Nashoba Wrestling Takes DeMeo Duals… Jan. 7 2015
By Jess Thomas
For the Nashoba Regional High School wrestling squad, success has become commonplace since head coach Pete Connery took over the reins three years ago.
The Chieftains improved to 8-1 this season with a 44-32 victory over Central Catholic on Saturday, Jan. 3. Nashoba beat Milford, N.H., Agawam and Dracut to get to the championship of the DeMeo Duals that the team hosted in Bolton.
The DeMeo Duals are a tournament that consists of eight teams wrestling to honor the memory of former Nashoba wrestler Frankie DeMeo, who tragically died in 2008.
Connery’s team has won the Mid-Wach A league championship each of the last two years. “We want to win the league again,” Connery said. “We’d like to win the sectionals. It’s kind of eluded us the past two years; last year we lost by half a point and we took second the past two years. I think we have a legitimate chance to win a state title this year.”
Senior captain Brian Heffernan got his wish for the team to win the DeMeo Duals and he knows what it takes for Nashoba to be successful.
“Everybody, including me, wants to work as hard as they can,” Heffernan said. “That’s the team goal, too; just everybody work as hard as we can.”
Heffernan, who is in the 182-pound class, uses past seasons as motivation to keep the winning going. “It’s easy to build on success because we still have a lot of kids who are still working hard. New freshmen come in and make everyone else better and we keep building on it,” he said.
Connery noted that the team has numerous young talent that have been incorporated this year. “We’ve got some young guys and we’ve got some top-level talent, so it’s a mix of bringing those young guys along and keeping those top guys working at the rate they need to be working at,” Connery said. “We’re at a real mix of 13-14 freshmen and the top 7-8 guys that are pretty good.”
Stow senior Nick Piccioli, a four-year Nashoba wrestling veteran, said that the biggest reason for the team’s success is recruiting wrestlers from other towns such as Maynard and Clinton. Piccioli noted that recruitment is something that Connery has had a focus on since becoming coach.
“The recruiting really brought a lot of kids in and the program is just growing,” Piccioli said. “Now we’re winning a lot more matches and we have an incredible record. Other teams hear that, and other teams are scared about that.”
Connery and Piccioli both talked about the excitement of traveling for tournaments this year. The team has already made stops to Berlin, Connecticut and Massapequa, New York and had success at each.
Connery said that Richie Stamos, Jake Kennedy and James Kilgo were all in the finals at Massapequa.
After traveling, the team came back to participate in a tournament in Framingham on Dec. 28 and had several top finishers. Ronan Ball finished first, Piccioli was fourth, Efrain Gonzalez came in seventh and Jake Fire was eighth.
Practice and hard work were common themes for the players and the success the squad has had.
“We really do a lot in practice and we always have that mentality that I think a lot of other people lack,” Piccioli said. “We go out there to win, even if the kid is 10 times bigger than us, and I think so far this season has been going great. You have this tight-knit team we have now and every single person is going to work as hard as they possibly can.”
Bolton senior Nick Kenney praised his coaching staff in being a huge help in the team’s dominance this year. “Just keep pushing,” Kenney said. “Our coaches motivate us to keep going.”
Connery knows that the team has high expectations, as does he. “These guys have got to step up and win state titles and make it to the finals and we’ll go from there.”
It won’t be easy, but with motivated wrestlers and excellent coaching, Piccioli knows it’s all for the best.
“(Coach) Connery’s trying to push us and it’s a really cool thing to see because it’s really challenging all of us.”