By Chris Villani
Sports Reporter/Columnist

A season of nearly-unmatched success earned Milford High wrestling coach P.J. Boccia Massachusetts Division II Coach of the Year honors.

“It feels good, you don’t get into this for the individual awards, but it’s always nice to get recognized,” Boccia said. “To have a good team is even more rewarding.”

The Scarlet Hawks have had a number of great wrestling teams through the years, but the 2022 squad can make a strong case for being the best in program history. Milford won its first state championship since 1996 — Boccia’s junior year in high school — and brought four wrestlers to the New England championships.

Hampton Kaye-Kuter became the fourth wrestler in program history to win the New England crown. Cam Phillips, who won a state title of his own, and freshmen Aidan Baum and Michael Boulanger also represented Milford in the elite competition.

“It was everybody’s first time at New Englands, so it was kind of a learning experience all the way around,” Boccia said. “Aidan and Mike are both freshmen, so that’s a huge accomplishment.”

Milford lost just two dual meets all season and both of them came in matches with the top teams in Division I—Central Catholic and St. John’s Prep. Boccia knew he had a great deal of talent from the start of the season, the challenge was getting the most out of his wrestlers’ ability.

“It’s about getting them to trust you,” he said. “At the beginning of the year I told them, ‘we have a good team, I don’t know how good we are.’ I put some tough competition on the schedule up front, trying to get us tested early on.”

This group has been together for a long time, with much of the junior class coming up together through the decade-old youth program that has helped athletes and their families gain exposure to the sport before high school. The experience allows Boccia to move more quickly with some of his instruction, he said, and teach more advanced moves and skills earlier in a wrestler’s high school career.

It also helped develop a sense of team camaraderie in a somewhat “individual” sport.

“They really wanted to see each other succeed,” Boccia said. “I told them that they would peak at the right time and that ‘if I tell you to go hard, don’t think about it, just go.’ And they really bought in.”