Pair Of Historic Wins For Belmont High Grapplers At Annual Brendan Grant Wrestling Tourney [VIDEO]

Photo: Ava Suistunov and Jaden O’Connor with their first place medals at the 2024 Brendan Grant Memorial Wrestling Tournament

A pair of Belmont High wrestlers made history by winning their weight divisions at the Brendan Grant Memorial Tournament held on Saturday, Jan. 6.

Sophomore Ava Suistunov powered through the competitors to win the 106 lbs. weight division in the inaugural girls’ division competition. Wrestling since she was in kindergarten, Suistunov came to the finals having pinned her first two opponents before scoring early against Jailyn Edmonds of Boston’s Joshua Quincy Upper School, giving up just a single point in her 6-1 victory.

“It was good. Tough competition, obviously,” said Suistunov. “I didn’t give up, and I stuck to my plan in the matches,” she said, as she is looking forward to competing in the postseason.

Senior Jaden O’Connor became the first Belmont wrestler in the long history of the competition to win consecutive Brendan Grant titles as he prevailed at 150 lbs., defeating Seamus Olohan from Catholic Memorial via a pin in the second stanza. Last year, O’Connor took the 145-pound crown.

“It really feels good because last year a lot of people told me the first time was a fluke … and to win the whole tournament again is [great],” O’Connor said.

According to Casey Grant, this year’s contest attracted nearly 600 athletes, the most wrestlers to participate in the annual event over 14 hours in the Wenner Field House.

Belmont first-year student Eva Cohen was Belmont’s third finalist in the meet. A football team member who also plays the sousaphone in the band, Cohen took the final distance, losing to Logan Murray of Woburn, 11-1. The Ava/Eva partnership secured third place in the girls’ high school team competition with 44 points.

The Marauders’ varsity scorers included O’Connor, Luke Coelho (3rd place at 132 lbs.), Andre Sweet (4th at 138 lbs.), and Michael Wessman (4th at 120 lbs.), racking up 92 points for 11th place in the team event.

Belmont’s junior varsity squad placed a strong fourth, with Darmir Neal winning the 153.6 lbs. category, Ben Warinner (197.6 lbs.) and Shayan Rostamnezhad (135.9) taking home seconds, and Fergus Williams placing third in the 153.6 weight division.

With Participation Climbing, Belmont High Wrestling Sees A Growing Future

Photo: Belmont High wrestler Jaden O’Connor

Nearly 30 Belmont High wrestlers crowded on end of the on one end of the mat, cheering on senior Amir Nurhussien as he grappled with his Melrose opponant and is getting the better of him. Even if it was a junior varsity tilt, Nurhussien’s team mates couldn’t have been more involved if it was a final match for a tournament win.

With a slew of new converts – some having only wrestled for a grand total of 12 days – and returning vets, Belmont High wrestling is re-energizing its program that was a force in the 1990s with multiple state medalists and teams that could rack up the points in tournaments and meets.

“We’re still in a building phase right now but it’s growing fast,” said Craig Janjigian, Belmont’s new head coach. “Because if my memory serves me right, this is the largest turnout that we’ve had since I was [ a student] here.”

Belmont welcomed current Division 3 state champion Melrose to its new spacious, brightly lit home on the floor of the Wenner Field House. “And they showed to us they are state champs,” said Assistant Coach Andy MacAulay

“But there was no quit in us tonight,’ said MacAulay who stepped down from leading the program to take on an assistant role. “And that’s always what you got to have first before you can do anything else. And most of them were offensive minded, which I’m thrilled because a lot of kids in their first season aren’t. I’m very excited to see where we are in the middle of February.”

“Belmont does not shy away from competition,” said Janjigian.

This season, Belmont brings back its only state finalist from last year, senior Rowan Devitt at 113 lbs., who lost a close match against the Raiders, and a pair of outstanding grapplers: Andre “AJ” Sweet (132 lbs.) and Jaden O’Connor (145 lbs.)

In his match, Sweet was down 6-1 midway into the second period when he decided the time was right to end the match by pinning his competition.

Belmont’s dominating performance at the meet came from O’Connor as he went up 10-0 after one period with a series of quick combination moves. But towards the end of the second and up 12-3, O’Connor found himself with his back to the mat in danger of being pinned. But O’Connor reestablished his dominance, finishing the win on his back, exhausted.

The program’s future was on display last week with the JV wrestlers, many made up of those two week wonders. There were victories for the aforementioned Nurhussien and learning moments for others. The loudest noise from the stands came when Ava Svistunov (106), the sole girl on the team, strode into the circle. After controlling much of her match, Svistunov’s Melrose opponent took advantage of his upper body strength to pin her. But her performances have demonstrated to her coaches that she “is the real deal.”

With 7th and 8th graders attending classes in the same building beginning this coming September, it will allow the sport to establish a middle school program on site using the same facilities.

“That’s how I got my start was a youth program. It’s crucial to have a feeder program because you’re not exposed to wrestling like kids are to most other sports like basetball or football.,” said Janjigian. “We actually have a good amount of kids who are going to be successful this year. Success breeds success; it’s a positive feedback.”

