By Chris Villani

Sports Reporter/Columnist

For Hampton Kaye-Kuter, the season was always meant to end at the New England championships. Not many wrestlers qualify for the elite competition matching grapplers from around the region, but Kaye-Kuter wanted not only to make it to the tournament, but win it.

The Milford High junior accomplished his goal, becoming just the fourth New England champion in the program’s history.

“It felt awesome,” Kaye-Kuter said. “It was really just a big relief that all the work I put in paid off.”

Kaye-Kuter lost only once all season, a setback in the Lowell Holiday Tournament that he went on to avenge. He was otherwise unstoppable at the 220lb division, capturing the state divisional crown and all-state titles on his way to winning the New England title.

“This was the goal the whole season, it’s the biggest title you can win,” Kaye-Kuter said. “I just always had this as my end goal. I looked at states and all-states as obstacles I had to get past, the focus was always on New England’s.”

Kaye-Kuter joins Jim Mazzuchelli, Steve Foley, and his current head coach, P.J. Boccia, as the only Milford wrestlers to win New England championships.

Boccia was the last to do it, a quarter-century ago, and Kaye-Kuter said he was instrumental in helping match his coach’s accomplishment.

“I wouldn’t have done it without him, he is a great coach,” Kaye-Kuter said. “He talked to me about having confidence going into the tournament and going in thinking that I am the best wrestler out there.”

Kaye-Kuter earned a bye through the first round and earned a lopsided victory in the second round. In the quarterfinals, he took on the top ranked wrestler in New England and scored an overtime win. He beat the Connecticut state champion in the semifinals before running into a Minnechaug wrestler he had seen, and beaten, twice before in the championship match.

“He gets better every time I wrestle him,” Kaye-Kuter said. “He wrestled his butt off and we went to overtime.”

But the MHS wrestler came out on top, capping off years of hard work. Kaye-Kuter began wrestling in elementary school. Two years ago, he wrestled as the lightest guy in his 182lb weight class before bulking up to compete at the heavyweight division last year. He dropped the weight and added significant speed to his arsenal this year, settling in at the 220lb division that he dominated.

All of Kaye-Kuter’s opponents in the New England meet were seniors, so he is already setting his sights on repeating next year. But he’s also enjoying his place in select MHS wrestling company.

“I am really proud to be in that elite group,” he said.