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Reversal of fortunes for Wellesley High wrestling

Wellesley High wrestling

Wellesley’s A.J. Madden (photo by Barton Prives)

Wellesley has started grooming wrestlers while they’re young and that bodes well for a Wellesley High School program that’s on the upswing.

One of the best sports stories at Wellesley High School this season has been the growth and success of the wrestling team. Wellesley’s  program, once one of the strongest around, almost imploded not that many years ago. This year 54 wrestlers came out for the team, which now has 46 members. The varsity squad has put up a 13-1 record about halfway through the season and the JV team is quite strong, too.

(We’ve only seen the team wrestle once, about 2 years ago vs. Natick, and it wasn’t pretty for us… Wellesley lost to Natick again this season for its only defeat, but was much more competitive.)

The team is coached by Jesse Davis, who last year also took over leadership of the football team. Davis said there were only 9 wrestlers on the team, which was winless, before he took over in 2008-2009. “I was lucky enough to bring in great assistant coaches who showed the wrestlers that turning this program around was important, and that we were going to turn this around together,” says Davis, noting that team membership jumped from the 20s to the 30s to the 40s.

AJ Grignaffini wrestling

Wellesley High sophomore A.J. Grignaffini on top (photo by Barton Prives)

One reason more students in town are picking up wrestling is that more in-town programs for pre-high schoolers are available. Wellesley Middle School has a team this year, run by former varsity assistant coach Carmen Rondash. Also, the LX Wrestling Club on Linden Street provides an introduction to the sport for more kids. One wrestling mom who wrote to us, suggesting we make note of the team, said kids largely had to head to Framingham or Boston to wrestle in the off season in the past.

Davis says his roles as wrestling and football coach sync up nicely. As the offensive line coach for the football team for 6 years, Davis encouraged linemen to wrestle. “Now as the head football coach I truly appreciate the importance of football players who wrestle. There is not better sport than wrestling to improve the balance, strength, agility, and toughness of a football player.”

The team’s wrestlers have also improved thanks to attending the Naval Academy Wrestling Camp over the summer, Davis says. “ This intensive camp is excellent and it has allowed the wrestlers to bond as a team, and wrestle outside of Massachusetts,” adds Davis, who gives much credit to coaches Lou Grignaffini, Grant Hightower, Mark Yanchewski and Rondash.

Wellesley wrestling

Wellesley High Junior Jack Murray shows his strength (photo by Barton Prives)

The team, which beat Milton Tuesday, competes in the Natick Invitational this weekend and its next home meet is Jan. 16 vs. Newton.

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