Marco Albanese knew he needed a big performance for the Melrose wrestling team to take the Division 3 State Duals championship, and the sophomore made sure he was in control the whole way.
Albanese (120 pounds) had split two matchups this season with Tewksbury’s Ben Barrasso, but was all over him right at the start, and made the move for the pin when Barrasso tried to twist around.
The fall clinched the title for second-seeded Melrose, with a 39-36 victory that had Albanese’s teammates storming the mat on Saturday at Ashland High School.
“It felt amazing knowing my teammates believed in me and we won it all,” Albanese said. “Before, it was definitely nerve-racking, but once I got out there it was definitely fun. Once I got the pin I didn’t know how to react, I was just excited.”
The back-and-forth meet left the Red Hawks (20-2) trailing by 6 points with two bouts remaining. Knowing he needed points, sophomore Mike Thomas (113 pounds) pushed through the pain of an injured right knee and grinded out a 6-5 triumph over Tewksbury freshman Angelo Desisto.
“I wasn’t going to let my team down, everybody wanted me to win,” Thomas said. “Everybody was talking to me like, ‘You got to win this match, we’re going to kill you if you don’t,’ so I had a different mentality in that match.”
Melrose lost the title meet last year by three points, and needed a big turnaround after dropping a Jan. 21 dual to Tewksbury, 63-18.
“We came out fired up,” said Melrose coach Larry Tremblay. “I hate beating Tewksbury because I like their coaching staff so much and their guys. It’s all good. I’m happy. I’m going to enjoy this one.”
Melrose and Tewksbury traded victories early, with Melrose freshman Johnny Moraes winning by fall at 126 and senior Jack Callahan (132) responding with a pin for Tewksbury. Tewksbury held a commanding 15-6 lead, its biggest of the meet, but Melrose wrested it away with pins from seniors Stephen Fogarty (152) and Oto Albanese (160).
Junior Nico Chiulli (182) and senior Braden Marceau-Olayinka (285) added pins, before Tewksbury freshman Nick Desisto pushed Melrose to the brink,
“It felt great [to keep the team alive],” said Thomas. “I knew our team wasn’t satisfied, but I believed in Marco. He’s one of our best sophomores and I knew he wasn’t going to lose that match.”
It was a rare bump in the season for the top-seeded Redmen (18-4), who improved upon their 14-7 record of a year ago with a statement at that quad Jan. 21, adding a comeback victory over Shawsheen to their accolades.
“It’s good for our program to be in that position. It says that we’re doing something right,” said Tewksbury coach Steve Kasprzak. “I think everybody at the beginning of the season would say, if you’re in the dual meet state finals and it’s down to the last match, do you want to take those odds? I think you take them. We go back to work, it’s not the end of the world.”
In a familiar matchup in the finals of the Division 2 State Duals at North Andover High School, Milford took down Minnechaug, 42-19, for the second year in a row to claim the title.
The Hawks (27-0) had a bye in the first round before defeating Concord-Carlisle, 59-12, in the quarterfinals. They beat Sharon, 62-12, in the semifinal before defeating the Falcons, 52-22, in a rematch of the 2022 championship final.
Derek Marcolini (106), Aidan Baum (113), Robby Lyons (120), Mikey Boulanger (126), Luke Donis (160), Sean Donovan (170), and Mike Mastroianni (220) all went 3-0 for the Hawks, while Hampton Kaye-Kuter won his only match at 285.
“Our lightweights set the tone early,” Milford head coach PJ Boccia said. “When you start off a match with your first three guys going undefeated, it’s a good day.”
It was the second title in a row for Milford, which hadn’t won a state wrestling championship since 1996 before last year’s triumph.
“We’ve benefitted from a really strong youth program,” Boccia said. “It’s run by a great group of people — a lot of the parents of kids on my team now started their kids there. It’s come full circle and it’s great to see it all pay off.”
▪ The Division 1 Duals, pitting Franklin vs. host St. John’s Prep, were cancelled because of transportation issues for the visitors en route to Danvers.
Correspondent Mike Puzzanghera contributed to this story.
AJ Traub can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.