In most seasons, Hopkinton High School wrestling coach Tim Nelson has about 25 athletes to work with in filling out his lineup. This year, around 50 individuals tried out for the team, and of that group, more than 40 stuck with the program.
The larger roster produced double-digit victories during the dual meet schedule, and the Hillers’ five captains are eyeing deep postseason runs of their own.
“Our captains have been varsity starters for us for the past couple of years and they all have lofty goals for the postseason,” Nelson said. “All of them did some offseason wrestling to prepare for this year. They have been our backbone.”
Nelson said that each of the captains has been a leader on and off the mat and in different ways. The group is spread across different weight classes, giving the Hillers strength throughout the lineup. Adam Distasio is looking to bounce back from an injury that kept him from competing in the state tournament a year ago. He’s been a fixture at 113 pounds.
“He eats, sleeps and breathes wrestling,” Nelson said. “He’s been training hard all year and coming into the year because last season didn’t end the way he wanted it to.”
Distasio’s “partner in crime” is John Carlson, who competes in the 126-pound division. Nelson described Carlson as an “iron man,” competing in nearly every meet and looking to advance deeper in the state tourney than he did last year.
Jack Hoyt, who wrestles at 132 pounds, is perhaps the most improved in the Hopkinton lineup, his coach said.
“Jack has come a long way since last year,” Nelson said. “He has turned himself into a state place-winner caliber and he is another one who is there every day and pushes through a lot of adversity.”
One of the team’s quiet leaders is Will Liptak, who wrestles at 138 pounds. Nelson said Liptak does everything the coaching staff asks of him, and more. After posting a 1-2 record at the state meet a season ago, he’s angling for a stronger finish this winter.
The best wrestler on the team is Justin Sokol, a captain and heavyweight with a large presence in more than one sense. He qualified for the New England championships last year after a fifth-place finish at all-states and comes from a long line of wrestling success within his own family.
“He has really worked his butt off to make a name for himself within the family and within the Hopkinton wrestling program, and he has just been a great wrestler and a great leader,” Nelson said. “He is the most vocal of our captains and the kids respond to the way he leads.”
While the seniors are aiming for success this year, the future of the program seems bright with a dozen new freshmen having tried out this winter. Nelson said having assistant coach Corey Mills also serve as the freshman football coach has been a solid recruiting tool. The depth allowed Hopkinton to weather injury challenges this year and give plenty of athletes valuable experience.
“We are in every match, we compete with good teams and we are able to win matches,” Nelson said. “The kids have gotten better every time we step out there, that’s all you can ask for.”