Natick Wrestling Captains Are A ‘Fab Five’ Group Quintet All Champs At Division 1 Sectionals
Natick High’s wrestling captains are, from left, Michael Anniballi, Bennett Sonneborn, Shaun McLaughlin, Tucker Vician, and Louie Linton. They all finished first at the Division 1 West/Central Sectional last month.
By KEN HAMWEY
Staff Sports Writer
Bob Anniballi, who’s been coaching varsity wrestling at Natick High for 31 years, knows the sport inside and out. He also knows his five senior captains are not only capable leaders, but also competitors who possess the key attributes needed to be successful in what is one of the most grueling sports at the interscholastic level.
The Redhawks’ quintet includes Shaun McLaughlin, Tucker Vician, Louis Linton, Bennett Sonneborn and Michael Anniballi, the coach’s son.
“All five of the captains have been battle-tested and all of them have experienced difficult losses,’’ he said. “They have high wrestling IQs, they’re mentally tough and their work ethic is excellent.’’
When Anniballi uses the ‘IQ’ letters, he emphasizes that it’s more than just being alert on the mat. “Having a high IQ means the boys have the ability to manage their match and to navigate different situations.’’
Last month on Feb. 11, the five captains all excelled at the Division 1 West/Central Sectional Tournament at Algonquin Regional. They all posted 3-0 records, became Sectional champions in their weight classes, and advanced to the state tourney in Methuen. They also helped the Redhawks’ capture the team title.
Captains usually are selected because they either have leadership skills or they have the potential to develop into a leadership role. Anniballi is pleased that his 2022-23 captains have different personalities and their leadership styles are also different.
“They lead in a variety of ways,’’ he noted. “They all lead by example but some are vocal and communicative while others display a supportive nature. Some like to communicate one-on-one with a teammate and some like to talk to the players in a team setting. They’re a bit of everything.’’
The captains all started wrestling when they were in elementary school, they’ve all experienced success in the post-season, and they’ve all strived to sustain the success and the tradition that Natick High has built.
During their last three years, NHS won three Bay State Conference crowns, three Sectional championships and one State title. And, during Anniballi’s tenure, the Redhawks have amassed 27 BSC titles, 17 Sectional crowns, and 3 State championships.
What follows is a thumbnail look at Natick’s captains who reveal what’s helped them to succeed, what their top thrill has been in wrestling and their thoughts on representing a first-class program. Their recent Sectional titles are also listed.
Age Started Wrestling: At 8 years old in the Natick youth league.
Height/Weight: 5-10, 132 pounds.
Weight Class: 132 pounds.
Varsity Years: Four.
Style: “I rely on patience. Once I find a weakness or if my opponent makes a mistake, then I move fast to take advantage of his mistake.’’
Attributes For Success: “Mental and physical toughness and being strong-willed. Wrestling requires lots of anticipation and discipline.’’
Life Lessons Learned From Wrestling: “Perseverance (stay the course); how to lead effectively; and resilience (if I lose a match, bounce back by maintaining a short memory).’’
Best Post-season Effort: “I won the sectional as a junior in the 126-pound class, was second at the state tourney, had an eighth-place finish at All-States, and lost two close matches in the New England Tournament.’’
Top Thrill In Wrestling: “There’s two. Getting to the New England Tournament and being chosen as a captain. That showed respect from my teammates and coaches.’’
Sectional Finish In 2023: Won the title by defeating Nathaniel Cotto of Putnam.
Rating Coach Anniballi: “Terrific motivator. Pushes us to improve. Very demanding but that’s what makes him a great coach.’’
Thoughts On Natick’s Tradition: “It’s a joy to be part of the program’s success. I’m proud and pleased. It’s been amazing and I got help from the youth program.’’
Age Started Wrestling: At 11 years old in the Natick youth league.
Height/Weight: 5-11, 175 pounds.
Weight Class: 182 pounds.
Varsity Years: Four.
Style: “It’s being patient, using defense as my offense. I wait for an opportunity, then try to capitalize on it.’’
Attributes For Success: “The keys are discipline, relying on strong technique, having a strong work ethic and staying resilient.’’
Life Lessons Learned From Wrestling: “Learn from mistakes, overcome adversity by dealing with bumps in the road and balancing and managing time.’’
Best Post-season Effort: “I finished second at the sectionals as a junior, took fifth place at the states and was fifth at All-States. I got to the New England Tournament, went 2-2 and placed.’’
Top Thrill In Wrestling: “I’ve got two. Finishing fifth at All-States was rewarding because I beat Ben Hogg of Brockton. Earlier, he had defeated me twice in the tourneys. The second is topping 100 victories for my career. (Overall record is 116-34).’’
