Maya of Excel in the quarterfinals before taking down Zander Rolfe of Triton by technical fall.

Roberto is seeded 4th at 145 for the state tournament. He’s set to face Louis Rhodes of Taconic in the first round.

Nathan Ickes was seeded 2nd in the 285 heavyweight division. He also beat a familiar Red Raider in the Finals, 5th seeded Braden Marceau who upset top seeded Nick Wilson by a 5-4 decision in the semifinals. Ickes and Marceau had an epic bout in the finals. Multiple escapes by Ickes allowed him to rack up a 3-0 lead and he battled to hold on for the 3-2 decision after Marceau had a takedown in the 3rd. Ickes pinned Triton’s Antonio Sforza in the first, and beat Excel’s Michael Tinjaca Cepeda by a 5-1 decision in the semifinals.

Ickes earned the top seed in the state tournament where he and his father will scout first round opponent James McDonough of Bristol Plymouth.

Theo Valenti wrestled to his seed at 170 as he took silver after a long battle in the finals ended in a pin for top seed Michael Ablitotis of Danvers. Valenti’s journey to the finals included a pin over Kristofer Cummings of North Middlesex in the quarters and a hard-fought pin in 2:50 over 3rd seeded Pedro Ribeiro of Melrose.

Valenti will meet Hanover’s Garrett Arnold in the first round at states.

Luke Ickes also had the 2nd seed as he went 2-1 at 182, falling by a 6-1 decision in the finals to top seed Michael Toppan of Gloucester. Ickes pinned Nico Chiulli of Melrose in the quarterfinals in 3:13 and won an epic matchup in the semifinals against league foe Marcus Tucci of Burlington, 6-4 in sudden victories thanks to an overtime takedown.

Ickes will wrestle Hamden Charter’s Alan Meisenheimer in the first round at states.

Gavin Bayers’ 2nd place at 113 included a pin and a decision before getting pinned by top seed Noah Lake of North Middlesex in the finals. Second-seeded Bayers made quick work of Weston’s Joseph Scaparrotta in the first with a pin in 1:14 and beat third-seeded Michael Thomas of Melrose by a 9-2 decision in the semifinals thanks to three takedowns, a nearfall and an escape.

Bayers drew Taconic’s West Dews in the first round at states.

Andrew Valley got 3rd at 126 going 4-1 on the day. He pinned Brenden Donovan of Watertown and Kam Grad of Nashoba Tech in the quarters before falling to eventual champ Luke Vitale of Wilmington in the semifinals. His pin in the consolation semifinals over Logan Holmes of Tewksbury set up a 3rd place bout where he pinned Gloucester’s Joe Allen in 1:09.

Valley will meet Pembroke’s Nathan Rosas in the state tournament.

Lamonica’s 3rd place finish was perhaps the best example of the Warriors punching above their weight class. Seeded 7th, Lamonica worked his way up, all in the consolation round after getting pinned by 2nd seeded Brendan Whalen of Danvers in the quarters despite Lamonica outscoring him. Lamonica built off that great effort, pinning 6th seed Connor Burson of North Middlesex in 3:17 before defeating Watertown’s Isaac Russo in the consolation semi’s. He won the 3rd place bout by forfeit.

Lamonica will see Richard McGreevy of Bristol Aggie in the first round at states.

Tommy Grover, the 6th seed at 132, took 4th with wins over Owen Campbell of Nashoba Tech (F, :37) and Andrew Flores of Excel (DEC, 10-3). The best victory of the day from Grover came in the consolation semifinals where he outlasted 2nd seed Connor McCarthy of Danvers with a 7-6 decision.

Grover will wrestle Owen Brennan of Taconic at states.

Fifth seeded Bryan Fabbri went 3-2 at 120 to get 4th with wins over 3rd seeded Bryan Ayala of Excel (F, 1:56) and Alex Maguire of Watertown (F, :35). Fabbri beat Triton’s 6th seeded Alex Sabino in the consolation semis (MD, 12-4) to earn 4th.

Fourth seeded Sean Callanan went 3-2 at 160 to get 4th with wins over Burlington Matthew Smith (F, :58) and 5th seeded Joseph Rogers of Nashoba Tech (DEC, 8-6). Callanan later went on to beat 6th seeded Eric Tonyan of Watertown in the consolation semifinals (DEC, 15-8).

Callanan drew Longmeadow’s Paul Barrett for states.

Fifth seeded Zach Arria went 3-2 to get 4th at 152. He beat Patrick Diette of North Middlesex (F, 1:50) and 4th seed Ryan Fleming of Tewksbury (MD, 12-4). He kept Wakefield’s dominant consolation semifinal work going with a win over Brady Gleason of Watertown (F, 2:25).

Arria will meet Carver’s Joe Tully at the state tournament.

Oisin Cullen’s wins at 138 to get 5th included victories over Triton’s Jonah Tillman (F, 1:30), Alex Tremblay of Melrose (F, 1:15) and Miguel Colon of Watertown (F, 1:11).

Ben Burdetsky had a win over 5th seeded Mathew Piper of North Middlesex to help him finish 6th at 220.

“We didn’t have a break all day,” said Ickes who was quick to call his coach of the year award a complete coaching staff accolade. After all, with so many wrestlers competing, often at once, it took all of assistants Matt Manfredi, Mike Grover, John Bosco, Dan Arria and Glenn Duffy to work as a team and help their student athletes achieve their best.

The Warriors will be described as underdogs again at the Div. 3 State Meet, only this time, they’ll be rolling in with a sectional championship trophy in tow.