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Chiasson carries weight for Leto

Since his first match as a sophomore at Leto High School, wrestling has become a way of life for Michael Chiasson.

He spends five to six hours a day at least six days a week training. Yet his grades are still important, and he studies enough to carry a B+ average as he takes college preparatory classes.

Under the guidance of second-year coach Frank Diaz, Chiasson has become a building block of a program that is successfully being restored.

Leto had been a factory of quality wrestlers for more than two decades. But when Diaz took over the program last year, there was only Chiasson and three other wrestlers.

This year, the team has 35 on the mats, consisting of Chiasson, a senior, and mostly sophomores and freshmen.

Before wrestling, Chiasson was successful in judo _ so aggressive, contact sports are familiar to him. He also runs cross country to help his endurance.

As a 112-pound sophomore, his best performances were third-place finishes in two tournaments, including districts.

Last season, he won districts and qualified for state, where his season ended early due to a knee injury. He went 25-7 at 119 pounds.

"He has really been working hard since last year," Diaz said. "After getting his knee back in shape, he must have wrestled 200 matches before this high school season started. He works hard, learns fast and is very coachable. He wants to learn more and does. When he is taught a new move, he works on it until he controls it."

So far this season, Chiasson is 11-2, 10 wins by pin. His losses came at the East Lake Christmas Invitational, where he said he wrestled a terrible tournament.

Chiasson wants to capture the Class 6A 125-pound state championship. From there, he would like to go on to compete in college.

He has the work ethic to prepare and seems to work endlessly.

"I just love the sport, and I am not afraid of working hard," he said. "I train at least two hours for each hour I spend working out with the team. After practice, I run at least 8-10 miles. That helps my endurance. Then I work at home with my brother, Jon, and my dad. My dad (Andre) was a Brandon wrestler in the early '70s. I also work a lot with weights."

Last year, he placed fifth at USA Wrestling's Junior Grand Nationals in his weight class in Greco-Roman competition. He said he enjoys Greco-Roman wrestling over freestyle because it is mostly upper-body work.

"The upper-body work helps me to develop confidence in making moves on my feet, yet I have learned to improve my takedown skills in Greco-Roman competition," he said. " Plus last year, I gave up my spot on the Florida National Team to attend the Jay Robinson Camp in Minnesota. What an experience. They drilled moves into us, and I learned to use them in matches."

"Sometimes he moves up a weight or two to get a tougher match and help the team," Diaz said. "The other kids look up to him. I only wish he was still a junior and still had another year in our program. But he will do well this year and hopefully go on to college wrestling."