fb-pixel Skip to main content
High school wrestling notebook

Refusing to let a cancer diagnosis pin him down, Chelmsford’s Nik Sperounis cheers on his teammates

Chelmsford senior Aidan Sherman (right) was congratulated by coach Chris Piscione after beating Concord-Carlisle’s Jonathan Charles Friday at All-States.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

On Jan. 4, Chelmsford hosted a big Merrimack Valley meet against Central Catholic. Nik Sperounis made sure to be there.

It was the first time in a while he’d seen his Lions teammates. Diagnosed with angiosarcoma in 2021 at the start of the football season, the senior captain had a lengthy hospital stay after Thanksgiving, and rescheduled his Wednesday radiation and chemotherapy treatments to attend home meets. He remembers his teammates’ faces as they told him they were wrestling for him.

Sperounis watched as the Lions erased a 26-4 deficit to earn a 36-34 win in front of a huge crowd.


“It was a great atmosphere,” Sperounis said. “I had a feeling our upper weights were going to bring us back. I knew they could get it done if they just wrestled hard. That’s what they did.”

Since his cancer diagnosis, Sperounis has not been able to wrestle, but he’s arguably the most important member of the team.

“My kids go out and compete when he shows up,” said Chelmsford coach Chris Piscione. “It’s a game-changer when he’s around, they don’t want to lose. They got an attitude and they want to win, it’s awesome.”

As a freshman, Sperounis impressed Piscione with his work in the weight room. But Sperounis blew his coach away with his positive attitude in the face of his diagnosis.

“You wish you had a whole generation of kids like Nik,” Piscione said. “He’s a tough dude, he’s a good kid. He’s friends with everyone.”

This past offseason, after a 7-5 finish, Piscione challenged his team to work harder. When Sperounis returned to watch meets midway through the season, he saw the squad finish with a 22-3 mark.

“I’m extremely proud of the whole team,” Sperounis said. “My absence this year, to coming back to meets, everybody, how they’ve improved.”


If someone mentions Sperounis in practice, everyone intensifies their effort. His toughness is an inspiration.

‘We miss Nik in the room every day, so we always want to go out there and fight for him. He’s like a brother.’

Chelmsford's 170-pound senior Jack Walsh (35-5), on the inspiration the team draws from teammate Nik Sperounis

“Nik has a totally different situation going on,” said Manny Marshall, a senior 152-pounder. “He’s battling for his life every day. Sometimes it gets hard in the room. It makes you want to push harder, because he’s going through something way worse. It puts it into perspective.”

With just two years experience, Marshall slotted into the 145-pound weight class last year when Sperounis was unable to compete. Looking to honor his teammate, Marshall improved upon his 10-13 record as a junior with a 29-10 campaign this season, qualifying for this weekend’s all-states in Reading with a sixth-place finish at states.

“Manny’s really impressed me, wrestling only two years in high school,” Sperounis said. “I’m extremely proud of him [for] making it to states. I never thought to see him make it this far.”

Said Marshall, “I had a lot of catching up to do. I really did it for him.”

The Lions have five all-state qualifiers, led by sophomore heavyweight Thomas Brown (41-0). Senior Jack Walsh (35-5 at 160), junior Jose Bethel (29-10 at 170), and senior Aidan Sherman (34-7 at 182) all bumped up in weight class (to 170, 182, and 195, respectively) on the recommendation of their coaches.

“It’s awesome [to qualify],” said Walsh, a state runner-up. “It’s a great opportunity. We miss Nik in the room every day, so we always want to go out there and fight for him. He’s like a brother.”


Chelmsford 170-pounder Jack Walsh took down Eli Gilbert of Gateway on the first day of All-States.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Bethel, who turned a 15-10 record without placing at sectionals last year into a fifth-place finish at states, earned his American citizenship in December. He emigrated from Mexico with his mother when he was around 6 or 7.

“I think it’s pretty crazy,” Bethel said of his accomplishments. “I never thought as a kid I’d be playing football. I had no idea what wrestling was. Looking back, I’m pretty happy getting a late start and achieving what I have done.”

Bethel’s drill partner and fellow second-year wrestler Sherman earned fourth place at states, vastly improving upon his 5-10 record as a junior, during which he spent most of the season competing on junior varsity. As an autistic person who used to be a lot more quiet and reserved, wrestling is where Sherman found a community.

“I like the hard work and the mind-set, it teaches you to hate losing,” Sherman said. “You might be late on the start, but you can make up for it with hard work. When you reap the benefits, you look back on the hard work, and you’re thankful.”

With a thrilling 10-9 victory over St. John’s Prep sophomore Alex Bajoras, Brown secured his second state championship and the top seed at the All-State tournament as he looks to defend his title there as well. He placed third in New Englands and second at freshman nationals last season.

“Before every dual meet, before every tournament, we remind ourselves of Nik and what he’s gone through, all the sacrifices he’s gone through, and he’d do anything to be in our position,” Brown said.


“It’s an honor and a privilege to wrestle for Nik. It’s just an honor.”

Chelmsford heavyweight Thomas Brown pinned Trevor O’Neil of EssexTech/Masconomet at All-States.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

All-State tournament update


Leader: St. John’s Prep (67 points).

Contenders: Minnechaug (58), Milford (55), Bridgewater-Raynham (51).

In the hunt: Haverhill (45), Central Catholic (44½).

The Division 1 winner, St. John’s Prep (three in winners’ brackets, four in consolation rounds) holds a narrow lead after Friday’s Day 1, but Milford has four in the winners’ brackets and three in consolations. The teams will clash at 113 pounds, with top-seeded Alex Schaeublin (SJP) facing Milford’s Aidan Baum. Another matchup in Saturday’s semifinals will be SJP senior Rawson Iwanicki against Haverhill junior Brent Nicolosi. They needed extra time to settle their finals bout at Division 1 North. Milford heavyweight Hampton Kaye-Kuter could face Chelmsford’s Brown in the finals; the two had a close matchup at the Lowell Holiday Tournament with Brown coming out on top, 4-1.

The 220-pound weight class is like March Madness come early, with three of the top four seeds losing in the first round, and Ashland star Patrick DesLauriers, seeded eighth and battling a left shoulder injury, getting pinned while leading for the second week in a row. Gloucester junior Jayden Toppan has become the favorite to win it as the No. 2 seed, with the others remaining are seeded 6, 9, and 13.


Leader: Agawam (28 points).

Contenders: Chicopee (26), Latin Academy (25).


In the hunt: Malden/Everett (20), Newton South (18).

Duxbury’s Quinn Edwards, who came in unranked at 106, took down top-seeded Kennedie Davis (Bridgewater-Raynham) in the quarterfinals with a second-period pin. A defending state champion, Freya Munshi (Newton South) has three pins in a combined 5:29. The championship at 136 will be one to watch, as all four semifinalists won their quarterfinal in under a minute. Sima Wambuzi (Central Catholic) and Nora Quitt (Ashland) are favored to meet in the final.

AJ Traub can be reached at aj.traub@globe.com.