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Young Hillers wrestlers compete with area’s best

by | Jan 26, 2024 | Sports

The Hopkinton High School wrestling team has a number of familiar faces in new spots this year, including longtime assistant coach Corey Mills, who officially stepped into the head coaching role this winter.

“I have been with the team since 2009, but it’s an adjustment, a lot of changes,” Mills said. “This was a year of changes, but also everything felt familiar.”

Hopkinton had more than 40 wrestlers come out for the program, and more than half had never wrestled before.

“It’s been a lot of developing passion and excitement for the sport,” Mills said. “And everyone is having a lot of fun so far.”

The Hillers have several seniors, including some Mills has worked with since they were in sixth grade, when he was coaching the middle school program. Gabe Sanchez is competing at 175 pounds, Liam Kassab wrestles at 157, JJ Bahri is competing at 150, Zach Peace is at 144 and Jake Rogers wrestles at 138.

“They are all seniors this year, and they are just great kids to have in the room,” Mills said. “For this to be my first year as the varsity coach, I am lucky to have them.”

Mills has been able to get a number of younger wrestlers into the lineup this winter. Lucas Reed and Edwin Xiao, both freshmen, are wrestling at 126 pounds. The Hillers also have gotten significant help from sophomores Aaron Butkus and Nick Heaton. And Mills has been able to line them up against the top squads the area has to offer.

“All of the kids are winning real competitive varsity matches against the best wrestlers around,” Mills said, citing matches against teams like Milford, Ashland and Natick. “The cool thing about our schedule is there is a lot of competition nearby.”

Mills said he is hoping the foundation that is laid this season will serve some of the younger wrestlers as they eventually tackle statewide competition.

“My expectations is for them to grow as they wrestle against the top kids around and start to envision themselves being on that state podium,” Mills said.

The team standard is to be “aggressive, ambitious and useful,” he added.

“When we are implementing our style, it’s getting right after it once the whistle blows and being aggressive,” Mills said. “Being ambitious is seeing ourselves as being one of the best teams around. Being useful is trying to help other kids and get them where they want to be, whether it’s the seniors helping the freshmen or the freshmen helping each other.”

The seniors are a big part of the success, Mills said, and are doing everything from firing up the freshmen after a tough day of practice to going out to eat as a team.

“As leaders go, they are just special kids,” Mills said. “You could not ask for more.”

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