By GERRY deSIMAS, JR.
Connecticut Wrestling Online
BERLIN, Feb. 16, 2002 -- Gilbert's Devin Schibi saw something in Saturday's Class S wrestling tournament he had seen once all season -- the ceiling. Schibi was put to his back twice in a semifinal win over Derby's Anthony Defala but calmly survived in a 12-3 victory.
It was no where as close in the finals as Schibi (152 pounds) joined an exclusive group of Berkshire League wrestlers thanks to his 56-second pin of East Windsor's Shane Parlos. The win gave Schibi his third Class S championship, something that only seven BL wrestlers and 13 wrestlers overall have achieved.
Northwestern Regional freshman Joel Webster (112) did something no other wrestler in his school's history has achieved earning a medal and a spot in the finals. Webster fell short in his bid to earn the first state title, falling to New London's top-seeded Miguel Pagan, 6-4.
Schibi, Webster led a group of seven Berkshire League wrestlers that earned spots in next weekend's State Open championships in Glastonbury. The top four wrestlers in each class qualify.
Nonnewaug's Kostas Hatzikotas (125) and Kevin Cook (130) qualified along with Gilbert's Evan Vold (112) and Steve Dombrowski (145). Terryville's Jim Galvin (112) also qualified by finishing fourth.
Hatzikotas and Vold each finished third while Dombrowski and Cook were fourth.
Schibi (31-0, 22 pins) was dominant in his victory and it earned him tournament MVP honors. He got a quick takedown and had Parlos wrapped up in a cradle.
"I didn't think I would pin him that quick," Schibi admitted. "Hard work pays off."
Of all the state titles, Schibi said this was the best. "I want to go out on top," he said.
His semifinal victory had more drama. Defala, who won the Southern Connecticut Conference title last week, trailed 7-0 after two periods. In began the third period on top and scooted out in front of Schibi and was able his arms under Schibi and flip him to his back as the crowd roared.
Schibi was able to keep one shoulder off the mat and rolled out of danger. Defala repeated the move again seconds later but wasn't able to get any near fall points.
With time running out, Schibi escaped and he iced the match with a takedown and near fall for a 12-3 win.
"It was interesting," Schibi admitted. "He didn't have it tight enough to pin me. I knew where I was on the mat."
The last BL wrestler to win three straight Class S titles was Nonnewaug's Jason Rabideau in 1993.
In the 112 pound final, Webster trailed 3-2 after one period. Pagan took a 5-2 lead on a nice reversal in the second period. A reversal by Webster in the third period on a sharp switch cut the lead to one, 5-4, with 1:21 remaining. But Webster couldn't turn Pagan to his back and earn any near fall points.
"He left it all on the mat," Northwestern coach Jerry Trieschmann said. "I'm real proud of him."
Derby won its third straight title, despite losing 13 points when Robert Natalino (125) was thrown out of the tournament for breaking a window on a gym door after a semifinal loss. The Raiders are the third school to achieve that honor, tying the record set by Pulaski-New Britain in 1979-81 and Avon in 1993-95.
Dave Stec (145) led the way for the Red Raiders with his third Class S championship. Ryan Stefancin (130) also won for Derby, which outlasted New London, 197-183.5. It was the best ever finish for the Whalers.
"A great bunch of seniors have had a lot to do with it," Derby coach Buster Jadach said. "They worked hard in the off season for four years and did everything they needed to do to become what they are. It's been a team effort all the time, especially this year."
In the last four years, Derby has gone 95-2-1 in dual meets, won three Class S titles and finish second the other season.
Kostas Hatzikotas (125) led Nonnewaug by taking third with a 5-2 victory over New London's Sekiyo Fratt. Hatzikotas rebounded from a 3-2 loss in the semifinals to eventual champion Rob Tolk of Avon and won two more matches to finish third. Kevin Cook (130) took fourth while Rob Deschino (103) and Cory Patrick (135) each finished sixth.
MILLS WRESTLER PAYS HIS OWN WAY:
Lewis Mills' Jeff Watson (135), who paid his own entry fee of $90 to enter the tournament, finished fifth in his first state tournament appearance. Watson, who trains with Bristol Central, dropped a 3-2 decision to eventual finalist Bernie Cunningham of Tolland in the quarterfinals. But Watson went 4-1 in the consolation brackets to finish fifth with a 9-7 win over Patrick.
NGUYEN WORKS HARD FOR TITLE: A year ago, Rocky Hill junior Tony Nguyen was No. 4 seed in the Class S wrestling championships but he didn't earn a medal, finishing out of the top six.
It was an eye-opening experience. Angered and embarrassed, he dedicated himself to preparing for this campaign.
"He made a commitment to himself to work as hard as he could in the off season and during the season to good and ready," Rocky Hill coach Mike Cunningham said.
The work paid off as Nguyen earned the ninth state championship in school history with a 5-4 decision over New London's Ryan Murphy in the 119-pound weight class.
His victory was the highlight of a seventh place finish by the Terriers, their best finish since winning the Class S title in 1998.
Loxley Walters (135) and Rob LaBonte (152) each finished third to earn spots in next weekend's State Open championships in Glastonbury while Steve Bongiovanni (145) took sixth to earn a medal.
It wasn't any easy win for Nguyen, who improves to 36-4 on the season. He got the first takedown and led 2-1 after one period.
After Murphy was penalized one point for locking hands in the second period, Nguyen earned an escape to take a 4-1 lead.
Murphy earned a reveral in the third period to trim the lead to one, 4-3. But he couldn't turn Nguyen to earn any near fall points. So he let Nguyen intentionally escape with 30 seconds remaining in the match. Nguyen was penalized a point for stalling but couldn't get the takedown in the waning seconds of the match.
Part of Nguyen's success this season has been his focus -- on and off the mat.
"He drills on technique, conditioning and being mentally ready," Cunningham said. "Mentally, he has matured in leaps and bounds."
LaBonte swallowed a tough semifinal loss at 152 pounds but came back to win two straight matches in the consolation round and finish third. LaBonte beat Derby's Anthony Defala, 8-4 with a strong third period effort.
In the semifinal, LaBonte's third period escape tied his match 1-1 with East Windsor's Shane Parlos. The match went into overtime where no one could earn a takedown in the one-minute sesson. In the second OT, Parlos chose down and escaped to earn a 2-1 victory.
Walters, the No. 2 seed at 135 pounds, was upset by eventual finalist Bernie Cunningham of Tolland in the quarterfinals, 4-2. But Walters won four straight decisions to finish third, not allowing a point in his final three matches of the afternoon and outscoring them by a combined score of 20-0. He beat Portland's Dan Bourret, 4-0, to finish third.