NORTHFIELD — Berkshire County as a whole only went 2-7 in individual championship matches at the 2017 Division III Western Mass Wrestling meet, but by Saturday night, that meant little to the Monument Mountain Spartans.
After a two-year absence from the regional podium, the Spartans made a triumphant return at Pioneer Valley Regional last weekend. Monument rocked the team standings, rolling up 203 points, nearly 50 more than second-place Hampden Charter (153). Taconic placed fifth with 124, while Mt. Greylock was ninth with 113 and Mt. Everett 16th with 47.5.
The Spartans placed three wrestlers in individual championship matches, with senior Nate Cormier earning a Western Mass title at 145 lbs.
Monument’s rise from a 10th place finish at last year’s meet was mirrored by Cormier’s and the wider senior class. Cormier finished fifth in his weight class a year ago and had to find his way to States as an alternate. This time around, he and his squad will travel to Wakefield High School this weekend as champions.
“That was huge motivation. I came back and got into states, but I knew I could do more than I did last year,” said Cormier. “We only gained three wrestlers and lost two, but we filled all weight classes. I am just ecstatic about the work ethic of this team, and the drive and the heart. It just makes me so happy.”
Cormier entered as the No. 1 seed at 145, and earned three pins en route to his title match with No. 2 Khalis Kasimov of Hampden Charter. The two rivals battled to a scoreless draw through one period, before Cormier picked up a roll in the second. Kasimov earned an escape, making it 2-1 entering the final two minutes.
Right out of the gate, Cormier grabbed two on a reversal to build up a three-point edge. From there, he rode Kasimov out. With eight seconds left, Hampden’s star had a shot to earn a quick escape and turn the tables, but Cormier held on through a flip to finish off the title win.
“Wrestling is a sport that you have to build. You take a skill set and build on top of that every year,” said Monument Head Coach Sam Jones, who was named Western Mass Coach of the Year at the event. “This is a culmination of hard work over four years for him and the same thing for the whole team.”
Cormier was joined by classmates John Field and Shamall Schoonmaker in the final, center-stage bouts.
Wrestling at 182lbs., Field was the No. 2 seed in the field. He pinned his opening opponent in just 47 seconds and then earned a 10-2 decision into the semis. There, he battled an opponent the distance for a 3-1 win, setting the stage for a duel with No. 1 Clayton Yanosky of Granby.
Field unfortunately got behind early, 2-0 after one. Then a near-fall put him behind 5-0 in the second. He earned one on an escape, but trailed by four with two minutes to catch up. Ultimately, Yanosky managed to evade Field for the final period, not allowing the Spartan senior to pick up any points and winning 5-1.
“I was pretty confident throughout the entire season. We had some injuries, but we worked through them and I trusted everyone on my team to get us here,” said Field. “We worked hard in the offseason and our juniors and seniors stepped up. [Coach Jones] had a gameplan ready for us and we took control.”
Schoonmaker was next up at 195lbs. where he entered as the No. 1 seed. Two pins and a 15-7 decision landed him in the finals against No. 3 Tyler Orban of Southwick. The Monument star appeared to have his way through the match, picking up a take-down in both the first and second periods to lead 4-3 entering the final frame.
Unfortunately, he got caught off-balance and Orban, who had earned two pins already, forced him down for the 5:00 fall.
“We knew we had a shot at this from the start. This is where our mind was set. But it just seemed like a dream and now it’s real,” said Cormier. “We won our freshman year and just went downhill from there. The seniors and I, we all worked hard for four years and it all paid off in the end.”
Monument won the team title elsewhere, though. The Spartans depth shined through Saturday with eight other wrestlers landing top-six finishes.
At 132lbs., Dorian Page had to win four consecutive matches through the consolation round and did so. His 7-4 decision in the consolation final earned him third place. Alex Leonard bounced back from a 15-0 tech fall in the semis to win his third-place match 7-0 at 138 lbs.
Despite getting knocked off by eventual second-place finisher Pat Fosby of Mt. Everett, Monument’s Sam Cormier pinned his opponent in the consolation final in 3:55 to take third at 120lbs.
Max Buffoni earned fourth at 113lbs, falling to Everett’s Anthony Lupiani in the consolation final by 13-6 decision. Steven Wool earned a pin in the consolation semifinal at 220lbs, before succumbing to a pin in the third-place match.
Sean Schaeffer lost his second match of the day, but won two straight in the consolation bracket before a grueling pin in 4:28 pushed him into the fifth-place match. There, though, he earned a 6-3 bounce-back win.
Even Caleb Pollard (106) and Finn Matthews (285) finished sixth in their respective classes. Matthews earned three pins on the day, including back-to-back in the consolation bracket.
“There were pieces there, we weren’t starting from scratch. 2014 we graduated seven seniors, so it was taking that freshmen class and molding that group, bringing them around and this is the culmination of that,” said Jones. “Our young guys have performed so well, too. I think we had three freshmen place in the top-six today.”
For Everett, Fosby came in as the No. 1 seed at 120, but his title match opponent Merrick Decker is as experienced as wrestlers come at the high school level. The Eagles star earned three straight pins to fight his way into the final, but Decker matched those and did so in the first period all three times.
The two dueled it out in a thrilling final that saw Decker go up 2-1 in the first. A lock was called in the second to put Fosby behind by two. Still Fosby appeared to have Decker on the ropes late in the second, but his foe escaped out of bounds.He got it down to 3-2 late in the third, but eventually had to give in and Decker pulled out a 5-2 victory for his third straight title.
Lupiani earned a pair of pins to start as the No. 3 seed at 113, and then pinned his first foe in the consolation bracket setting up a local rivalry match in the third-place match. He took that one 13-6 despite trailing early to Buffoni.
Devin Pelletier of Mt. Greylock was the other County champion, winning the title at 170lbs.