State Tournament – the Ultimate Goal
By Christopher Tremblay
Staff Sports Writer
Cam Antoniuk has advanced into the State Wrestling Tournament the past few years for Ashland.
Unfortunately, both times he found himself losing in the first round. As a sophomore he fell to Norton’s Jason Winston in his first State appearance and last year Oisin Cullen of Wakefield ended his season.
Along with the other Ashland grapplers, Antoniuk finished second in the Division 3 Central State Tournament, five points behind the leader Tri-Country.
The Ashland resident didn’t begin his wrestling career until he was in eighth grade. Prior to stepping onto the mat, he found himself participating in football, a sport he has played since the third grade.
“Cam is a two-sport athlete for Ashland. On the football field this past season, he was named to the Tri-Valley League All Star team as well as being the school’s top passer and either the second or third best rusher, wrestling coach Peter Zacchilli said. “His competition level is so high on both the field and the mat; it sets him up to be an athlete. He’s not that big, strong or a real phenomenal athlete, but he outcompetes everyone he goes up against.”
The Clocker Coach went on to say that during Bellingham this year Cam, the Ashland quarterback, could find no one open and when the pocket broke down around him, he was forced to run. Run he did, causing six different Bellingham players to miss tackles as he scampered into the endzone for a touchdown.
“That Bellingham game was what he does – he wears his opponents down,” Zacchilli said. “On the mat he’ll grind for the full six minutes and when the time is up, there is no one that wants to be on the mat with him.”
Antoniuk got involved with wrestling as he found that many people around him looked up to the sport and Coach Zacchilli convinced him to get on the mat and give the sport a try. Although it was an immediate love and connection for the sport, it was also very intimidating to the then young wrestler.
“It’s not like football, you’re on that mat all by yourself and everything is on you. Not only that, but everyone is focusing on just you and that puts a lot of pressure on you to do well,” Antoniuk said. “The very first time I wrestled in a varsity match was definitely weird. I really don’t remember anything about that first match or how I did; it was probably not that good.”
Following that inaugural season, the Ashland wrestler began staying after practice working harder while pushing himself to become a better wrestler. He also began to run to increase his stamina, which helped him tremendously with his energy throughout his matches.
“I believe that with all my hard work I had gotten an advantage on the mat. It keeps me going mentally as well as physically,” he said. “During my first tournament, although I didn’t come out on top, I did have the stamina to continue. My opposition would beat me up it eh first period, but I seemed to be able to use my skill to comeback.”
Last winter Antoniuk was more offensive minded on his feet and able to score points; his style was very tough for his opponents to keep up with him.
“His intensity as well as his level of toughness began at the start of the match and continued right to the to the end,” the Ashland Coach said. “It was not easy on the kids he was wrestling – Cam was non-stop and put forth a relentless pursuit on the mat. I can’t wait to watch him perform this year.
Last year the then-junior was wrestling at 145 pounds, but he put on about 30 pounds to help him succeed in football which will put him in a great position to wrestle this season.
“Putting the weight on allowed me to perform better on the football field,” Antoniuk said. “It was also really nice to be able to eat once the wrestling season ended last year.”
The senior is looking for not only his team to win a State Tournament, but he also wants to capture a championship for himself in whatever weight class he happens to wrestle in this season. He feels that he has worked hard during the off-season once again and believe that it is absolutely possible.
“I have been playing football for a very long time and when I was younger, I’d have to say it was my top sport,” he said. “But I think last year as a junior, wrestling took over that number one spot due to all the extra work that I have put into the sport; it’s become a bigger part of my life.”
Now all that is left to do is for Antoniuk to go out and wrestle the best to his ability and hopefully that will not only help his team to a State Title but will also allow him to stand atop that stand following the Championship match.