Taconic Dominates, Demonstrates Sportsmanship
TURNERS FALLS, Mass. -- All of Rick Stacy’s favorite wrestlers wore green on Saturday.
Stacy spent the day at the top of the bleachers at Franklin County Tech with a contingent of fans on hand to root on the Southwick-Tolland Regional Rams at the Western Massachusetts Division 3 Championships.
But Stacy also kept an eye out for another grappler in green and gold: Taconic High’s Shawn O’Shea.
Stacy’s been a fan of the junor 195-pounder ever since he encountered O’Shea at a meet earlier this season.
“He wrestled my stepson, and his overall sportsmanship, his overall character was really great,” Stacy said of O’Shea. “A couple of the guys on the [Southwick] who knew Shawn already went up to him and said, ‘Hey, take it easy on the kid that you’re about to fight.’ And he said, ‘No worries, no worries.’
“While he was wrestling [Mason Iglesias], Shawn was gracious enough to actually kind of mentor him during the match a little bit, praise him a little bit, encourage him, saying ‘Do this, do that.’ Then, of course, the second round came, and Shawn said, ‘OK, I’ve got to take care of business, too.’
“Then I talked to him after the match, and he was just a really good kid. Gave me a big hug, and I’d never met him before. Just a real gentleman.”
On Saturday, that nice guy finished first.
So did three of O’Shea’s Taconic teammates as they body slammed the field to win the sectional championship with 239.5 points, well ahead of runner-up and host Franklin Tech, which earned 156 to edge Hampden Charter for second.
Mike Lafreniere (132 pounds), Zabion Powell (145) and Dylan Burke (182) also won gold medals for Taconic, which got runner-up finishes from Zach Mathes (138) and Isiaha Hartman-Caesar (285).
In addition to winning titles, O’Shea and Lafreniere also each picked up his 100th career victory for Taconic -- the former in the semi-finals, the latter in the championship bout.
“The hundred win thing, that was a great achievement,” O’Shea said. “I worked really hard for it. I had to work really hard to get that high. And it’s not easy. One hundred wins is not easy in high school wrestling. You’ve just got to work really hard and put in the best effort that you can.”
O’Shea said he had been keeping track of his wins and eyeing the milestone, which could have come in the semi-finals on Saturday had Taconic seen its last dual meet of the season canceled by weather earlier in the week.
Lafreniere on the other hand? He had no idea the mark was coming.
“It was my parents who kept track,” Lafreniere said. “I knew I was getting close, but I never even knew. They said it was like three matches ahead. And my mom came over at the end and said, ‘This is your match to win in order to get 100,’ so my mindset was just focused on winning.
“It worked out well. I was really pumped. I had a great time.”
Lafreniere reached 100 with his third pin in three matches on Saturday, stopping South Hadley’s Joe Podolak in the second period.
At 145, Powell had a pair of pins going into the finals, where he earned a 6-1 decision over Sabis’ Jalen Rogers thanks to a takedown and three back points to break a 1-1 tie in the closing seconds.
Burke cruised into the 182 final with a pair of first-minute pins but then had to go the distance for a 9-6 win over Hampshire’s Kobe Clifford.
O’Shea gave Stacy and the rest of his fans plenty of opportunities to see him in action. Without a bye in the first round, O’Shea had to wrestle three times to get to the finals, earning three pins to set up a match with Frontier’s Nick Austin, who pushed O’Shea for a 3-2 decision and Taconic’s fourth title -- more than any other team in the field.
“It’s just a huge family,” Lafreniere said of the Taconic team. “We all love each other, we all cheer each other on.
“We’ve just been working our hardest -- in the room, out of the room. We talk about wrestling during school, we talk about it at night on our phones, we text each other all the time. And on the mat, we push ourselves as hard as we can.”
Two other Berkshire County schools pushed their way into the top 10 on Saturday.
Monument Mountain placed seventh behind individual titles from Caleb Pollard (113) and Sam Cormier (152).
Pollard pinned Sabis’ Christian Kelly 4 minutes, 4 seconds into their championship match. Cormier earned an 8-3 decision over Hampden Charter’s Thomas Czartoryski.
Mount Everett was 10th after putting two wrestlers in the title round. Zach Lupiani (120) and Anthony Lupiani (126) each came up a little short, settling for second place.
Mount Greylock finished 15th. Liam Feeley led the way, rebounding from a loss in the championship semi-finals to win two matches in the consolations and place third in the tournament. Feeley outpointed Pathfinder’s Markys Lissaint, 6-4, in the third-place match.