Watertown Wrestlers Make History, Hope to Add to Story This Weekend

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Watertown wrestlers Tommy Dicker (front in grey), Brady Gleason (in black), and Tessa Master (back) are preparing for the Div. 3 State Meet this weekend. Gleason and Dicker won their bracket in the Sectional Meet. (Photo by Charlie Breitrose)

Last weekend, not just one, but two Watertown High School wrestlers — senior Tommy Dicker and junior Brady Gleason — won their division at the MIAA Div. 3 Sectional meet. This weekend, these two wrestlers will be joined by their teammate Tessa Master at the Div. 3 States with the goal of becoming the first Raider wrestler to make it to the New England Championships.

The trio still has some work to do to get there, but hard work is the what the Watertown wrestling team is all about, Dicker said.

“I think the (way) to describe this season is blue collar — hard work,” Dicker said. “Watertown is a blue collar town. I know the three of us come from blue collar families. Our parents wake up everyday, they go and work their asses off for us to give us a better life. Hard work is the name of the game.” 

Practices start with running the stairs of the Phillips Building and lifting weights. Then the team gets together to do six minutes of cardio — the length of a wrestling match, and then they start wrestling each other. Each time someone leaves the room to get a drink, or something else, they have to do a pull up. Watertown Head Wrestling Coach Kevin Russo said his team’s hard work pays off in matches.

“In wrestling there is no hiding out there, it’s you and your opponent, so you have to put your time in,” said Russo, who has been coaching WHS since 2000, except for a two-year hiatus. “So, we did that and we won a lot of matches that we probably should not have won.”

The 2023-24 squad is one of the most successful ones, and it comes after the leanest year in Russo’s tenure.

“My first year we had five wins, so last year with four wins was even fewer wins than we had in my very first year here. But it I never tell people it was the worst team that we ever had. It was the youngest team,” he said. “Even the years we started here we had a lot of seniors and juniors. Last year we had two seniors and one junior, so we knew that it would be an uphill battle and we had to work hard, you have to put the time in.”

The team wanted to make sure they didn’t have another down season.

“Last year I told them, ‘Let these teams have their fun with us right now because we are going to come back,'” Russo said. “So we had T-shirts made last year, they said ‘We will be back.’ This year the shirts said, ‘We’re back.'”

The team is not just back in the wins column, but are back in pure numbers. But with the new high school being built, the team’s facilities are in transition. They are confined to a small gym at the Phillips, after having two wrestling room and a weight room at the old high school.

“This year we had over 40 kids,” Gleason said.

Dicker added, “That’s the most ever with the smallest space ever.”

Russo said that he has had the full support of the school and district administration, and construction of the new, larger wrestling room in the Phillips Building is nearly complete.

Wrestling Coach Kevin Russo oversees practice at the Phillips Building on Wednesday. More than 30 continue to practice, even though the varsity season is over for most. (Photo by Charlie Breitrose)

Master said the members of the team helped grow the numbers.

“I think last year the community of our team really helped because we had a lot of people that really just fell in love with the sport at the start of it and they were able to show that to other people,” she said. “And they can show that to other people and get them to come out for the team, and the same thing happened for them.”

One of the thing that is appealing to the high schoolers, Russo said, is the intensity and dedication of the team.

“This group knows they are doing things in this practice room that are far beyond the effort that other people have to give in their everyday, including every other high school sport,” Russo said. 

The hard work turned into section titles for Dicker and Gleason last weekend at the Div. 3 North Sectional meet Tewksbury High School. Another Raider, Jimmy Shrestha is an alternate for this weekend’s meet after placing fifth in the 120 pound class.

Watertown’s last Sectional title came in 2008.

“The last kid to win it, he’s actually a Watertown cop right now, Collin Geagan. He was a stud wrestler,” Dicker said. “He reached out to both me and Brady and said, ‘Welcome to the club.’ It was a pretty cool feeling.”

Dicker won his title in the 165 pound division with an 8-6 decision in the final. He said it was the culmination of a long process.

“I have wrestled the Wakefield kid who was seeded number one. I beat him in the Wakefield Tournament earlier in the season and he beat me at a dual meet that we hosted earlier in the season as well,” he said. So, it was really special to beat him in a tournament that I didn’t do so well in when I first came on this team. To go out and win it was really special. I couldn’t have done it without Brady and Tessa and this whole team. They really helped me out a lot. We train hard every day. It was a team effort.”

Watertown Wrestling Coach Kevin Russo believes the team has a good chance to send at least one wrestler to the New England Championships this season. (Photo by Charlie Breitrose)

Gleason also defeated a wrestler from Wakefield, defeating him in the final with a pin. His road to the title was longer than some.

“I had four matches. Some people had three, some people had four,” Gleason said. “Some people had gotten first round byes. I personally didn’t, which I don’t mind. I love to wrestle. It gets you warmed up — fired up for the day. It’s nice to have.”

Master will be getting her first post-season experience of the season on Saturday because there are still too few girls wrestlers to have a Sectional tournament. This year, however, is the first year that the girls had a Div. 3 State Tournament, after having only All-States in previous years.

“It just shows how fast the sport is growing,” she said.

Master enters as the top seed in the 152 pound division, having gone 7-2 in matches against girls. She had plenty of other matches against boys.

“I’m our varsity 150, so every match I’m mostly going up against a guy,” Master said.

Russo said Master is a difficult wrestler to pin, which can be key in a close dual meet when teams get an extra point for a pin. Dicker said the team can count on Master.

“She never gives up out there,” he said. “She has taken a lot of guys who are top ranked in the state to the third period and beat some of them, too. We can count on Tessa.”

The three have their eyes on becoming the first Watertown wrestlers to compete at New Englands. They have some work to do before then. First they must place in the top six wrestlers in their weight class this weekend at Wakefield High School to move on to the All-States Meet at Salem High School. The top seven there move on to the New Englands Meet at Providence Career and Technical Academy on March 1 and 2.

Russo’s coaching experience stretches back almost a dozen years prior to his arrival at WHS. He enjoyed success at Belmont for four years, and then at Lexington for seven more. He sent wrestlers from those teams to New Englands, and may have one or more from Watertown.

“Before I came here, I never didn’t go to New Englands,” he said. “Since I’ve been here I’ve never been to New Englands, so I think this is the year. We have a really good shot.”

2 thoughts on “Watertown Wrestlers Make History, Hope to Add to Story This Weekend

  1. Great job coach Russo and all of the wrestling team! Tommy Dickers Grand Dad Jimmy Dicker would be very proud of him! Jimmy was a very dear friend of mine! Best of luck team! Go Red Raiders! Very proud of you Kevin! Great job!

  2. What a great article and even more awesome to hear of how wrestling has grown in Watertown. And here they are – making it to the big show!
    Go Watertown!

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