Wrestling: Concord wins 27-team Keene Minickiello tournament, Burke claims 120 title

Concord’s  Cullen Burke (left) wrestles Noble, Maine’s Owen Gray during the 120-pound title bout at the Minickiello wrestling tournament at Keene High School on Saturday. Burke won a 9-6 decision to claim the title. Concord topped the 27-team field.

Concord’s  Cullen Burke (left) wrestles Noble, Maine’s Owen Gray during the 120-pound title bout at the Minickiello wrestling tournament at Keene High School on Saturday. Burke won a 9-6 decision to claim the title. Concord topped the 27-team field.

Campbell’s Lucas Allaire (top) and Bow’s Ben McDowell (bottom) wrestle in the championship round at 165 pounds at the Keene High Minickiello Tournament on Saturday. Allaire won the 165 title with a pin in the first period, but Bow tied for third out of 27 teams.

Campbell’s Lucas Allaire (top) and Bow’s Ben McDowell (bottom) wrestle in the championship round at 165 pounds at the Keene High Minickiello Tournament on Saturday. Allaire won the 165 title with a pin in the first period, but Bow tied for third out of 27 teams. HANNAH SCHROEDER / Keene Sentinel photos

By DAN ATTORRI

Monitor staff

Published: 01-07-2024 3:26 PM

Since wrestling tournaments reemerged in 2021, Concord High head coach Ham Munnell has talked about “getting back to where (they) were.” The Crimson Tide showed a glimpse of its former glory by hoisting the champions plaque on Saturday.

Junior Cullen Burke won the 120-pound title, sophomore Wayne Gutierrez-Sakakeeny finished runner-up at 285 pounds and nine other Concord grapplers placed as the Tide topped the standings in the 27-team Minickiello Tournament at Keene High School.

Concord (245.5 points), Keene (229.5), Bow (197), Pinkerton (197) and North Berwick, Maine’s Noble High School (170.5) were the top five teams.

John Stark finished seventh with 100 points.

While the Tide are 8-0 in dual meets, so far this season Concord hasn’t won a major tournament post-pandemic. The Tide finished fourth in Division I last season and finished eighth in the Salem Blue Devil Classic in December. 

“This was a tournament we thought we could compete in,” Munnell said. “We talked about it on Friday and they showed up on Saturday and they did it.”

Burke won three matches by pin to advance to the final and claimed the 120 crown with a 9-6 decision over Noble’s Owen Gray.

Burke was also named Concord’s Wrestler of the Meet following an 11-3 major decision victory in a dual meet against Nashua North earlier this week, and Munnell and the coaching staff has been impressed by his growth, both as a wrestler and as a person.

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“He’s just matured. He’s always been talented,” Munnell said of Burke, who was in and out of the varsity lineup last season as he went between the 113 and 120-pound classes. “He’s reliable and now he’s a pillar of the team. He works hard, he’s managing his own stuff well. He’s motivated. It’s all coming together for him.”

Many other Tide wrestlers have demonstrated similar growth as they’ve moved up to the varsity ranks, including sophomore Gutierrez-Sakakeeny, a JV state champion last year. He won four matches by pin to advance to 285 final, losing to host Keene’s Evan Ray by pin in the first period.

“He’s grown up, he’s a great kid,” Munnell said. “He’s really turning a corner. He’s a great teammate and a pleasure to work with and be around.”

Griffin Norwalt (third 126), Hunter Richard (third 132), Max Chung (third 150), Levi Madison (fourth 138), Anthony Gualitieri (fourth 165), Biswas Darji (fourth 106), Isaiah Puckett (fifth 190), Ryley Holt (fifth 157) and Devon Farwell (sixth 215) were the other Tide wrestlers that placed.

Munnell also spoke very highly of his three captains: seniors Madison, Richard and Norwalt.

“They are doing a good job of leading by example and embracing the challenges,” Munnell said. “Their brackets are loaded, but they are fearless. We have a hard nosed group of leaders. For those guys to be up front … that’s how you build the team.”

Concord will take that fearlessness on the road when the Tide travels to top-ranked, defending champion Salem for a dual.

Bow continued its string of tournament success, following up a first-place finish at the 22-team Hubie Wagner Invitational in Middlebury, Vermont, over the holiday break by tying for third with D-I Pinkerton.

“A goal of ours was to try to separate ourselves from our Division III counterparts and see how we stack up against (D-I Concord, Keene and Pinkerton),” Bow head coach Bill Chavanelle said.

Both Chavanelle and Munnell noted that the Minickiello tournament allows multiple entries per team per weight class, so the full program gets to compete in the same tournament together.

For Bow, having the full roster together has contributed to the Falcons’ success. 

“We’re having the results that we’re having because we're all together,” Chavanelle said. “We definitely had more finalists than I had predicted.”

Senior Adler Moura won the 113-pound title, winning four matches by pin, including one in the third period of the championship bout to defeat East Greenwich, R.I.’s Jordan Lally.

“Adler is doing Adler Moura things,” Chavanelle said. “He’s become a true wrestler, we’ve put him in harder situations, wrestling in some different tournaments and he’s risen to the occasion every time.”

Fellow senior Joe McDowell pinned three opponents to reach the final at 175 and won a 14-11 decision over Pinkerton’s Landon MacKiernan to claim the title.

“Joe McDowell is by far the most unorthodox wrestler I’ve ever had, but I always want him on my team,” Chavanelle said. “He’s been trying some different (techniques). Winning yesterday was huge because it shows him he can do different stuff than what he’s used to.”

Senior Ben McDowell (165), junior  Jackson Hall (215) and freshman Jaron Todisco Coulon (106) all finished runner-up in their respective brackets.

Ben McDowell pinned three opponents before losing to Campbell’s Lucas Allaire with a first period pin, Hall pinned two opponents and won a 3-0 decision before getting pinned in the second period against William Vanvleet of Mohawk Trail (Mass.), and Todisco Coulon won two bouts by pin and one by decision before getting pinned in the second period against Keene’s Lily Runez.

Chase Flagg (third 190) and Jared Dolder (sixth 144) also placed for the Falcons. 

Dolder won in the Round of 32, but lost in the Round of 16 before rattling off four straight wins in the consolation bracket, including an upset over No. 3 seed Colton Stevens of Winnacunnet. Dolder was forced to forfeit his consolation semifinal due to the National Federation of High Schools six-match rule which states that a wrestler can’t compete in more than six matches in a single day.

John Stark junior Alex Descoteau won four matches by pin, including one in the third period against Pinkerton’s Tom Lacroix in the 190-pound final to take the title.

Deltyn Williams (fifth 175), Caleb Hauptman (sixth 126), Sean Crean (sixth 120) and Stephen Johnston (sixth 165) also placed for the Generals.

Girls’ tourney

The Minickiello Tournament is one of several major tournaments that now has separate divisions for female wrestlers.

Using the Madison System, the field of girls (about 40 on Saturday in Munnell’s estimation) is divided evenly into divisions, as long as there is no more than a 15-pound difference between the competitors.

Concord’s Madison Beauregard won the Group G title, while John Stark’s Joie Demmons won Group A.

Winnisquam’s Kyra Russell (Group D) and McKinley Desmarais (Group G) were runner-up in their respective groups.