January 8, 2014
By Ellen Oliver
On Saturday January 4, Nashoba Wrestling hosted the annual DeMeo Duals Wrestling Tournament, held each year to honor the memory of former Nashoba wrestler, Frankie DeMeo, who died during his senior season in 2008.
The tournament opened with a tribute to Frankie, especially meaningful as no one on today’s wrestling squad or current Coach Peter Connery were on the team with Frankie. – , who also never knew DeMeo, said he spoke with Frankie’s father to prepare his remarks.
“When Mr. DeMeo asked me to say a few words today, there were two things that he asked me to emphasize,” said Principal Graham. “The first is that no one is invincible. Frankie thought he was invincible. He was young and strong and athletic, and he thought that nothing bad could happen to him. But he wasn’t invincible. The second thing he asked me to emphasize is that our lives touch so many other people in positive ways. Frankie was connected to more people than even his parents realized, and his death was a tragedy to all who knew and loved him.”
The tournament began in 2009 to honor DeMeo, a champion wrestler in the 112-pound class who earned the respect of his teammates, peers and even rivals. Principal Graham said that the DeMeo family was hopeful they could continue Frankie’s lead of touching lives through the tournament.
“If Frankie’s story and his legacy could have a positive impact on others – if the tragedy of his death could help others decide to make safer decisions, and could help others to more greatly recognize and appreciate the many ways in which our lives are interconnected – then his death would not have been in vain,” said Graham.
Competing with Nashoba were six teams from Massachusetts and one from Milford, New Hampshire. Nashoba defeated King Philip 45-30 and Dracut 40-30, but lost a series of tiebreakers to Central Catholic after battling to a 37-37 stalemate. In their final match against Milford, Mass., Nashoba fell 36-31. Nashoba went 2-2 in the tournament, bringing them to 6-2 on the season.
Despite the split, the home tournament had a number of impressive highlights for the Chieftains. Jake Kennedy (wrestling at 220) took mere seconds to pin three of his opponents and finally wore down Central Catholic in quadruple sudden death overtime. Jake Kallio battled his way to four wins, including a major decision against Central Catholic and a pin against Dracut, in the 160 and 170-pound weight classes.
Recently returning from injury, Josh Hodsdon wrestled at 138 and 145 pounds, pinned King Phillip and Central Catholic, won a major decision against Dracut and used a reverse pin lock to best Milford.
James Kilgo (132) decisively pinned three opponents, but lost a close bout to Dracut in a matchup against one of New England’s top wrestlers. Ronan Ball (145 and 152) had a pin, a major decision, a decision, and a forfeit to put points up on the board for Nashoba.
Brian Heffernan used great leg technique to chalk up three wins while wrestling at both 170 and 182. David Diaz (195) and Luke Anderson (126), rookie wrestlers in their first varsity appearances, each had one pin in exciting matches.
Also wrestling for the varsity squad were McKenzie Gilbride (106), Isaac Luke (113), Luis Diaz (152 and 160), Jake Fire (182), Nick Kenny (182), and Richard Stamos (285).
The two losses might not seem like a lot for any team, but for the Chieftains, who were 22-1 last year, “two” in the loss column was meaningful because they were the first entries.
“It was a little tough,” admitted senior Gilbride, the lone girl on the team, who says she is just one of the guys, even though she is a girl. “We were missing a couple of kids and had three forfeits, giving up a lot of points.” Injuries have been an issue for Nashoba this year, but Gilbride says the team is up for the challenges on and off the mat.
“We’ve had kids who were injured have come back and others have gone off. With our work ethic, we really push ourselves, so we still measure up well,” she explained. “We can’t rely on doing well last year, we have to make sure we reach our potential this year.”
Last year Nashoba’s strength was in the upper classes, but injuries have forced the team to adjust. One highlight from the DeMeo tournament meet was that Nashoba received a boost from the wrestlers competing in the lower weight classes.
“We’re very strong at the top still,” explained Gilbride, who competes at 106. “We were just missing kids, we were missing some in the lower class, too. With no strong spots, we all know we have to give 100% in every match. We all pulled together.”