Tewksbury's Jaden Mercier battles Salem's Josean Castillo

Tewksbury's Jaden Mercier battles Salem's Josean Castillo during the earlier Sons of Italy wrestling tournament. (photo by JoeBrownphotos.com).

LOWELL – Off to a terrific start to their dual meet season, with a 4-1 record to this point, the Tewksbury High Wrestling team faced a different sort of challenge last Monday and Tuesday when they made their way to the Tsongas Center in Lowell for the 2021 George Bossi Lowell Holiday Tournament where they squared off against some of the top teams from all over New England.

Overall, the Redmen performed well against the top competition, earning a 27th place finish among 75 teams, with six wrestlers advancing to the second day of the tournament, and one, junior Jack Callahan earning an eighth place finish.

For Redmen coach Steve Kasprzak, their showing at the tournament was both encouraging, as well as reminder that there is still work to be done if they want to reach the goals they have set for themselves this season.

“We talked before the tournament about the importance getting to Day Two, so having six guys get there was good,” Kasprzak said. “I thought we wrestled pretty well in some tough matches. The Lowell Tournament is always a good barometer of where we are. I think this shows we still have a lot of work to do. We did well, and we are off to a good start, but we still have some tough matches ahead of us.”

Callahan led the way over the two day tournament for the Redmen with his eighth place finish. As good as he was, Callahan’s tournament could have been even better if not for suffering a shoulder injury that forced him to forfeit his final two matches.

Callahan won his first two matches on the Friday by pin, taking down Elias Diaz of Saugus/Peabody in 59 seconds and then Adam Rousseau of Whittier in 1:22 before taking a 4-2 decision over Jayden D’Ambrosio of Reading in the round of 16 to advance to the quarterfinals.

Unfortunately, in the win over D’Ambrosio Callahan sustained a shoulder injury, which hindered him in his quarterfinal loss by pin to top ranked Tyler Knox of St. John’s Prep. Dropping to the consolation bracket, Callahan picked up one more win, earning a 6-0 decision over Brian Montanez of Hope.

That was where his day ended, however, as he was forced to forfeit his next two matches due to the injury and settle for the eighth place finish.

“His win over the kid from Reading (D’Ambrosio) was probably his best win to date. He was down 2-0, but he came back to get the 4-2 win. That kid ended up coming back to finish third, so who knows how Jack would have done if he had been able to continue,” Kasprzak said. “But we made the decision to hold him back. It would have been great to see how well he could have done, but we as coaches felt like it was not in his best interest and it was better to hold him back.”

Nick Desisto at 106 pounds and Hunter Johnson at 145 pounds each went 4-2 in the tournament, with Desisto picking up four pins, while Johnson had two pins.

After winning his first round match by pin over Jameson Keller of Hollis/Brookline, Desisto dropped a 15-10 decision to Michael Harris of Hampden Charter East. Desisto would go on to win three more matches, before being eliminated. Johnson meanwhile, also won his first match by pin over Wesley Thompson of Concord before losing in the second round in a hard fought 8-5 decision to Alexander Ciocco of Billerica. But, like Desisto, Johnson came back to win three more matches before being eliminated.

“Nick was tied 10-10 against the kid from Hampden Charter with about 15 second left, and he went for the pin, and ended up giving up some points and losing. But he wrestled really well and he showed a lot of improvement,” Kasprzak said. “We have really high expectation for Hunter, and sometimes we have to remind ourselves that he is still just a sophomore. At the same time, we know how good he can be. He is going through some growing pains, but he will figure it out and we are very excited to see how good he can be.”

Nick Wilson went 3-2 for the tournament at 285 pounds, picking up three pins, as did Jack Donovan at 132 pounds. Donovan actually lost his first match of the tournament before winning three in a row by pin to earn his way into the second day. Brett Graham meanwhile went 2-2 at 195 pounds.

“Nick wrestled in a tough weight class. Everybody he faces is 285 pounds and over six feet tall, so Nick is giving up some weight and height, but he does well. This was a great experience for him against some tough competition,” Kasprzak said. “Jack has wrestled a lot of our opponent’s top kids this season, so it was nice for him to get back in the winner’s circle. He gutted out some good wins.

“Brett took a tough loss in his first match. He was up 6-0 late and then he made a mistake and kind of pinned himself, and then he lost 3-2 in his last match. He could have been a place winner with a little luck, but he battled back well after that first loss and that can be tough to do. He did a real nice job.”

The Redmen will return to dual meet action on Saturday when they travel to Methuen for a quad meet against Methuen, Lowell and Andover. Kasprzak knows his team will once again have to step up their game.

“They are tougher than any of the teams we have faced this season, except maybe Billerica,” Kasprzak said. “If we are able to win those, it will say a lot about this group. This will be a good test for us.”

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