By Matthew Schultz, sports writer, The Natick Nest
The Natick High School Redhawks wrestling program has become a dynasty over the past 25+ years and last season showed no signs of slowing down. The Hawks went 17-1, winning their 26th Bay State Conference championship since 1994 as well as a Division 1 Sectional Championship in the Central/West division. Some of the more impressive victories included wins at the Athol Invitational, the Willmington Sons of Italy Tournament, and the Merrimack (NH) Duals Tournament. Led by captains Jake Adelmann, David Seiche, and Sammy Popadopolous, the Hawks came in second in the state tournament placing 11 wrestlers, the first Massachusetts team to ever do so. Capping off their season with a 3rd place finish at “All States”, the relatively young Natick squad had lots to celebrate and lots to look forward to.
Despite having 10 returning underclassmen (including juniors) who all wrestled in more than 20 matches each, losing captains is never easy for any team. Louie Linton, a captain of the football and wrestling teams, said that it hurts losing guys “like Jake, Sammy, and the seniors” since he had been with them since his first day on the mats. Linton, who went 33-9 last year and placed 4th in the state tournament, has become a force on the mat ever since he began wrestling in middle school. He didn’t just wrestle in middle school either—Linton completely wiped out the competition at lower weights and has continued to do so in high school with his low center of gravity and ability to maneuver around the mat with speed.
While he wrestled at 106 pounds last year, Linton decided to make the jump to 126 for his senior year. When asked about the process that led him to this decision, he mentioned that “it had a lot to do with [his] position in football” as Linton transitioned from defensive back to outside linebacker for a part of this season, needing more weight/muscle for the position. Linton helped captain the football team to a 3-game winning streak to end the season, including a 49-13 demolition of the Framingham Flyers. He even said that wrestling has helped improve his tackling skills over the years: “How much time we spend taking each other down at wrestling practices, it’s literally tackling drills and it translates perfectly”.
In his first match of the season, Linton placed first at 126 in the Athol Invitational, beating out Kai Ly from Springfield in the final. The early season victory could be a sign of more dominance to come.
Due to the amount of depth that the Redhawks enjoyed last year, many underclassmen didn’t see as much action as they hoped, including Diego Montero, a junior who was buried in the depth chart as a sophomore. Montero said that he wanted to wrestle in the 132-pound weight class but “it didn’t go his way” since many upperclassmen were able to cut and gain weight to find their spot on the varsity roster. The experience and size that Montero lacked left him competing on both the varsity and junior varsity. Pushing the disappointment to the side, Montero was able to polish his skills, work on technique, and gain some experience in varsity tournaments. Winning upwards of 25 matches, coaches saw Montero’s potential on the mat.
One aspect of high school wrestling that has become extremely popular as of late is club wrestling. Since wrestling is a winter sport, many athletes make it a year-round activity by joining “Doughboys” or “Metrowest”, the popular clubs around the area. Montero mentions he “started out at Doughboys” but transitioned to Metrowest this past Spring. These gyms where athletes can spar, drill, and compete against other clubs “make an average kid into a great wrestler,” according to Montero. He says that the instructors “really break everything down” from technique to the mental aspect of the sport.
Throughout the course of last season, Montero struggled with conserving energy throughout the match, starting out hot but struggling to keep up at the end of matches. When asked what he improved on most over the offseason, Montero said he has worked hard to begin “wrestling in bursts” and uses the motto “controlled aggression” to help become more consistent on the mat.
Going 4-1 in the Wilmington “Sons of Italy” tournament, Montero hopes to continue his success throughout the year at 138.
Captains Louie Linton, Tucker Vician, Bennett Sonneborn, Shaun McLaughlin, and Michael Anniballi have led the Redhawks off to a hot start in the 2022-23 season. Taking 2nd place at the Athol Invitational, smoking Walpole 46-6 on the road, and coming in 5th at the Wilmington Tournament, the Redhawks look to continue their success at home on Wednesday vs. Weymouth at 7:30 P.M.
Natick Report has begun working with The Natick Nest, Natick High School’s official student-run school newspaper, to help bring the students’ work to a larger audience. We’ll be republishing some of their articles, and plan to coordinate with their staff on additional pieces.