“Thibault-mania” keeps Southwick abuzz
By PETER FRANCIS
SOUTHWICK – Folks in the small town of Southwick, Massachusetts like their sports. They remember the days of girl’s basketball icon Rebecca Lobo, who went on to score 2,740 points in her career at Southwick-Tolland Regional (a state record that would stand for 18 years after her graduation in 1991) and would go on to play at the University of Connecticut and then in the WNBA.
There’s Stetson Arnold, a cross-country legend who went unbeaten as a senior at Southwick, winning his second state title with a time of 14.31 on the 2.85 mile course, a state record at the time. Arnold would go on to run at Providence College.
However, amidst all of the sports history that Southwick-Tolland Regional High School has accumulated over the years, it appears that it may be necessary to add another face to the Mount Rushmore of Rams’ athletics soon.
Meet Stephen Thibault, a bulldog on the mat who has won two straight Western Massachusetts championships in boys’ wrestling, who won a state championship last year, and came within one match of repeating this season. And here’s the kicker -he’s only an eighth-grader.
“His season is still going strong,” Southwick wrestling coach Ed Martinez said entering the weekend, “he’s 39-1 at the moment, with his one loss coming in the state title match. But he’s such a smart kid and a hard worker, he is constantly improving.”
Last year, as a 103-pound seventh grader, he became the youngest grappler to ever win a Division 3 state championship, winning the decisive final match 9-0 with a dominant performance for the ages. However, to talk to the 8th grader is to receive a lesson in modesty.
“I’m proud of my accomplishments, yes,” Thibault said in an exclusive interview with the Westfield News, “but I refuse to be satisfied. Coach Martinez and my coaches at Northeast Elite demand hard work from me, so that’s what I give them, nothing less.”
Thanks to Thibault-mania, Southwick is in the midst of building a wrestling revival, and doing it in youthful fashion. “We have eight starters who are currently in middle school,” Martinez said, “and Stephen serves as a great role model for them.”
“It’s an honor and a privilege to carry the mantle for the program,” Thibault said, “and when I leave, I hope to pass that torch along to the next generation of wrestlers here at Southwick.”
There has been a lot of speculation recently in regards to that very question, when exactly will the “Maestro of the Mat” depart Southwick? Thibault has confirmed that he is in fact looking at prep schools, with Northfield Mount Hermon reportedly being high on his list.
“My brother Joseph attends Wilbraham and Monson Academy, so he got me interested in looking to go prep,” Thibault said. “But if nothing works out, I’d be very happy at Southwick.”
Thibault also makes no bones about his future plans, in which baseball factors heavily.
“It’s a huge aspect of my life, and I’d love to go on to college and play,” he said, “I train year round for it, fall ball, winter sessions. I love it.”
However, when the words “college” and “scholarship” enter conversation, Thibault says he would gladly accept a scholarship to wrestle collegiately. “It’d be a great honor to wrestle in college.”
So regardless of where this diaper dandy grapples and attends school next year, one thing is for certain: “Thibault-mania” is far from over in Southwick, Massachusetts.