WILLIMANTIC, Feb. 19 – Twice within eight days, Waterford and Windham hit the mat with a championship on the line. A week ago, the two squads battled in the ECC Tournament with Ledyard winning the event. But Waterford slipped past Windham by six points to claim the ECC Small Division championship.
In the Class M tournament, the two ECC squads stood toe-to-toe against each other throughout the day. But Waterford stood the tallest when this day was complete with an 18½ point victory over defending champion Windham, 219 to 200½ to win its first state title since 1985 (Class S). Berlin was a distant third with 184½ points.
"It was a lot of hard work, we had a lot of ups and downs, but these guys wrestled unbelievably this weekend,” Waterford coach Chris Gamble told the New London Day.
Waterford and Windham went head-to-head in two finals. At 130, Waterford’s Zeth Zolda topped Windham’s Jonathan Torres, 2-1 in double OT on criteria. Zolda held Torres down for 30 seconds to get the win. “It was just 30 seconds of hardest work but it paid off,” Zolda told The Hartford Courant.
Waterford’s undefeated Ken Fratus (36-0) dominated Windham’s Carlos Cruz, 16-1, to win at 112 pounds. His dominant performance earned him tournament MVP honors. A year ago, a heavily-favored Fratus was overweight at 103 and missed the tournament. “I’m not lying when I say every single day I think about that,” he told the Hartford Courant. “And I’m still not done making up for that mistake. I have a lot of unfinished business.”
Shawn Karasevicz (215) won his second straight Class M championship with a 8-4 win over Hartford Public’s Brian Sanford. “We were bored of being a top 10 team in the state and we wanted to be ECC Champs and state champs," he told the New London Day.
Windham put six wrestlers in the finals and two prevailed. Kurtis Strout (145) and Bran Crudden (160) each won for the second straight year.
THIRD PERIOD EXPLOSION: Foran-Milford’s Jared Czarneski (140) scored nine points in the third period to break open a three-point bout and beat RHAM’s Mike Karpman, 13-4 and win a state championship. "It’s nice, but my main goal is Opens and New Englands," Czarneski told the New Haven Register. "Foran hasn’t had a Class M champ for 10 years, at least. We had four people place and that hasn’t happened in a while. I am happy with the team effort."
MORE TO GO: Hand’s Jay Mahoney (103) added a Class M title to his trophy display with a 10-0 victory over Windham’s Andrew Blain. Mahoney won the SCC title a week earlier. "It is the level that everybody wants to reach, but I am not satisfied yet," Mahoney told the New Haven Register."I want next week."
PLENTY OF MEDALS: Berlin had nine wrestlers win medals (top 6) but had only one state champion. Top-seeded Jim Solek (152) beat Bacon Academy’s Jim Cox, 8-1. Solek (35-2) slipped past Bethel’s Michael Kaptein in the semifinals, 2-0. "I told him all week long in our preparation that I knew he was the best kid in the tournament," Berlin coach Jim Day told The Herald Press said. "The only person who could beat him was him. He took care of business and had a dominating performance in the finals."
Nick Catalano (145) finished second while five other teammates qualified for the State Open.
"In past years when we had that many place-winners we’ve won the state title," Day told the Herald Press. "This was the most competitive state tournament that any of my teams have ever competed in. We competed hard, but we just didn’t have enough to beat Waterford and Windham."
AROUND THE MAT: Enfield’s Sam Gauvine (125) won his second straight Class M title with a 12-6 win over RHAM’s Eric Campbell. … Bethel’s Nick Palmero won his first state title at 125. He had finished second the previous two seasons. …
Material from the New London Day, New Haven Register, Hartford Courant, The Herald Press and personal notes were used to compile this report.
Waterford holds off Windham to claim 1st title since 1985