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Norfolk/Wrentham - Local Town Pages

KP’s Gillis Places Third at Division 1 Wrestling Sectional

King Philip’s Kevin Gillis, left, finished third in the 138-pound class at the sectional tourney in West Springfield. First place honors went to Riley Carlucci of Franklin, middle, and Jonathan McMahon of St. John’s of Shrewsbury captured second place.

By Ken Hamwey
Staff Sports Writer

King Philip wrestler Kevin Gillis finished second at the Division 2 Sectional Tourney last year as a sophomore, so it was no surprise that his primary goal as a junior was to finish first.

The degree of difficulty, however, increased when the Warriors moved up a notch to the Division 1 Central-West Tourney. KP’s two-time captain wasn’t able to leave West Springfield with the winning plaque, but his efforts in the 138-pound class enabled him to finish third and qualify for the state meet.

“The competition was strong but I wrestled with no regrets,’’ Gillis said. “I trailed Austin Hill of Chelmsford by six points in my final bout but I rallied to pin him. I was seeded third and that’s where I finished after winning three of four matches. I’m pleased and encouraged to be moving on to the state tourney.’’

Gillis defeated Natick’s Diego Montero by a 12-7 decision in his first match but Jonathan McMahon of St. John’s (Shrewsbury) beat Gillis, 11-0, in his second match. The 17-year-old Norfolk resident, however, bounced back in classy fashion to win his final two bouts, pinning Brayden Carratu of Westford Academy in 1:03 and Hill at the 3:54 mark.

“I felt confident throughout the day and the way I rallied against Hill gave me added confidence and encouragement for the state meet,’’ Gillis noted. 

Gillis entered the sectional tourney with a dual-meet record of 22-10 and KP finished tied for sixth place with Monty Tech. Fourteen schools competed in the tourney.

An intense wrestler, Gillis’ passion for the sport was noticed immediately by coach John Adams, who chose him to be a captain in his sophomore season. 

“Kevin is a student of wrestling,’’ Adams emphasized. “He devotes countless hours in and out of season to technical training, strength training, and conditioning. A methodical wrestler with explosive capabilities, he’s a threat in all three positions. He’s a leader by example, a listener, a motivator, and a superior role model.’’

Adams admired the determination Gillis displayed at last month’s sectional. 

“Kevin competed extremely well in a highly competitive bracket,’’ Adams noted. “He wrestled with grit and resolve. His ability to stay in a tight match and pick his moments for explosive technique is a testament to his high wrestling IQ.’’

Gillis takes his role as a captain very seriously, always willing to assist his teammates and the KP program.

“I try to lead by example,’’ Gillis said. “But what I really enjoy about being a captain is offering help to a teammate who might be struggling. Sometimes a teammate may need help with technique, but where I can really be a plus is helping a teammate to relax. Some wrestlers get anxious before their matches.’’

The 5-foot-7, 140-pound Gillis never thought he’d become a captain as a sophomore but he sure is humbled by the designation. “I’m honored,’’ he said. “Now, as a junior, I’m more comfortable in that role and it’s exciting to see teammates improve and grow.’’

Gillis has a plethora of strengths that make him formidable on the mat. His technique is solid, he’s fast and quick, his wrestling IQ is high and he’s physically and mentally tough.

Learning to compete at the age of nine at the New England Gold Wrestling Club in Franklin, Gillis became a starter for KP as a freshman in the 120-pound class. But, he missed most of his frosh season after suffering a rib injury. Last year, as a sophomore, he started to blossom into a polished competitor.

“I finished second at the sectional tourney,’’ he recalled. “I beat wrestlers from Boston Latin and Mansfield but lost to a kid from Sharon. I advanced to the state meet where I won my first match but lost the next two.’’

A second-place finish in the sectional last year was invigorating but Gillis said his best effort during his soph season was a tourney at Whitman-Hanson Regional. “I won two matches in the 126-pound category but lost to an elite wrestler in my third bout,’’ he recalled. “I lost by five points to Nathan Sayers of Xaverian.’’

Gillis relies heavily on a half-Nelson. “That hold, and variations of it, enable me to do a variety of things with either arm,’’ he said. “I use that hold to get most of my pins.’’

Gillis is a fan of his coach and also the Warriors’ other captain (Colby Cloutier). 

“Coach Adams is a good motivator who knows technique,’’ Gillis noted. “He promotes team chemistry by accepting blame if we lose. That motivates us and makes us eager to improve. He also has high ideals — like respecting others and aiming for victory in all aspects of life.’’

Sharing the team’s leadership role with Cloutier has been a plus. “Colby is a great leader,’’ Gillis offered. “When he’s wrestling, he never stops moving. He’s physically and mentally tough, he dominates his matches, and he’s a great role model.’’

An honor-roll student, Gillis isn’t sure where he’ll attend college or whether he’ll wrestle at the collegiate level. He does know that he’ll major in either environmental science or biology.

Relying on a competitive philosophy that focuses on “reaching my potential and taking pride in whatever success I achieve,’’ Gillis has learned some valuable life lessons from wrestling. “Overcoming adversity and developing resiliency are two great lessons,’’ he noted. “Sports also teach one to become a leader and to be a quality teammate. Commitment and accountability are also great lessons that can be learned through athletics.’’

Crediting his time at the N.E. Gold Wrestling Club for helping him to learn the basics and to compete effectively, Gillis says he’s benefitted by getting stronger, both from a physical and mental standpoint. He also enjoys wrestling because it’s a team sport that demands excellence on an individual basis.

“When I’m facing an opponent, I’m striving to win the match for myself but I’m also aiming to score points for the team,’’ he emphasized. “The dual nature of the sport is somewhat unique. Wrestling provides a test for one’s individual ability and it tests your physical and mental toughness.’’

Adams is upbeat about Gillis’ future.

“Kevin’s appearance in the sectional final last season was the springboard for his continued excellence and growth moving forward,’’ Adams said. “He’s in pursuit of greatness and I am confident he will achieve at a very high level.’’

Kevin Gillis has all the attributes to be successful. Next year, he will become a three-time captain.

That alone speaks volumes about his leadership and commitment, and it puts an exclamation point on his desire and dedication to wrestling.