Published in the February 14, 2019 edition.
By DAN PAWLOWSKI
MELROSE — It wasn’t necessarily a revenge story.
But when the Wakefield wrestling team rolled into Melrose for the North Sectionals on Saturday, they knew who their top competition was.
The Warriors executed their gameplan and focused on their individual matchups; it was just an added bonus that they scored more points (190) than second-place Melrose (162) just 10 days after the Red Raiders edged the Warriors in the “Brawl in the Hall” for the Freedom Division Championship.
Wakefield and Melrose are always in the mix at the Div. 3 North Sectional. Melrose won the North last year, scoring 218 to Wakefield’s 206.
The 2018-19 Wakefield High wrestling team was built for a tournament like this. They have the upper-echelon talent, but what separated the Warriors from the rest of the field in the North was their depth.
“We wrestled tough,” said Wakefield head coach Ross Ickes, who was also named the D3 Coach of the Year on Saturday. “Our depth really showed.”
As Ickes pointed out, the Warriors were successful in many different weight classes. By contrast, a team like Melrose, who had three first-place wrestlers on Saturday compared to Wakefield’s two, only had a combined two wrestlers finish second and third, while Wakefield had a combined five. That’s a recipe that might benefit Melrose more at States this weekend, but at Sectionals, the deeper more well-rounded team wins.
Wakefield’s two champions on Saturday were Joao Valdevino winning in the 160 weight class and captain Derek Dimascio wrestling at 195.
Before we move on to the boys’ results, the Warriors had a third champion who wrestled in the girls’ tournament on Sunday. Ana Valdevino has won plenty of matches this year for Wakefield, no matter if she’s facing a boy or a girl. On Sunday, Valdevino got first place at New England’s and will now get ready to compete at All-States.
Wakefield’s two second-place winners on Saturday were captains Brock Johnson and Mike Yirrell.
Pentucket’s Tyler Knox reigned supreme at 106, winning his championship bout by pin in just 36 seconds. The freshman is widely considered the best in the state at 106 and will be heavily favored to take states in Wakefield, although he might get a fight out of sophomore Benny Herrera from Ashland.
Melrose junior Hunter Adrian continued his dominance at 113. He’s also the best wrestler in the state at his weight class and won’t have much trouble at states unless Tre Aulson of Georgetown-Ipswich gets a rematch. Wakefield’s Luke Fitzgerald was pinned by Adrian in the semifinals but he would go on to pick up 4th-place points for the Warriors.
Jameson O’Callahan continued his excellent season with a 3rd place finish at 120 lbs. O’Callahan lost to Wilmington’s Shane Penney in the semifinals but went on to beat Geno Tirone of Georgetown-Ipswich by a 12-3 major decision in the the 3rd-place match. Tyngsborough’s Evan Rankin won the North and will be in the mix at states although the favorite is senior Christian Rivas of Sabis.
Wakefield’s Nick Roberto showed up ready to roll at 126. The Warrior was just barely edged by eventual champion Joe Ganley of Wilmington by a 14-12 decision in the semifinals. Roberto chose to build on that great performance rather than be discouraged as he picked up a big 6-1 decision over Dylan Karpenko of Triton to get 3rd place. Roberto will no doubt hope for a Ganley rematch this weekend, although a pair of juniors, Middleboro’s Jaden Estrada and Holliston’s Brian Garry will be tough to beat at states.
Wakefield continued their trend of bouncing back for valuable points in the 132 weight class. Aidan Armstrong was pinned in 3:56 by Nic Williamson of Pentucket but Armstrong went on to win a couple more matches ultimately pinning Triton’s Spiros Markopoulos in 3:44 for 3rd place. Ian Forgitano pinned Williamson for first. Armstrong will have a shot at both wrestlers this weekend and might have to get through Foxboro senior Shayne Kerrigan if he wants to make a run at the belt.
