The Ashland High wrestling team, which finished third in the Tri Valley League, enjoyed lots of success at the Division 3 Central Sectional Tournament at Holliston on Feb. 15.
Coach Pete Zacchilli, who’s guided the program for the last seven years, watched nine of his Clockers place in the top five. Seven of the nine advanced to the State tourney with two others qualifying as alternates (fifth-place finishers).
Ashland finished the Sectional in second place with 186.5 points, edging out Holliston, which took third with 185 points. Wayland won the tourney by a wide margin, compiling 248.5 points.
The Clockers’ seven wrestlers who’ll compete at the State tourney in Wayland include, Benny Herrera, Armen Bazarian, Matt Gillis, Collin Dagg, Nick Crupi, Patrick Deslauriers and Erick Corvera. The two alternates are Gabe Ribera and Liam Fleming. Ashland finished the tourney with three first-place finishers, three took third-place, one finished fourth and two managed fifth-place slots.
“We’re peaking at the right time,’’ Zacchilli noted. “We’ll go to the States with a feeling of optimism and confidence.
Here’s a capsule look at the wrestlers who placed:
BENNY HERRERA — A junior, who competes in the 113-pound class, he won all three of his matches to become a three-time Sectional champ. Herrera previously won Sectional titles at 106 pounds as a freshman and sophomore. Last year he was second in the State tourney and fourth at All-States. He won his third Sectional crown, 17-1, on a technical fall, beating Jon Mahony of Mahar Regional. “Benny has a phenomenal work ethic,’’ Zacchilli said. “He goes above and beyond and his approach is relentless. He’s an offensive wrestler who scores from a lot of positions. A good athlete, he’s developed mental toughness. He’s the sixth wrestler in Ashland history to go undefeated in dual meets.’’ Herrera had a 33-2 record after the Sectional.
ARMEN BAZARIAN — A two-year varsity wrestler, the senior did not place at the Sectional last year but made an impact this season in the 126-pound category by defeating three matmen to finish first. Bazarian beat Matthew Dowd of Tri County in the final on a first-period pin. “A high-level wrestler who’s eager and enthusiastic, Armen has gained confidence and that’s been a plus,’’ Zacchilli said. “He’s was very motivated in the off-season and was committed to placing this year.’’ Bazarian took a 12-match win streak into the States along with a record of 29-7.
MATT GILLIS — Another wrestler who didn’t place at the Sectional last year, the sophomore won four matches and finished first in the 160-pound class. Gillis takes a 26-10 record into the States. “Matt is our toughest kid,’’ Zacchilli said. “He’s fearless and he’s our most physical competitor. He’s got a chance to win every time he’s on the mat. Only in his second year, he’s beginning to develop technique. He proved he was the best in the 160 class when he beat Damien Parseghian of Wayland.’’
COLLIN DAGG — Finishing second in the Sectional last year at 195 pounds, this senior was third in the 220-pound class after posting a 4-1 record. Zacchilli labels him “a class act’’ for the way he approaches academics and athletics. “Collin is a three-sport athlete (football, wrestling and lacrosse) and an outstanding student,’’ Zacchilli said. “He’s difficult to score on, is physically strong and gets good position. A hard-worker in the weight room, opposing coaches and opponents know he’s a high-character guy.’’ His record heading into the States is 31-9.
NICK CRUPI — A junior, he posted a 3-1 record for a third-place finish at 132 pounds. “Nick had a great day and a great approach offensively from his feet, and that helped him to go 3-1 and take third place,’’ Zacchilli said.
PATRICK DESLAURIERS — A freshman, he won five of his six matches for a third-place finish in the 182-pound category. “It’s very impressive to see a freshman finish the way he did,’’ said Zacchilli. “I’m not sure we’ve ever had a freshman win five matches at a Sectional.’’
ERICK CORVERA — A senior, he posted a 4-2 record for a fourth-place finish in the 195-pound class. “Erick competed in a tough weight class,’’ Zacchilli emphasized. “And, it’s a credit to him to move on to the State tourney.’’
GABE RIBERA — A sophomore, he split his four matches but still took fifth place in the 120-pound class. By finishing fifth, he’ll be an alternate at the States. “Gabe showed great resilience by bouncing back after two straight losses to secure a fifth-place finish,’’ Zacchilli said.
LIAM FLEMING — A freshman, he compiled a 3-2 record to take fifth place in the 145-pound category. Like Ribera, he’ll go to the States as an alternate. “Liam showed dramatic improvement,’’ Zacchilli noted. “He pinned Holliston’s Mike Liberty, who beat Liam, 9-0, in his second match of the season.’’