Central Mass. Div. 3 Wrestling Championship: Total of six Athol, Mahar wrestlers advance to state meet (PHOTOS)
Published: 02-10-2024 8:47 PM
Modified: 02-10-2024 9:09 PM
ASHLAND — It was a successful trip for the Athol and Mahar wrestling teams at the MIAA Division 3 Central Massachusetts Championship at Ashland High School on Saturday.
With the top four placers in each weight class advancing to the Div. 3 state tournament at Wakefield High School next weekend, four Bear wrestlers qualified while two Senators will be joining them.
As a team on Saturday, Athol placed seventh (107.5 points) while Mahar took 11th (69). Host Ashland won the team title with 291.5 points, followed by Wayland in second place (205) and Ludlow in third (168).
“I’m so unequivocally proud of these guys,” Bears coach Fred Marks said. “They kicked butt all day. All the matches where it could have gone 50/50 or they were going up against someone higher ranked than them, they were fighting. Everybody is tooth and nail and battled every second. I couldn’t be more proud of my guys.”
Athol had two wrestlers advance to championship matches. Abduli Gilmore — the defending Div. 3 sectional and state champ at 113 pounds — entered the day as the No. 1 seed at 113 and won his opening three matches to reach the finals.
Aiden Kirwan came into the day as the top seed at 157 and also won his first three matches to reach the finals.
Gilmore advanced to the finals following a pair of pins before defeating South Hadley’s Patrick Lavalle via technical fall in the semis. As the top seed and defending champ, Gilmore knew he went into the tournament with a target on his back, something he welcomed.
“I knew everyone was going to be coming after me,” Gilmore said. “I was prepared. It’s wrestling.”
Waiting in the finals was Holliston’s Bavly Mikhail, who Gilmore beat at this same tournament last year.
It went Mikhail’s way the second time around, as he built an early lead and was able to pull out a 6-4 decision victory to snag the sectional title.
“The finals match was good,” Gilmore said. “I lost my shot a little bit at first and forced it trying to grab the leg. That jammed me under. The kid was obviously good and was good last year. I beat him last year and he beat me as payback. Now we’re 1-1 against each other.”
Kirwan, the top seed at 157, earned a bye in the first round then walked away with first-period pins against Quabbin’s Michael Tobin and Holliston’s Quinn Polny to reach the finals for the second straight year.
Kirwan — who placed second last year — was unable to get past Ashland’s Adrian Guzman in the finals, as Guzman earned a pin 1 minute, 48 seconds into the match.
“Last year I did the same thing making it to the finals match and fell short,” Kirwan said. “This year I was hoping to change it but the same thing happened. It’s tough falling short but second place is still amazing.”
Like Gilmore, Kirwan had a target on his back as the top seed in his bracket. At a tournament like this, he knew he had to have his best each time out on the mat.
“It was a challenge,” Kirwan said. “Both matches weren’t easy. They came out wanting to take out the No. 1 seed. It’s a big target. Every kid here comes here with the goal of moving onto next week. You have to wrestle a hard six minutes to move on.”
Kirwan noted that the great part about wrestling is that his season keeps going even though he didn’t get the end result he wanted. He’s hoping to get another crack at Guzman and continue to make noise at the state championship next weekend.
“He’s a really good wrestler,” Kirwan said of Guzman. “The great thing is you only have to wait until next week to try to beat him again. That’s why this is the best sport. You lose one week but have a chance to beat them next week when it matters more.”
Gilmore and Kirwan won’t be the only Bears in Wakefield next Saturday.
Athol’s Evan Ke entered the day as the No. 4 seed at 120 and went 1-1 to open the day. In the consolation bracket he picked up a pin over Granby’s Kirk Kim and in the third place match, secured a first-period pin over Wayland’s Paul Lang to take third at his weight class and secure a spot at Div. 3 states.
Teammate Riley Reed won his opening three matches of the day to reach the semifinals, where he fell to Quabbin’s Jack Fors. In the third place match Reed was unable to get a win over Wayland’s Cole Duffy, but his work early in the day helped him get a fourth place finish and advance to states.
Adam Rodriguez added a sixth-place finish at 120 for the Bears.
Sayyid Roberts was the top finisher for Mahar, taking third at 150.
The senior entered as the No. 2 seed and opened the day with a pair of victories via pinfall to reach the semifinals. There, he fell to Quabbin’s Cole Wilson by a 9-2 decision.
Roberts followed it up with an 11-3 win over Ludlow’s Logan Cabral to reach the third-place match, where he earned a victory over Ashland’s Kevin Ozulumba by a 6-5 decision to take third at 150.
“I didn’t want to lose so coming in third kind of sucks,” Roberts said. “Other than that we had a couple guys on our team place which is great. As a senior this was great. I missed out on sectionals last year. I was really trying to make it to next weekend so that’s awesome. I’m pumped for next week and can’t wait for practice this week.”
It was a late takedown that secured Roberts’ third place finish. Trailing against Ozulumba, Roberts went for a move he hadn’t practiced much, but something his dad once taught him. It worked to perfection and he walked away with the third-place finish.
“It was a tough match,” Roberts said. “He was strong. What I usually do on takedowns wasn’t working. I had to come up with a couple things on the spot. The last thing I ran to win the match, my dad taught me something that we had never practiced before. I gave it a shot and it worked. Sometimes you just have to go for it.”
Joining Roberts at states next week is teammate Tristen Gaj, who placed fourth at 157.
Gaj went 1-1 to open the day, followed it up with three straight wins — two via pin before earning an 8-6 decision over Holliston’s Quinn Polny — to reach the third-place match.
He fell to Wayland’s Cole Chase by a 3-1 decision, as settled for fourth.
Mahar’s Elias Roberts came away with a fifth-place finish at 132. He opened the day with a loss, followed it up with back-to-back wins, fell to Ashland’s Ryan Lyrio before knocking off Keefe Tech’s Jon Arena by an 8-6 decision in the fifth-place match.
By earning fifth, Elias Roberts will serve as an alternate at states.
“It was tough,” Elias Roberts said. “My legs hurt all day. It was a fun tournament, though. I placed sixth two years in a row so I’m going up.”
Colby Chaisson won a pair of matches at 144 to walk away with a sixth-place finish for Mahar.