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Upperclassmen grapplers expect to improve on last year’s record

Head coach Bob Benincasa’s Bulldogs finished fourth at last year’s Meet of Champions, but his bar has been raised for this year’s squad.

The team returns seven impactful upperclassmen - five juniors and two seniors - who will attempt to improve on last year’s success.

The senior class is led by Robert Bernard, who’s strong finish at last year’s Meet of Champions earned him a qualifying spot at the New England Tournament, a feat Benincasa said is not to be taken lightly.

“Robert Bernard is probably our most decorated wrestler,” he said. “He was third at the Meet of Champions last year.”

Sam Kollmorgan is the other senior who looks to contribute.

“We’re going to look for a lot of production out of those two seniors,” Benincasa said. “They’re going to be a pretty important role, hopfully, with our team’s success in achieving our goal.”

Along with the seniors, Benincasa said his returning juniors will have a major impact this winter. Colin Perras, Ben Gilman, Josh Belz, Chris Conery and Robert Lany were all-state wrestlers in their sophomore season.

Perras heads the group, coming off runner-up state finishes in both his freshman and sophomore years. Gilman, Conery and Lany each finished sixth in the state tournament last year in their respective weight classes. Belz is another state title contender as he’s placed third the past two years.

“That’s going to be the core of our team this year - that sort of depth and experience that those juniors are going to bring from the state tournament that they’ve done well at the past two years,” Benincasa said.

Benincasa also seeks contributions from a sophomore class of wrestlers, including Jake Valeri, Ben Dow, Ryan Belz and Matt Houston, who worked hard in the offseason to earn varsity spots.

The Bulldogs went 15-3 overall last year, but has a difficult schedule this year. They’re competing in six regular season tournaments, including one at the Tsongas Arena in Lowell, Mass. that Benincasa said will be a good precurser for his wrestlers hoping to compete in New Englands at the end of the year.

Although Bedford competes in Division II in wrestling, the team has matches against several Division I teams. The Bulldogs went 3-1 against Division I last year, and their only loss was by a sinlge point.

“We expect big things and there’s no reason we can’t do it again,” Benincasa said. “If you can send four, five or six kids to that Meet of Champions and they can wrestle deep into the tournament, you end up scoring a lot of points.”

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