College Wrestling: With ‘no regrets’, Billerica’s Ferri looks to the future

By Stephen Tobey

When Jake Ferri arrived at the NCAA Division I wrestling championships, he had the same objective every other wrestler in the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma had.

At the end of the three-day tournament, he was not one of the 10 champions, nor was he one of the 70 others who earned All-America honors.

The Kent State (Ohio) University graduate student from Billerica, who entered the tournament seeded 23rd at 125 pounds, lost two decisions to wrestlers who were seeded in the top 10 on Thursday, March 16.

“At the end it’s always rough,” said Ferri, who was making his second trip to the national championships. “You always wonder if you could have done more or done something different, but I left it all out there. I have no regrets.”

Ferri opened the tournament against 10th-seeded Brandon Courtney of Arizona State, with Courtney prevailing, 6-3. In the consolation bracket, he faced seventh-seeded Brandon Kaylor of Oregon State. Kaylor prevailed, 11-6.

“You train to be a national champion,” Ferri said. “You set your goals as high as possible and work toward becoming an All-American. It was not my day and that’s how it goes.”

Throughout Ferri’s career, both at Kent State and at Shawsheen Tech, it was his day more often than not. At Shawsheen he was a two-time All-State and New England champion and a three-time NHSCA All-American.

He finished his career at Kent State with 106 victories, placing him in a tie for 16th all-time at Kent State with coach Jim Andrassy.

At the Mid-America Conference tournament, Ferri placed second.

“It took me six years to get there,” Ferri said, “but it means a lot.”

As successful as Ferri was at Shawsheen, he is not the same wrestler he was when he arrived in Ohio as a freshman.

“It took me more than three years to break out,” he said. “I’ve always been a grinder but you learn that it’s about more than hard work. I needed to learn to relax more. Recovery is very important.”

Ferri was one of five wrestlers at the national championships who grew up in Massachusetts. 

“Massachusetts wrestling is on the rise,” he said. “The guys have out. There are more gyms, Doughboy, Smitty’s Barn, Hamma Shack, Red Roots. Guys from different clubs are working with each other. There’s been a culture change. Guys are coming back after wrestling in college and coaching. I got a chance to Kent State because one of (Doughboy coach) Dave Shunamon’s college teammates said Kent State was looking for someone who could stay at 125 for their whole career.”

Though he was halfway across the country, Ferri has also kept an eye on his alma mater’s program and some of the wrestlers who may follow in his footsteps.

“The Tildsleys [Sid and James] and Bray Carbone are great kids and tough as hell,” he said. “I’ve worked with them a lot.”

For the past two seasons, Ferri has missed his high school coach, Mark Donovan, who died in the fall of 2021 after a battle with cancer.

“He always told me how proud he was of me,” Ferri said. “He’d always call around this time of year. 

This spring, Ferri will earn a masters degree in sports administration to go along with the bachelors he earned in sports science.

He plans on returning home and helping develop the next generation of local wrestling talent. He will coach at Red Roots in Reading and looking for high school or college coaching jobs.

His days as a competitive athlete are not over, however.

Ferri plans on competing in mixed martial arts, first as an amateur, before transitioning to the pro ranks.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” he said. “I’ve been training in grappling and striking. I’ve found a gym.”