As Jaclyn Dehney’s hand was raised beneath the spotlight of the FargoDome, the star wrestler from Pelham, N.H., attained the championship that previously eluded her illustrious high school career.
Dehney, a Central Catholic graduate, became just the sixth Massachusetts champion — and second women’s champion, after N.H.’s Skylar Hattendorf last year — at the US Marine Corps Junior & 16U Nationals in Fargo, N.D., taking the title at 127 pounds in the junior women’s freestyle category.
Dehney, a New Hampshire native competing for Team Massachusetts in Fargo, earned five pins and a technical fall, before controlling her finals matchup against New York’s Emily Sindoni, winning with a 9-4 decision.
“It’s a lot. It’s very exciting, there’s lights everywhere,” Dehney said. “They make it a big deal. It can be overwhelming. I just reminded myself, ‘It’s just another match, go out and do your thing.’”
A Pan-Am gold medalist and two-time Super 32 champion, Dehney has now completed an incredible trifecta of wrestling achievements. It was her fourth time placing at Fargo and second time reaching the finals, despite Fargo’s cancellation in 2020 due to Covid-19.
“It feels nice to be able to say that I got to win it,” Dehney said. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I feel proud about it.”
Added Matt Dehney, the men’s team coach and Jaclyn’s cousin: “It’s real rewarding. I’m extremely proud of her, seeing what she puts in every day. Knowing the struggles that she had, for her to be rewarded, I couldn’t be prouder of her.”
Though Team Massachusetts did not reach the top-20 in any category, they placed four at Fargo, doubling last year’s hardware. Samantha Bertini, 15, took fourth at 94 pounds in the 16U freestyle category. She is Ludlow’s first ever Fargo placer.
“It was really surprising,” said Bertini, a rising sophomore who also placed at girls’ folkstyle nationals. “My goal was to at least get on the podium, but I didn’t imagine I was going to get fourth. It was really exciting.”
West Springfield’s Musa Tamaradze, now a rising junior at Northfield Mount Hermon, placed third at 120 pounds in junior men’s Greco-Roman. Tamaradze’s older brothers, Abbas and Mizam, who never placed when they competed at Fargo, watched from home and texted Musa as he rattled off five first-period technical falls in a row before losing in the semis.
“It feels good,” Tamaradze said. “It shows that my hard work and dedication is being put into action and results are occurring because of it. It shows my full life, the training, it’s all coming together.”
Massachusetts’ highest finish was 21st in junior women’s freestyle, adding 27th in women’s 16U freestyle. The women’s side totaled 42 wins, with almost everyone winning at least one bout.
“It feels like it’s something we’ve been building towards, it’s been a long time coming,” said women’s coach Joe Nugent. “As much as we can talk about the coaching and the programs, it’s really about the girls and the work they’ve been putting in.”
Hingham’s Matt Botello (a rising junior at Wyoming Seminary in Pennsylvania) placed sixth at 132 pounds in junior freestyle, helping Team Massachusetts to 25th place in the category.
“It was exciting,” Matt Dehney said. “Honestly, it seems like we’re trending into: this is going to become the new standard for Team Massachusetts, coming home with All-Americans every year.”