Bright Future Possible for BHS Wrestling Team
Feb 28, 2019 06:00AM
By Pamela Johnson
Back row (L-R): Kalen Shahin, Jack DeMerritt, Ethan Silvia, DJ Roy, Tom Ulsh, Dominic Giamette, Paul Grieco, Matt Ulsh, Nyara daSilvia; front (L-R) Tim Gauntlett, Tanner Hall
written by Ken Hamwey, Bulletin Sports Editor
The past hasn’t been anything to write home about and the present has been one struggle after another, but don’t discount the future for Bellingham High’s wrestling team because the Blackhawks could be on the verge of producing some positive results.
The 2018-’19 team started its season with 18 competitors, but that number dwindled to 13 as injuries and illness thinned the roster as the schedule approached the finish line. The squad, which had no seniors, finished its season with a 4-20 dual-meet record and had only one participant place at the Division 3 Sectional Tournament in Wayland.
Nevertheless, in spite of its youth, inexperience and inability to win consistently, coach Tom Forbes is optimistic about the program’s future. Bellingham High’s coach for 14 years, Forbes is impressed with his underclassmen, especially six 8th-graders, and he now has a middle-school program that involves students in Grades 5-7.
“The sky’s the limit,” Forbes said, “and the future looks bright. The varsity program will improve in spite of our youth because the kids have a desire to learn, they’re coachable, athletic, and passionate, and they’ve got quickness and strength. What we lacked was experience and a high mat IQ, but that will get better with more mat time.”
BHS has had trouble attracting candidates and Forbes believes that’s a result of the sport’s nature. “Wrestling takes lots of preparation and conditioning,” he said. “A wrestler has to be in top condition for a six-minute match. It’s almost like a kid has to train a lifetime to wrestle for six minutes.”
Bellingham had to forfeit about four weight classes every time it wrestled because of its lack of numbers. “I don’t turn anyone away,” Forbes said. “Anyone can wrestle. You can be big or small, but the sport takes discipline, and there are no excuses because it’s a one-against-one competition.”
The 49-year-old Forbes, who has been Bellingham High’s Assistant Principal for the last 10 years, is no stranger to wrestling. He started the varsity program at Woonsocket High and coached there for three years. He also was head coach at Ashland high for three campaigns. His sports background doesn’t end with wrestling. He was an assistant football coach at Uxbridge, Ashland and Bellingham, and he coached varsity baseball at North Smithfield High for seven years. Forbes finished his interscholastic wrestling career at Burrillville High as Rhode Island’s No. 2 wrestler and then competed for two years at Springfield College.
Forbes’s 2006 squad at BHS won 62 percent of its matches; he built that roster by seeking competitors whose attributes included mental toughness, strength and athleticism. “I also tried to get kids who were multi-sport athletes and who were coachable,” he said.
Those ingredients, he believes, will emerge with his current group, which has one junior, three sophomores, three freshmen and six eighth-graders. “We had eight competitors in the middle school program, and I firmly believe we’ll click if we can get five wrestlers from every grade level,” he noted.
Coaches who assist Forbes include former BHS wrestlers Keith Desper and Justin Mantegani and middle-school coach Steve Mantegani.
Following is a thumbnail look at Forbes’s squad with their weight class and his comments:
NYARA daSILVA (120)—A junior captain, she’s a product of the Milford Youth Program. She was injured early in the season, but her experience, mental toughness, flexibility and wrestling IQ were major assets. She’s technically sound.
- TOM ULSH (170)—A sophomore captain who plays soccer, he placed fifth at the Sectional Tournament and advanced to the State tourney as an alternate. Like Nyara, he’s a solid leader. He’s new to the sport but he’s a good listener, learns fast and is a team-first competitor. Other strengths include his perseverance, conditioning and athleticism. He finished with a 9-12 record.
- DAVID (DJ) ROY (220)—A sophomore, he wrestled primarily at 220, but he also helped by competing in other weight classes. A lineman in football, he’s got toughness and resiliency. He’s coachable and still learning the sport. Finished with an 8-20 record.
- JACK DeMERITT (145)—A sophomore, he’s the hardest worker we have and he’s athletic. What sets him apart is his relentless work ethic, and we expect him to be a quality matman.
- DOMINIC GIAMETTI (145 & 152)—A freshman who’s a first-year wrestler, he relies on mental toughness. Alternating at the 145- and 152-pound weight class, his top asset is his willingness to never back down.
- ANTHONY ESTY (132)—A freshman, he possesses a variety of natural moves. His prime assets are quickness and his speed on the mat. Very coachable, he’s willing to learn and to develop skills.
- LUKE O’LEARY (160 & 170)—Another freshman, he’s wrestled at two different weight classes. A tough competitor whose work ethic is a key, he’s got experience, having wrestled in the Holliston Youth Program.
- TANNER HALL (126)—An eighth-grader, he has experience from competing in judo in the off-season. Other assets include his mental toughness, strength, athleticism and coachable nature. Finished with a 9-14 record.
- PAUL GRIECO (132)—An eighth-grader, he has a variety of attributes that are major pluses going forward. He’s coachable, dedicated, and strong and he has a high wrestling IQ. Finished with an 8-19 record.
- TIM GAUNTLETT (113)—An eighth-grader, his toughness is a top-notch asset. His natural ability is another plus and there’s no doubt that his future has a lot of upside.
- MATT ULSH (138)—An eighth-grader who plays soccer, he’s a first-year competitor in wrestling. His mental toughness and strength are excellent and he’s very coachable.
- ETHAN SILVA (182)—An eighth-grader who plays football, he’s a first-year wrestler. The first time he competed for us he won his match. His athleticism and strength are his best assets.
- KALEN SAHIN (170)—Another eighth-grader, he had to deal with a concussion during the season. He’s big and strong and also athletic, and he has passion for the sport.
Forbes will continue to recruit and urge athletes from other sports to give wrestling a look. He’ll also continue to preach a competitive philosophy that combines winning, improving and enjoyment. “We want to win every time we’re on the mat,” he emphasized, “but we’re also an extremely young team, so we want to keep improving and also enjoy the experience.”
Acutely aware that wrestling, like other sports, teaches life lessons, Forbes has a long list that he hopes his wrestlers will embrace: overcoming adversity, accountability, responsibility, leadership, goal-setting, time management and discipline.
“Wrestling builds character because it focuses on self,” Forbes said. “There are no excuses because only one teammate is competing, and if that teammate wins, the team also benefits by accumulating points.”