Knapp makes wrestling history with All-States, New England titles


Ria Knapp

Senior Rafael Knapp poses with wrestling head coach Brian Kramer and assistant coach James Gray after winning the New England wrestling championship.

Sarah Coldwell, Staff Writer

Senior Rafael Knapp made history as the first Algonquin wrestler to win the All-States meet, which took place on Feb. 25 at Reading High School and followed it up with a New England Wrestling Tournament title in the 170-lb division, the culmination of years of hard work and dedication.

Knapp has been wrestling since he was 8 years old and continues his training with both the Algonquin team and his club team at Doughboy Wrestling Club. In the postseason, Knapp moved through Division I Sectionals, then Divisionals, where he finished in the top six, qualifying to compete at the All-State meet.

When it came to the final match at All-States, Knapp said he had a bit of a leg up, having previously wrestled senior Gabriel Thomasson from Norton High School in a club tournament.

Knapp spoke highly of Thomasson, praising his hard work and dedication, but in the match itself Knapp knew what he had to do. 

“Going into the match I knew I had to get my attacks, my shots,” Knapp said. “I went right after him right away. Once I started to build a lead I thrived off of it and scored more points throughout the match. I made it a lopsided score.”

Knapp defeated Thomasson 15-5. The title win validated the hard work Knapp has put in for years.

“At the end of the day it’s just a plaque to tell me how hard I worked and it paid off,” Knapp said. “I guess it was more of a relief. I know that through what I do I’m at the level to win stuff like that, but to actually go out and do it meant a lot. I felt like I was making my family proud.”

Following the All-State meet, Knapp won the New England Wrestling Tournament title on March 4. The championship included the top seven Massachusetts wrestlers and the top three wrestlers from the rest of New England.

Knapp has been wrestling since elementary school and continues his training with both the Algonquin team and his club team at Doughboy Wrestling Club. Knapp’s ARHS coach Brian Kramer is proud of Knapp’s accomplishments and what they mean to the program.

“It’s good for kids on the team so they can see what it takes, that this is possible, not this fictional high in the sky goal,” Kramer said. “They saw it and it’s concrete.”

Knapp is known by his coach and teammates for being endlessly dedicated. Knapp’s training includes five days a week practicing with his team, matches on Saturdays, practices with his club on Sundays and personal workout sessions on his own, including lifting weights and running. 

“It’s hard to comprehend how much work he has put into it, whether it’s what he eats or how he is working out outside of practice,” Kramer said.

Just like everyone else, Knapp had to start somewhere. From age eight he was on the mat wrestling with his dad by his side. Knapp values the support of his father, who was a high school and collegiate wrestler and a wrestling coach.

“I thank my dad most,” Knapp said. “He’s been not only super supportive but pushed me to be better. Also my club, I go up there a lot and there is a really good set of coaches; they’ve pushed me to get better.”

Knapp also credits his younger brother and fellow ARHS wrestler, sophomore Paulo Knapp, for pushing him to improve.

“I was drilling with him the whole season and I helped him, but he helped me to become a better wrestler,” Knapp said. “I get to teach him to be better with my accomplishments.”

Now that Knapp has reached the top of his game with his All-State and New England Wrestling Tournament wins he is looking forward to the future, including attending the University at Buffalo for Division I wrestling.

“This has kind of been the goal since eighth grade,” Knapp said. “I really wanted to wrestle at the Division I level.”

During Knapp’s junior year, he placed at a national tournament with his club team and started to see his future unfold before him.

“I really started to get some recognition, and then that fall I kept doing well and started talking to a few coaches and made my decision with University at Buffalo,” Knapp said.

Knapp is excited to challenge himself and hopeful for a strong start in college.

“I’m excited to hopefully be able to start [on the Buffalo team] so my family and friends can see me on TV wrestling,” Knapp said.