Brock Johnson made plenty of noise at 138 meeting familiar foe Shea Fogarty of Melrose and beating him by a 15-5 major decision to get to the championship. Johnson was pinned in 2:37 by Tyngsborough’s Josh Ducharme but the 2nd place points were big for Wakefield and Johnson might just get another shot at Ducharme this weekend. Foxboro senior Tommy Gallagher is also a contender for a 138 first at states.
The 145 weight class is typically all about Melrose senior Stevie MacIntosh who is widely considered the best in D3 and top five in the state. But Wakefield’s Matt Cunningham didn’t go out without a fight as he beat Tyngsborough’s Matt Tyros by an 18-8 major decision to get to the semifinals. Cunningham and Pentucket’s Chris Legacy had an epic bout with Legacy just getting the edge on a 5-4 decision. MacIntosh would go on to pin Legacy in 11 seconds in the championship and will be the wrestler to beat at states although Taconic senior Zabion Powell will also be a tough out.
The Warriors missed a scoring opportunity at 152 as Melrose junior Sean Herbert, who rounds out the Red Raider top three of potential state champs, defeated Bedford’s Chase Anestis by a 3-1 decision. Herbert shouldn’t have any problems at states unless Anestis or Dedham senior Brandon Reyes step up.
Joao Valdevino got the Warriors buzzing again at 160 lbs. Valdevino met Tyngsborough’s Zach Souza in the semifinals and held on for a wild 6-4 decision. In the championship, Valdevino took care of business with an 11-6 decision over Matt Mansfield of Georgetown-Ipswich. Valdevino will have a shot at states, although to win it he might have to go through the talented Finbar Heaslip of Dedham.
Triton’s Anthony Ostrander beat Pentucket’s Jason Young by a 9-4 decision for first at 170.
Wakefield’s Mike Yirrell picked up second place points at 182 after holding on for a 7-6 decision over Triton’s Josh Stevens in the semifinals. There will be plenty of talent at 182 this weekend at states. Depending on the shifting from 170 to 182, Yirrell, Young, Athol’s Chris Waslake, Taconic’s Dylan Burke and Holliston’s Spencer Fetrow will all be in the mix.
With the Warriors in good position, Derek Dimascio stepped up and made a statement at 195 that the Warriors were here to win it. This is where Wakefield typically relies on their senior leaders to step up and Dimascio won three matches to get the gold. He pinned Mical Duntin of Melrose in 54 seconds, topped Mark Vecchio of Essex Tech in an 8-5 decision and executed well in the championship to beat Wilmington’s Nick Kullman by a 6-3 decision. Dimascio will now get ready for a challenging state showdown with plenty of strong wrestlers at 195 including Quabbin senior Sam Ware.
DJ Fraser of Nashoba Tech won it at 220 by a 6-4 decision over Melrose’s Jackson Curran. Curran and Fraser will have their hands full at states with Will Ogebebor of Foxboro and OJ Pekacar of Dedham.
Nathan Ickes was moved up to 285 by his father, giving him a tough challenge against the best heavyweights in the North. Ickes made it count as he brought home 4th place points. The freshman defeated Wilmington’s Ryan Murphy by a 7-6 decision before falling to eventual champion Jacob Codair of Pentucket in the semifinals. Ickes would pick up another win, this time a 3-1 decision over Brendan Rowe of Marblehead/Swampscott to put himself in position for 4th place. He was defeated by Nick Frongillo of Gerogetown/Ipswich in the 3rd place match. Candidates in the loaded 285 weight class at D3 states this weekend will include Brooks Jones of Wayland, Romelo Medina of Hampden Charter and Arthur O’Neill of Norton.
Ultimately, as Wakefield brings home their North trophy, they will remember the total team effort it took to get it. It’s been a terrific season so far and the sectionals, more-so than states, truly shows who the best team is.
Doors will open at the Charbonneau Field House tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. for yet another epic state showdown.