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Local Wrestlers Gear Up for State Tournaments

February 15, 2019
Monty Tech s Isaic Paulino, right, defends against Tr-County s Harley Blanchett during a match earlier this season. Fresh off of his Central Mass. Division 2 individual championship, Paulino enters this weekend s state tournament as the No. 3 seed at 106 pounds.

Local wrestling teams are riding high, and will be bringing a combined total of four newly crowned sectional champions into this weekend’s divisional state tournaments.

Leominster is set to compete in the Division 1 state tournament at Methuen High School, while Monty Tech and Nashoba Regional will head to Beverly High School for the Division 2 state tournament. Both events begin Friday before crowning champions on Saturday.

Monty Tech’s Isaic Paulino, at 106 pounds, and Nashoba’s Lucien Perla, at 145 pounds, were two of those four local winners at last week’s sectional events -- and their both still freshmen. The other local winners last weekend were Leominster’s Zach Kalladay, who won at 285 pounds at the Division 1 tournament, and Nashoba’s Brevin Cassella (152 pounds), who won along with Perla and Paulino in the Division 2 sectional championships.

Paulino pinned his first opponent before a major decision and a pin in the final, while Perla beat an opponent ranked in the top 10 on masswrestling.com in his final match.

The Division 2 state tournament represents the opportunity to be put on the map. Perla expressed confidence heading into the weekend, and explained that being a freshman might even work in his favor.

“Heading into states I’d say that I feel extremely confident and that I have nothing to lose, considering I have three more years let to compete,” Lucien said. “However, even though I am young I still feel like I can beat just about anyone in New England this year. I always put pressure on myself because I know I have what it takes, despite my age. I’m not focused on seedings or rankings or anything like that, just my wrestling and giving it all I got.

“So, in a nutshell I think that being a freshman should not be a setback at all. The stakes are high for any wrestler of any age.”

While his freshman sectional champion counterpart, Paulino, is excited for the tournament, he simply wants the opportunity to showcase his work.

“I feel good about this opportunity to be a freshman and wrestling in the high school states, and I hope I’ll go out there and get what I’ve been working for,” Pauilino said.

Paulino will be the No. 3 seed at 106 pounds in Division 2, while Perla, at 145, will be the second seed, as the tournament seeds all sectional champions in slots one through four, and then fills in the remainder of the bracket from there.

Perla’s teammate, Cassella, at the 152 pound weight class, is on a mission this weekend. Although Cassella has been dominant this season and successful during his entire career, he has not yet won a state title. He came close both as a freshman and sophomore, losing 4-2 in the semifinals in his freshman year before settling for third place, and then falling, 3-2 overtime, in the championship as a sophomore.

Coming into this weekend’s tournament as the No. 1 seed -- just as he did last year -- Cassella is on a mission to earn the elusive state title. Much like Paulino, he’s hoping to see all of the hard work and training pay off.

“I’m feeling confident and comfortable going into states,” Cassella said. “We’ve trained hard all year, so I’m feeling good, and for me, after the hard work, it would be nice to get this title. ... It’s also just a small step of what I’m trying to achieve.”

Leominster’s sectional champion, Khallady, will be the fourth seed at 285 pounds in Division 1. That’s the lowest possible seed for a sectional champion, which suits Khallady just fine. He has been a lower seed at many tournaments this year and was a No. 2 seed at sectionals and the Chelmsford Invitational, which is one of the toughest one-day tournaments in Massachusetts, and still rose to the occasion to claim the title.

None of the four sectional champs will be going to their respective tournaments alone, however. Khallady will be joined by Anthony Larson, who will be representing Leominster at 152 pounds after placing fourth at the Central Mass. Division 1 sectional tournament. Monty Tech’s Paulino will be joined by teammate Xavien Natal, who finished at 120 pounds in Central Mass. Division 2. For Nashoba, Cassella and Perla will have plenty of company. Joining Nashoba at states will be, with their Central Mass. Division 2 weight class and results in parentheses, Dylan Brown (106 pounds, 3rd), Vinny King (126, 2nd), Ben Worden (138, 2nd), Evan Doig (170, 3rd) and Alex Childs (195, 2nd).