The Tigers’ senior will soon eclipse the school’s career win record of 110.
EASTON – Records are made to broken, and that’s what elite wrestler Dean Pacini set out to accomplish when he entered his senior season at Oliver Ames High School.
Actually, Pacini’s record-setting journey started in his junior year when he became the first OA junior to win a Hockomock League wrestling crown as well as a Div. 2 Sectional championship.
Pacini continued his assault on the OA wrestling history books when he recorded his 100th career win on Jan. 5.
The senior, and self-described weight room warrior, will soon surpass the all-time mark of 110 career wins, which is held jointly by former Tiger wrestling greats Matt Harding and Shea O’Connor.
“Dean (Pacini) will likely eclipse the record in the next two weeks,” said OA wrestling coach Kahn Chace. “There is no doubt in my mind that Dean will soon be recognized as the best wrestler in our program’s history. He has done everything we have asked of him and much more.”
By all accounts Pacini has been a hard worker from the day he first stepped on a wrestling mat as an enthusiastic and energetic fifth grader.
“We saw a lot of very special qualities in Dean as a young boy and we worked hard to nurture those qualities,” said his mother Stacey. “His father and I saw his passion for football and wrestling and we encouraged and supported him as best as we could.”
Said his father David: “Dean was a very determined youngster, and when he set his mind to accomplish something there was no stopping him.”
Pacini’s path to his current status as an elite wrestler was not a typical one.
Most wrestlers start developing their skills at an early age in local youth programs and then move on to advanced training in a select wrestling club.
For Pacini it all started in the fifth grade, not on the wrestling mat but in the school yard, when he and best bud Anthony Berksza (and current football and wrestling teammate) got into a shoving match during recess.
“We spent some time in the front office and had to shake hands,” recalled Berksza. “I asked him to join me on the mat afterward, which he did, and we have been best friends ever since.”
Pacini’s wrestling career took a turn for the worse in seventh grade when he broke his arm during a youth wrestling tournament.
“I broke my arm in two or three places,” said Pacini, who is an Enterprise All Scholastic in football and wrestling. “My mom was pretty upset and she didn’t want me to continue to wrestle.”
Fast forward two years to Pacini’s freshman year, which saw an intense lobbying effort by Berksza and the OA coaching staff, as Stacey reluctantly agreed for her son to restart his wrestling career.
“There was a lot of begging going on for sure,” said Stacey about the decision. “But I agreed, and looking back it was a good decision.”
After a freshman year in which he had a taste of varsity competition (7-5 record), his inner strength kicked in, and he realized he had to make some changes in order to realize his wrestling dreams.
“Dean was an experiment as he entered our program as a freshman,” said Chace. “He was big and strong; we saw the potential. He had an incredible appetite for pushing himself in the weight room.
“He started in the 195 weight class and amazingly has wrestled in it all four years.”
When asked about Pacini’s workout regimen, Tigers football coach Mike Holland spoke in admiration about Pacini’s work ethic and leadership.
“Respected, loyal, hard-working and so focused,” said Holland. “Dean never stops working – a fitness fanatic.”
With an abundance of energy and the time and motivation to put that to good use, he embarked upon an offseason wrestling and fitness program to become bigger, stronger and better.
The offseason training regimen (three days per week/six hours per day) paid dividends as his record improved to 34-12 as a sophomore and 39-9 in his junior season.
It is interesting to note that Pacini prepares for each bout like most other wrestlers, with the headphones on listening to music and getting into the zone for his next opponent. But what separates the Easton native from the rest of the pack is that he pumps a set or two of iron in the weight room as an added ritual to loosen up.
Currently Pacini, competing in the 195 weight class, has an eye-popping 21-0 record (101-26 career), including a program first championship in the prestigious Marshfield Holiday Tournament. And he won the title in prodigious fashion, defeating all four opponents by pins and without allowing any points.
With the school record basically assured, Pacini has a few more lofty goals in sight, which he would like to knock off in successive order. Namely, to retain his Div. 2 sectional title and then win the Div. 2 (fifth place in 2018) and All States titles (sixth in 2018).
“Those are my goals – I am competing against the best,” said Pacini, who in spite of all his success on the mat expects to continue playing football at the next level.
The gaudy record aside, Pacini is quick to point out that there are more important things in his life than just personal success on the wrestling mat or football field.
“My mother and father have been so very supportive,” said Pacini, who expects to study exercise science or kinesiology in college. “I learned quite a bit about the importance of academics from my older sister, Danielle. And my older brother, David, taught me the difference between right and wrong – a valuable life lesson.”
There is no question that Pacini will go down in the Oliver Ames history books as the best ever, with former Tigers Manning and O’Connor a close second.
As the conversation drifted back to Pacini, and the record and championship goals, he steered the interview in a different direction.
“I have my wrestling goals and I am driven to achieve them not for myself, but first and foremost for my family, faith, friends and my school – those people that are most important to me,” said Pacini.