Sectional Finish in 2023: Won the title by defeating John Noguiera of Framingham.
Rating Coach Anniballi: “Very motivating. Tough guy but he’s fair. He helps us to be the best we can be.’’
Thoughts On Natick’s Tradition: “Totally pleased to be contributing and I love the group I’ve been with. It’s been an honor to maintain Natick’s wrestling tradition.’’
Age — 18.
Age Started Wrestling: At 8 years old, then stopped after two years. Resumed competing in the sixth grade.
Height/Weight: 5-5, 120 pounds.
Weight Class: 120 pounds.
Varsity Years: Four.
Style: “I lean towards being aggressive. The strength of my approach is riding my opponent on top, relying on strength and technique.’’
Attributes For Success: “Mental toughness is the key. It gets a wrestler through practice, a long regular season and a tough post-season. Athleticism and discipline are also important.’’
Life Lessons Learned From Wrestling: “Resiliency is a great lesson to learn because wrestling is not an easy sport. Work ethic is also important because it’s the price one pays for success. Another significant lesson is to focus on yourself but maintain a team-first attitude.’’
Best Post-season Effort: “I finished second at the sectional as a junior last year, then advanced to the state tourney where I placed fourth. I did not place at All-States.’’
Top Thrill In Wrestling: “Getting elected to be a captain, which showed that I was respected by both my teammates and coaches.’’
Sectional Finish In 2023: Won the title by defeating Nate Garozzo of Lincoln-Sudbury.
Rating Coach Anniballi: “A great motivator who can get his wrestlers to focus very quickly. He knows wrestling backwards and forwards.’’
Thoughts On Natick’s Tradition: “It’s an honor to wrestle for Natick High School. I’m also honored to compete for coach Anniballi and to be part of a program that has a lengthy winning tradition.’’
Age Started Wrestling: At 9 years old in the Natick youth league.
Height/Weight: 6-feet, 200 pounds.
Weight Class: 195 pounds.
Varsity Years: Four.
Style: “I balance being aggressive and patient. I often wait for my opponent to tire, then get aggressive and aim for a pin or points.’’
Attributes For Success: “A strong work ethic, grit, mental and physical toughness and a relentless attitude.’’
Life Lessons Learned From Wrestling: “A strong work ethic and how to be tolerant. I’ve also learned how to lead, to set goals, and how to overcome challenges. My senior season of wrestling almost ended after I dislocated my elbow on Dec. 28 at the Lowell Holiday Tournament but I was able to recover and finish first at the sectional.’’
Best Post-season Effort: “I won the sectional as a junior last year. Then, I advanced to the state tourney where I took third place. I was second at All-States, then had a 3-2 record in the New Englands where I tied for seventh place.’’
Top Thrill In Wrestling: “Winning a team-only state tourney as a sophomore during the covid-19 pandemic. I won my final match, which played a major role in the outcome.’’
Sectional Finish In 2023: Won the title by defeating Antonio Leandres of St. John’s.
Rating Coach Anniballi: “He’s a wrestling genius who’s passionate about our success. We would not be successful without him.’’
Thoughts On Natick’s Tradition: “I’m super pleased to be part of Natick’s wrestling tradition. As a fourth-grader, I’d watch the varsity wrestlers and now, eight years later, it’s been a thrill to compete.’’
Age Started Wrestling: At 5 years old beginning in the Milford youth league.
Height/Weight: 5-7, 158 pounds.
Weight Class: 152 pounds.
Varsity Years: Three (unavailable as freshman because of a broken arm).
Style: “I’m patient to start but when I get a sense of the pace needed, I tend to be more aggressive.’’
Attributes For Success: “Mental toughness is No. 1 because it provides me with the ability to improve in all aspects of life. Other important attributes are strong technique, athleticism and strength.’’
Life Lessons Learned From Wrestling: “Wrestling teaches how to overcome adversity and how to get through tough times. The sport has also taught me the value of sportsmanship, how to sharpen my leadership skills and how to be a team-first competitor.’’
Best Post-season Effort: “I won the sectional as a junior in the 152-pound class and finished seventh in the state tourney.’’
Top Thrill In Wrestling: “As a sophomore, I won the final match of a revamped state tourney at 145 pounds. Natick was crowned the team champion.’’
Sectional Finish In 2023: Won the title by defeating Jeremy Beach of Chicopee.
Rating Coach Anniballi: “He’s demanding but fair with all his wrestlers. A great motivator, he gets 100 percent from all of us and he brings out the best in his athletes.’’
Thoughts On Natick’s Tradition: “It feels great to compete and give back to the program. At a young age, I saw many of Natick’s best wrestlers. I’m glad I’ve had some success while wrestling for my father. He’s been supportive and encouraging and our relationship is solid.’’