Brookline High wrestlers have not spent much time on the mat in any of their 17 dual meets this season. Every second matters for the Warriors, who have produced expeditiously and efficiently.
Brookline (15-2) has won 87 contested matches via pin, or 5.1 pins per meet. Excluding its losses to Franklin and New Bedford, and the average rises to 5.4. The Warriors racked up six pins in Wednesday’s 57-15 win over Wellesley, sending three Raiders to their backs in the first period. Dylan Clifford, Brookline’s 120-pounder, stuck his opponent in seven seconds.
Undefeated against conference foes, the Warriors are on track to win their second consecutive Bay State Conference title. For decades, the BSC was dominated by Natick and Framingham, but Brookline is rising just as fast as it puts opponents on the mat. This year’s success, however, did not come quickly. It can be attributed to 10 grueling days in Happy Valley.
Last summer, 11 Brookline wrestlers took part in the team’s annual tradition — at a high-intensity, team-based camp at Penn State under the direction of Nittany Lions wrestling coach Cael Sanderson, a four-time NCAA champion for Iowa State.
“They’re there working out with all the Penn State guys, getting up at 5 o’clock in the morning, doing sprints. They’ve got three things that they’re working on every day,” said Brookline coach Trevour Smith.
Brookline finished second to Franklin at last season’s Division 1 Central sectional, with three individual champions. Since Brookline competes with the Panthers often, they know what to look for and know how to stay competitive in a tournament setting.
“Individually, each of the wrestlers know who they have from Franklin, and are figuring out how to beat that,” said senior Luke Albanese (132 pounds). “A lot of things we need to embed into our wrestlers is to how to get bonus points, because Franklin is a good team [wrestling on top] and they know how to get those bonus points.”
Albanese, last year’s 126-pound state champion and third at All-States, has been Brookline’s fail-safe. His only loss came to BC High’s Donald Ryan in the semifinals of the Lowell Holiday Tournament. He’s arguably Brookline’s most improved wrestler, coming far from the days in which Smith called him “Lil’ Luke” when trying to recruit him as an eighth-grader. Albanese is still listed under that moniker in Smith’s phone.
“He goes from being a freshman at 113,” said Hayden Whitley (170). “This dude [Smith] baptizes him — the next thing we know, this kid is going 3-2 at New Englands. The rest is history.”
This year’s 132 class is loaded. Hingham senior Kaya Bogle was second in Division 2 and All-States last season. BC High’s Donald Ryan, who placed second at Lowell, finished fifth in Division 1 last year, losing to Albanese in the quarterfinals. Newton North’s Nate Chandler was a D1 state finalist at 120 whom Albanese has beaten in the past. Holliston’s Brian Garry was the Division 3 state champion at 126. Out west, last year’s Division 1 state champion at 132 — West Springfield’s Calvin Curtis — is back to defend his crown.
The battle for an All-State championship next month in Methuen will go through some of state’s most seasoned, technical wrestlers.
“I feel like I am a better wrestler and I just need to figure out some things mentally,” Albanese said. “I think in a stacked weight class, it comes down to who wants it more.”
“If he wins it this year, that’ll be huge,” Smith said. “It’s pretty stacked where it’s at, but I think he’s got a good shot.”
If Brookline defeats host Braintree and Walpole in Saturday’s quad meet with Lawrence, the Warriors will be in the BSC driver’s seat with two league dual meets to go, and a win over Framingham on Tuesday clinches a conference title.
“It’s a goal we all have as a team, and a goal we can all contribute to,” Albanese said.
■ Southeastern Regional will host the State Vocational Tournament in South Easton on Saturday morning (9:30 a.m.), with 19 teams participating: Bristol Aggie, Bristol Plymouth, Essex Tech, Franklin County Tech, Greater Lawrence, Greater Lowell, Keefe Tech, Monty Tech, Nashoba Tech, Northeast Metro, Pathfinder, Putnam, Shawsheen, Smith Vocational, South Shore Vocational, Southeastern, Tri-County, Whittier Tech, and Worcester Tech. Tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for students; results can be followed live on FloWrestling.com. Athletic director Dan Tripp said he expects the finals to start between 3–5 p.m.
■ St. John’s Prep displayed its eminence at Saturday’s Woburn Invitational, winning with 214.5 points, 68 ahead of runner-up Tewksbury. Adam Schaeublin (106) and Rawson Iwanicki (138) won their weight classes, while Nick Curley (113) and Owen Gaffney (195) placed second.
■ Tynsgborough traveled to Pelham, N.H., Saturday and won the Dan Gionet Tournament with 172.5 points. The Tigers had two individual champions — Josh Ducharme (138) and Mark Thomas (170).
Matches to Watch
Saturday, Brockton vs. Plymouth South (at Hingham High, 10 a.m.) — In a tri-meet with Hingham, this dual boasts three of the state’s top wrestlers at their respective weight classes: Plymouth South’s Lucas Pinzino (138), Brockton’s Aiden Winn (126) and Naziah Armor (220).
Saturday, quad meet at Braintree High with Walpole, Brookline, and Lawrence, 10 a.m. — Brookline, undefeated in the Bay State Conference, will wrestle Walpole and Braintree in league duals with the conference title still up for grabs. Braintree lost to Natick, 45-21, on Thursday night, its only league loss.
Saturday, Cape Cod Invitational (at Sandwich High, 10 a.m.) — New Bedford appears to be the favorite in this 13-team tournament, but Plymouth North, Sandwich, and Middleborough could challenge the Whalers.
Wednesday, Beverly at Marblehead-Swampscott, 5:30 p.m. — Both teams are undefeated in the Northeastern Conference, and the winner earns the NEC crown.
Wednesday, Central Catholic at Andover, 7 p.m. — Central, the defending Division 2 state champion, is still undefeated in the Merrimack Valley Conference meets after Wednesday’s 35-22 win over North Andover. Andover’s only loss is to Tewksbury, so there are league title implications.
Brandon Chase can be reached at email@example.com.