WHS' Joe Ganley with head coach Joel McKenna

Wilmington High’s Joe Ganley was crowned the 126-pound champion during this past weekend’s Framingham Wrestling Tournament. He holds up the winning bracket along with head coach Joel McKenna.     (courtesy photo).

FRAMINGHAM – One of the goals of the Wilmington High Wrestling team this season is to show improvement from week to week. With that as the backdrop, this past Saturday’s Framingham Holiday Wrestling Tournament has to be considered a huge success for the Wildcats, who had an outstanding performance at the tournament, finishing in 12th place among 25 teams from all over the state.

The Wildcats had six wrestlers place in the top eight of their weight class for the tournament, including one champion, junior Joe Ganley at 126 pounds, as they scored 96 points to earn their 12th place finish. West Springfield won the tournament with 225 points, followed by Lawrence with 165 points and host Framingham with 160.

“I was happy with how the kids performed,” Wilmington coach Joel McKenna said. ‘The kids had a very good day and they improved from last week, and that has been the case every time they have gone out and wrestled this season. They are getting into a good rhythm for themselves and they showed it again on Saturday.”

Nobody showed a better rhythm on the day than Ganley, who powered his way to the title at 126 pounds by going 4-0 on the day, winning his first three matches by pin and then pulling out a dramatic victory in the finals.

Ganley started his day with a pin of Daniel Araujo of Framingham in a time of 1:25, followed by a pin of Patrick Murray of Milford in the quarterfinals in a time of 1:00 and RJ Petrucelli of Boston Latin in a time of 2:28 in the semifinals.

“Joe just took it one match at a time leading up to the finals, which is just what we told the kids to do. We didn’t want them looking ahead,” McKenna said. “That can be hard for a kid like Joe, who was the number one seed, so he might be looking ahead to the finals. But he didn’t do that. He came in very focused and very driven and he maintained that throughout the tournament.”

Those first three wins put Ganley into the finals against another Framingham wrestler, Matt Chalmers. The two battled each other from the opening whistle to the final one, with the lead changing hands several times, before Ganley broke a 6-6 tie with an escape with just seconds left in the match to get the 7-6 victory and the 126-pound title.

“They wrestled each other very close,” McKenna said. “The kids he was facing was a state qualifier last year, so we wanted to keep it close in the first period, which we did. In the second period, Joe really took it to him. He almost had a pin, but the kid was able to survive. He came back in the third period with a near fall, but Joe wrestled smart and was able to get the last second escape. He was aware of the time and he knew what to do. He was wrestling the home town kid, who was a state qualifier and the gym was going crazy, but Joe knew what he wanted to do and he did a great job.”

Junior Shane Penney earned a fourth place finish for the Wildcats at 132 pounds, getting a first round bye, and then winning by pin over Zayan Marcena of Framingham in 48 seconds and Nick Crupi of Ashland in 44 seconds to earn his way into the semifinals where he lost to Sammy Papadopoulos of Natick. Penney then lost his third place match with Ben Worden of Nashoba in a heartbreaking loss where he held a 7-2 second period lead when he was pinned, forcing him to settle for a fourth place finish.

“He was wrestling very well, but the young man from Natick made a great move to get the pin,” McKenna said. “He was that close to getting to the final. He is still coming back from an illness, so that was a great day for him. He has nothing to hold his head down about.”

Senior Jacob Bernard went 4-1 on the day, which netted him a fifth place finish at 120 pounds. As much as McKenna was happy with Bernard’s performance on the day, he felt like it was worth more than just a fifth place finish. Bernard as victimized by the MIAA’s “Five Match Limit” rule, which limits wrestlers to five matches per tournament, basically preventing Bernard from having a chance to wrestle in the consolation bracket for the right to earn a spot in third place match.

“Jacob went in as the number four seed in probably the toughest weight class at the tournament and he had a great day for himself,” McKenna said. “Unfortunately, in a tournament like this, the only way you can wrestle for third place is if you make the semifinals, and then the two losers of that match face each other. He only lost one match all day, so it is kind of tough to settle for fifth place. It is not a rule I am crazy about, but it is what it is.”

Senior Stephen Smolinsky went 3-2 on the day to earn a seventh place finish at 152 pounds. Smolinsky lost his first match of the day in a tough 9-8 decision to Oliver Parke of Central Falls, but then came back to win two straight matches in the consolation bracket, over Tyler Joseph of St. John’s with a pin in a time of 4:24 and over Dan Demalo of Methuen by pin in a time of 2:21.

Smolinsky then suffered a loss to Noah Stemple of Marlboro, before winning the seventh place match by forfeit.

A pair of young stars for the Wildcats, sophomore Luke Vitale at 106 pounds and freshman Gabe DaSilva at 113 pounds, each won two matches on the day. Vitale’s two win effort earned him an eighth place finish, with both of his wins coming by pin, over Matthew Duffy of Milford (3:38) and Alexander Barrios of Boston Latin (1:13).

DaSilva picked up a win by pin over Waurton DeSouza of Marlboro in a time of 1:54 and an 8-6 decision over Liam Gilbert of Framingham for his two victories.

“Luke and Gabe are getting much better,” McKenna said. “They are improving on fundamentals and because of that, they are starting to pick up some wins. I was thrilled to see them do so well.”

The Wildcats will be back in action in Saturday when they make their annual trip to Cohasset for the Cohasset Invitational Tournament. The Wildcats had some great success at the tournament last season, with Penney winning the 120-pound title, while Bernard (113 pounds) and Ganley (126 pounds) each earned runner up honors, along with the since graduated Nick Kullman at 195 pounds.

“It’s a good tournament where we face some good Division 3 opponents that we might face in the tournament, and it is another good learning experience for our younger guys,” McKenna said. “We had some good success down there last season, so hopefully we can do it again.”

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