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More than a half-century later, the fire continues to burn for Chase family in Wayland’s wrestling program

Cole Chase (left) continues the family legacy in Wayland wrestling that started with his grandfather Gary (center) and includes his father and current coach Sean (right).Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

The year was 1968 and Gary Chase was a Bobby Orr-loving, pond-skating freshman just trying to sign up for Wayland High’s freshman football team when an assistant coach began peppering him with questions about his winter plans.

“I’m going to play hockey,” Gary managed to mutter.

That wasn’t the right answer, so coach Rick Moyer, who helmed both the varsity wrestling and freshman football teams, secured Gary’s facemask in his fist.

“No, you’re not,” Gary recalls his coach telling him, in no uncertain terms. “You’re going to wrestle.”

So he did. At that moment, Gary couldn’t have imagined the multi-generational course he was unwittingly charting.


“One little decision,” he says now, at age 67, “and a whole lifetime in a wrestling room.”

“Yeah, thanks dad!” his son, Sean, chimed in from across the mat.

The walls of the Wayland wrestling room feature photos of past champions, including Gary Chase as a senior captain in 1972.Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

For the past half century, there have been two unwavering truths about Wayland wrestling: The Warriors warm up to Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire,” and there’s at least one Chase in the team photo.

Inside the black and orange Wayland wrestling room — a large, breezy space wrapping around the side of the school’s bubble-shaped field house — hang rows of wood-framed, glass-ensconced photos of Wayland greats. The Wall of Champions reads like a Chase family tree, tracing from Gary’s 1972 New England title at 157 pounds to his brother Bob’s 1974 sectional title to Sean (two-time sectional finalist) and his brother Brett (29-0 his senior year) to their future brother-in-law Chris Newton (1998 Division 3 state champion) and all the way to a cousin-in-law (Kenny McGuire).

On Dec. 11, a new page was added to the Chase legacy when Sean’s son, Cole, a 14-year-old freshman, won his varsity debut at 145 pounds during a dual with Milford.

“It was pretty surreal to see him in a Wayland singlet, get his arm raised and walk over and shake my hand,” said Sean Chase, now in his 14th season as head coach.


“That was exciting,” his grandfather added. “Thrilling.”

Fifty-three years before Cole’s first win, his grandfather was embarking on a wrestling career that took him to Boston State (now UMass Boston). But after he graduated and started a family with his wife, Eileen, he left athletics behind.

But at age 30, Moyer approached Chase about filling the vacant Lincoln-Sudbury wrestling coach position. Gary took the job and coached L-S for the next four years, improving the Warriors’ record from 0-11 the season before he arrived to 9-5-1 in his first year.

In 1988, Gary joined the Wayland staff as an assistant, spending 10 years under Moyer before rising to become the second head coach in program history when his mentor stepped down after 30 seasons.

For the next 10 years, Gary led Wayland to an otherworldly 218-12-2 record, including a 91-1-1 dual-meet mark over a four-year span from 1998-2001. He was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2013.

“The coaching philosophy was to coach as a team,” Gary said. “You coached to bring the entire team along. It goes back to coach Moyer. Wayland has never coached for the individual. Eventually you want the individuals to do as well as they can, but the entire concept was to coach for the team and bring the whole team along at the same pace. That’s why Wayland has always had an extremely strong dual meet team.”


Gary led the Warriors to the 2006 individual and dual meet state championships — known as the undisputed championship — and the 2007 dual meet state crown. After that 2007 season he stepped aside and Sean took over.

“The grind kind of got to me,” Gary said. “I ended up getting a promotion at work and I couldn’t spend the time.”

Beginning with grandfather Gary Chase (middle) and now including son Sean (right) and grandson Cole (left), the family has been front and center in Wayland wrestling for more than 50 years.Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

After his senior year at Wayland in 1995, Sean had gone to Boston College intending to wrestle, but soon was burnt out on the sport and walked onto the Eagles lacrosse team. During his senior year he was student-teaching at Wayland and joined the wrestling staff as an assistant. He’s now been the head coach for 14 years, 268 wins and two state championships, including an undisputed finish in 2016.

“From 1989 on, I’ve been in this field house every winter, with the exception of last winter,” Sean said. “I really don’t know winter any other way.”

He also took a play out of Moyer’s playbook, spending the past 16 years as Wayland’s freshman football coach. It has been fertile recruiting ground, especially following seasons such as this fall, when the Warriors went 10-0 with Cole playing center and defensive end.

“In Wayland we have athletes who wrestle, we don’t necessarily have wrestlers,” Sean explained. “We have guys who come into the program because of our personal connections we’ve made with them through the community and through other sports. It kind of blossoms from there.”


Sean, who also coaches Cole with the MetroWest United Wrestling club, didn’t have to break a sweat convincing his own son to come out for the team.

“My earliest memories are definitely being here in kindergarten,” Cole said, looking around the wrestling room.

While he enjoyed his first varsity win, the moment Cole will never forget was stepping out for warm-ups to the snarling guitar riffs and paint-splatter drumming of The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s “Fire” — a 51-year tradition birthed from an idea by David Lipton, now a pre-eminent economist and former acting managing director of the International Monetary Fund.

“It was surreal,” Cole said. “I tried to keep a straight face, but I was smiling. I’d seen so many people do it before.”

“It’s one of the oldest traditions in Massachusetts sports,” says Gary, who was a sophomore when Lipton first blasted “Fire” from a portable record player in December 1970. “It’s never deviated. No one’s ever changed the song.”

No one would dare. At least as long as there’s a Chase around.

Near falls

Thomas Brown entered the highly-competitive George Bossi Lowell Holiday Tournament as the eighth seed carrying a combination of composure and skill that not many underclassmen possess.

The Chelmsford freshman left the tournament as a champion after besting the top two seeds to claim the 285-pound title.

He may be a first-year at Chelmsford, but Brown had captured multiple youth titles competing for Doughboy Wrestling Club.

“Thomas is an excellent wrestler,” coach Chris Piscione said. “He’s tough as nails, and he competes really well. Once he got out there, and I saw he is starting to really control the tempo of the match, control everything, I’m like, ‘This is going to be a problem [for opponents].’”


In a quarterfinal against two-time Vermont state champion Hayden Gaudette of Mount Anthony, the match was deadlocked, 0-0, after the first period, and 3-3 after two following escapes by both wrestlers. Brown seized a one-point advantage with five seconds left when Gaudette was whistled for his second stall, and secured the win.

Brown said his conditioning and experience against older wrestlers at the club level proved to be the difference in the tournament.

“They would always beat me up in practice and help me deal with losing and really help me with the mental part of the sport,” Brown said.

▪ St. John’s Prep captured the Bossi team title for the first time when junior Charlie Smith placed sixth at 285, allowing Prep (205 points) to edge Timberlane, N.H. (203).

Matches to watch

Wednesday, Milford at Taunton, 7 p.m. — In a Hockomock Kelley-Rex match, Milford enters at 4-0. Taunton (2-1) will have challenge Sunday night vs. Oliver Ames.

Wednesday, Methuen at North Andover, 7 p.m. — With victories already registered against Xaverian and Billerica, Methuen will put its undefeated record to the test at Merrimack Valley Conference rival North Andover (6-1).

Thursday, Melrose at Reading, 7 p.m. — After finishing just seven points apart at the Bossi Tournament, the Middlesex League rivals will compete head-to-head.

Correspondent Ethan McDowell contributed to this story.