Lyons Den: School Committee OKs Naming HS Court After Former Coach

Photo: The court at the high school is now named after Belmont resident Paul Lyons. 

Belmont High School indoor teams will be playing at a “new” home as the Belmont School Committee at its meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 8 voted unanimously to name the playing surface in the Wenner Field House after Paul Lyons, the legendary high school basketball coach and resident.

Calling the honor “worthy and timely” for a man with great values, Belmont School Superintendent John Phelan noted the naming comes a quarter century after Lyons led Belmont to its only basketball state title in 1994.

The campaign to name the court after Lyons was led by David Ramsey and Ralph Jones, two longtime members of the Marauder Basketball Association, who wanted to pay tribute to his coaching triumphs as well as supporting the game in town.

Phelan said a wall plaque will be dedicated to Lyons and the court named for him.

Phelan also revealed that as the new school building will be built around the field house and school’s Higginbottom Pool, the main court could be turned 90 degrees which will permit three full-sized courts to be located in the Wenner.

Tearin’ Up the Wenner Floor! Installation of New Court Underway

Photo: Crew from American Sport Floors preparing for a new surface at Belmont High School’s Wenner Field House.

When former athletes heard that the basketball courts at Belmont High School’s Wenner Field House was being torn out, former players began coming to see the crew taking the surface out with requests.

They wanted their own section as a keepsake.

OK, the slippery, threadbare vinyl surface was deemed by Belmont players and opponents alike as the worst court in the Middlesex League. But Ryan, the supervisor of the crew from Rockland-based American Sport Floors, said students and alum were asking for floor samples as souvenirs, especially the painted section around the free-throw line. 

As of Tuesday, July 28, the only recognizable section remaining of the former court was the Marauders logo that once stood at center court, cut out to be saved as a memento.  

Since last week, Ryan and his workers have been physically peeling off the nearly three-decade old vinyl surface as part of a private/public partnership financing the installation of a new textured and padded synthetic surface at Belmont High School.

As the workers heap strips of the former floor in piles, Ryan points to places on the bare cement foundation.

“You can see where the glue never took hold,” he said.

“There was nothing holding the old surface in place since it was laid,” said Ryan.

Led by Belmont Savings Bank, Belmont Youth Basketball and Belmont Boosters, the removal and installing of the new varsity volleyball/basketball court began with the official groundbreaking held this past Monday, July 20.

At the event, Belmont Schools Superintendent John Phelan and Belmont High Principal Dan Richards were thankful and appreciative of all the donors and especially for the additional time and effort put in by the original committee made up of John Carson, Paula Christofori, Jon Baldi, Chris Messer and David Ramsey.

The new stone grey and dark blue court – which will be inaugurated by Belmont High’s Volleyball team in September – is being financed with private funds, including a pair of $35,000 contributions, one from the Belmont Savings Bank Foundation and the other from the Belmont Youth Basketball Association. An additional $5,000 was collected at a fundraiser held at Hopkinton Country Club.  

A $100,000 appropriation from the Capital Budget Committee was approved by Town Meeting to complete the adjacent JV court and the surrounding area in 2016.


Originally the focus was just the varsity court but a substantial contribution of $15,000 by the Belmont Boosters will allow the the surface surrounding the court, out to the inner track, to be completed.

According to American Sport Floors, the court should be installed and painted by the start of the new school year in late August/September.

Ground breaking-2

Those responsible for the new court at Wenner Field House: John Carson; Committee Member, Michael DiMarco; Belmont Savings, Jim Reynolds; Belmont Boosters President, David Ramsey; Committee Member, Chris Messer; Committee Member, Hal Tovin; Belmont Savings, Matt Cubstead; BYBA President, John Phelan; Superintendent of Schools, Dan Richards; Belmont High School principal. Absent from the organizing committee are Jon Baldi and Paula Christofori.

Cool and Dark: Belmont High’s New Court Design Unveiled

Photo: The new basketball/volleyball court at Belmont High School will be ready for the volleyball season in September. 

Stone gray and midnight blue will color the new varsity court at the Wenner Field House as Belmont Athletic Director Jim Davis unveiled the new design to the School Committee at the final committee meeting of the school year on Monday, June 22 at the Chenery Middle School.

Replacing the long threadbare 20-year-old vinyl court will be a padded, modern synthetic court displaying the school’s mascot in the center circle and “Belmont” “Marauders” on either end. Construction will begin in late-July and be completed at the end of August.

The darkish color scheme will complement Belmont’s home “white” kits.

Along with the new court, the rims on the varsity court will be repaired or replaced.

The new court – which will be inaugurated with a game by Belmont High’s Volleyball team in September – was financed by a $100,000 appropriation from the Capital Budget Committee and private funds, chiefly from duel $35,000 contributions from the Belmont Savings Bank Foundation and the Belmont Youth Basketball Association. An additional $5,000 was raised at a fundraiser at Hopkinton Country Club.

Originally the focus was just the varsity court but a substantial contribution of $15,000 by the Belmont Boosters will allow the the surface surrounding the court, out to the inner track, to be completed.

The adjacent junior variety court will be completed in the summer of 2016.