To understand the secret behind Sharon’s 14-1 start, take a look at the program’s recruiting process.
Coach Jeff Sonis and assistant Anthony Lucie build their roster through word of mouth, backed up by strong parental support. But the Eagles only attain that support by developing creative ways to attract new wrestlers.
Lucie, the head coach at Sharon before he and Sonis swapped roles three years ago, likes to play paintball.
So he started a tradition of an all-day paintball tournament at P&L Paintball in Bridgewater. New students receive invites in school from team members, asking them to join the program by participating in the springtime paintball tourney. It’s a way to build cohesion months before wrestlers would start spending six days a week together starting in late November.
Last May, Sharon broke tradition, instead participating in the 5-mile Run to Remember in Boston to benefit law enforcement and first-responders.
In March, after the season ends, the team convenes on the first day of the NCAA Division 1 wrestling tournament for a fantasy wrestling draft. The team then watches the finals together and the fantasy team with the most points at the end of the tournament wins a trophy.
Sharon’s own success this season, however, is no fantasy — evidenced by its 49-30 win over traditional Hockomock Davenport power Canton on Wednesday, punctuated by seven pins. The Eagle also placed seventh in the 38-team Marshfield Holiday Tournament despite have no one place higher than fourth. Junior Tyler Freedman was fourth at 160.
“We’ve only started,” Sonis said. “We have bigger goals than what we’ve done so far. This team could pave the way for the long run in the future.”
With a program-high 52 wrestlers in the room, Sharon — which hasn’t had an individual state champion since 2006 — is in the mix to win its first league title and contend for the Division 2 South title. The Eagles’ only loss came to Division 1 Brookline, 38-37, in their first quad meet of the year Dec. 14.
“A bunch of underclassmen are stepping up and winning big matches for us,” said senior Amit Levin , who is 6-0 at 126 after missing the first three weeks with an elbow tear he suffered in the offseason.
Sharon has nine underclassmen in the lineup — four sophomores and five juniors — who have assumed starting roles. Sharon had five wrestlers place third at sectionals last season, although Levin is the only returner. Seniors Vinay Chinnam (132) and Max Pozner (145) are also expected to make key contributions.
“We work harder than any other team in the [Hockomock],” Levin said.
A number of the Sharon wrestlers spent the offseason training at Blackstone Wrestling Club in Cumberland, R.I.
Sharon’s highlights this season includes dual-meet wins against Hingham, Lincoln-Sudbury, Mansfield, Plymouth South, and, for the first time since 2009, Division 3 power Norton.
Sonis attributes the depth in the practice room to keeping the Eagle starters on their toes, as the increased participation only creates more competition for starting spots.
Sonis believes the team’s depth is an advantage in traditional dual meets, but Sharon will put its top-end talent to the test Saturday when it wrestles in its second individual tournament of the season, in the Peckham Tournament at Canton.
“We have really competitive practices,” Sonis said. “The JV guys have done a really good job.”
■ Last February, the Globe profiled Braintree wrestler Luciano Kodheli , who arrived from Albania in November 2018 knowing very little English and nothing about folkstyle wrestling — the American high school style different from the Greco-Roman style he wrestled in his native country.
Now a senior with a full season of experience and an offseason of training, Kodheli has developed into one of Braintree’s best wrestlers. Competing at 182 for the second straight season, Kodheli (13-1) is dominating his competition. His only loss came in the Marshfield Holiday Tournament to Cory Grifka , the reigning New England runner-up, from Mount Hope, R.I. Kodheli placed third and then won the Devin Ness Tournament in December.
“This year, he’s more of a legit 182 because he spent the offseason in the gym lifting weights,” Braintree coach Marty Dundon said. “We’re hoping he wins the sectionals and states are not out of the question.”
■ As the regular-season approaches the halfway point, it appears that the lightweight classes could be the most challenging come February. From 106 to 126 pounds, 22 returning wrestlers placed at All-States last year — six at 106, five at 113, seven at 120, and four at 126. Two champions, Hunter Adrian (Melrose, 113) and Maximilian Leete (Danvers, 120) are back.
■ St. John’s Prep kicked off its Catholic Conference schedule Wednesday with a 66-12 conquest of BC High. At 15-0-1, Prep is averaging an astounding 52 points per match — in addition to allowing fewer than 10 points in five matches. Prep tied Franklin 34-34 on Dec. 21.
Matches to watch
■ Saturday, Andover quad meet (10 a.m.) — The Golden Warriors host a Merrimack Valley Conference quad with Tewksbury, Lowell, and undefeated Methuen.
■ Tuesday, Natick at Brookline (6:30 p.m.) — Two of the Bay State Conference’s best go head-to-head in a match that will likely determine the league champion.
■ Wednesday, Ashland at Holliston (7 p.m.) — With Norton in a bit of a rebuilding season, the Tri-Valley League is up for grabs and Ashland and Holliston have emerged as the front-runners.
■ Wednesday, Arlington at Lexington (6 p.m.) — At 11-1 in dual meet competition, Arlington looks the team to beat in the Middlesex Liberty Division.
Brandon Chase can be reached at email@example.com.