BRISTOL - Losing the 2021 wrestling season did not stop a trio of Bristol Eastern seniors from getting their chances to compete at the next level.
Tommy Nichols and Aaron Morocho will both join the wrestling team at Division II American International College in Springfield, Massachusetts and Mason Lishness will wrestle at Division II Castleton University in Castleton, Vermont.
“They truly love the sport,” coach Bryant Lishness said. “It’s a tough sport, so not everyone loved it even though their doing it... Those guys definitely caught the bug when they were younger and they’ve been grinders they’re whole careers.”
All three grapplers had high expectations entering their senior season, but all still compiled strong resumes in just three years. Nichols reached 100 wins for his high school career early into his junior season and placed in the top three in all three of the Class L meets he competed in. He earned a state championship at 132 pounds as a sophomore in 2019 and placed third in the state open the same year. The following year he finished third in Class L at 138 pounds but improved to take second at the open.
Nichols and Morocho have four more years of practicing and wrestling together at AIC as both will look to make an impact for the Yellow Jackets. Morocho took third place at the 2020 Class L meet and was one of the most consistent wrestlers on the team last season.
Mason Lishness is the reigning runner-up at 120 pounds in Class L and added a sixth-place finish at the state open in 2020. He took third in his Class at 113 pounds the year before and will look to bring the same intensity and competitiveness to Castleton in the fall.
“I had high hopes for all three of them and I had high hopes for the whole team,” Bryant Lishness said. “I thought we would’ve challenged for [Class] L for certain and I think on that team I think I had four kids that could place at New Englands.”
Losing their senior wrestling season could be detrimental to many student-athletes’ recruiting efforts, but this group was determined to get as much work in as possible. The process of getting noticed was made more challenging by the difficult circumstances, but they were able to make the necessary connections to find home to wrestle at the next level.
“Even through covid those three were the guys that were finding mats to roll around on, they were finding competitions [and] heading out of state to do stuff,” Lishness said. “They’re just kids that really embraced the grind, they really like it and it’s what separated them”
“When you don’t get the opportunity to showcase all the hard work and the improvements that you made, it can definitely have an effect,” Lishness added. “To those kids’ credit, they worked hard to get their names out there. They hit some high-level events outside of the region, they cultivated relationships with coaches and communicated with them. We as a coaching staff helped them do that, we talked to coaches for them as well. I don’t think it hurt them too bad, but it definitely required some extra effort.”
Mason will also still have his father watching his matches despite not being his coach anymore as Bryant stepped away from his role with the Lancers so he could support Mason as a collegiate wrestler.
“I stepped down from Eastern this year and part of that was so I could be a fan,” Lishness said. “I can’t do the commitment on the high school level if I want to be a parent, be a fan and watch my kid.”
Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or email@example.com.