NEW HAVEN, March 4, 2006 – As Ledyard junior T.J. Hepburn prepared for the 135-pound final in the 42nd New England wrestling championships Saturday night, he was calm and confident. He had already beaten Jon Archambault of Ludlow, Mass., in the 2005 and 2004 New England tournament.
Perhaps, he was a bit too overconfident.
Archambault led 3-0 after one period and with 1:30 left in the bout. But a determined Hepburn could not be denied hitting a beautiful switch for a reversal with 18.3 seconds left in regulation for a thrilling 6-5 victory and his first New England championship.
Hepburn was one of five Connecticut wrestlers in the finals and the only one to bring home a championship.
Danbury’s Frank Cammisa (140) and Kyle Rodgers (152) lost along with Windham senior Bran Crudden (171), who was upset by Nick Avery of Foxboro, Mass., 6-5 and suffered his first loss of the season.
At 275, Josh Pelletier of Foxcroft Academy, Maine scored five points in the final 30 seconds to stun New Milford’s Tom Ferrell, 5-1.
Timberlane, N.H. had six wrestlers win medals and easily won its second straight New England title with a tournament-record 53 point win over Salem, N.H. For the third straight year, Danbury (51.5 points) was third.
Hepburn (50-0, 140-3 career) never led in the final until he completed a reversal with 18 seconds left. “I underestimated him and he got to me,” Hepburn admitted afterward. “He was real strong on his feet. Last year, I ate him up there.”
Hepburn was penalized one point for fleeing the mat with 48 seconds left on a Archambault takedown attempt. And the Ludlow wrestler took a 3-0 after sinking a takedown about eight seconds later.
In the second period, Hepburn started on top and tilted Archambault for a two-point near fall but Archambault was able to reverse Hepburn to extend his lead to 5-2. But Hepburn hit a smooth switch to cut the lead to one, 5-4 with 1:10 left in the second.
In the third period, Archambault blocked Hepburn twice when he tried to sit out and switch. “I wasn’t too happy with that,” Ledyard coach Steve Bilheimer said with a big smile afterward. “I wanted him to escape (tie the match) and win it on his feet. But he was a stubborn little mule.”
But because Archambault was successful at blocking several moves, Hepburn focused on his switches. “I knew I would get it eventually,” he said. “I just didn’t know when.”
The bout was voted the most exciting of the finals. Hepburn had taken third in 2005 (125) and in 2004 (112).
Timberlane won its second straight championship with a team-record 108½ points and the largest margin of victory in tournament history. The Owls became just the third team to break the 100-point barrier.
“A big part of this was the confidence of the kids. They weren’t intimated and wrestled with great composure,” Timberlane coach Barry Chooljian said. “I know (New Hampshire) doesn’t have the depth like Connecticut and Massachusetts but our front line wrestlers are very good.”
Four New Hampshire wrestlers won New England titles, second only to Massachusetts.
Timberlane won its fifth championship and finished in the top three for the ninth time in the last 11 years.
A brief rundown on Connecticut wrestlers and key events in each weight class.
Ledyard’s C.J. Satti was sixth after dropping a 5-4 decision to Brandon Bushee of Mt. Anthony, Vt. Satti lost to eventual champion Joe O’Connor of Timberlane in the semifinals by pin.
Griswold’s Tyler Banks finished sixth after dropping a 6-0 decision to Carl Anderson of Billerica, Mass. Anderson also eliminated Cheshire’s Ronnie Waters and Bristol Central’s Chris Lombardi, 3-1, in the consolation bracket.
Tied 0-0 in the third period, Anderson escaped with 1:45 left to take a 1-0 lead and took a commanding 3-0 lead with 1:18 left on a takedown. In the final, Aaron Kalil of Salem, N.H., finished the season undefeated (52-0, 131-8) by pinning Tim Rich of Chelmsford, Mass. in 3:30.
Southington sophomore Dave Badgley had a pair of one-point victories to get into the consolation final. He beat Maine’s Allen Stein on a third period escape, 5-4, in the quarterfinals. In the consolation quarterfinals, Badgley gave up a reversal with about three seconds left that tied the match but he continued to wrestle and escaped with no time left to earn a 8-7 victory over Nick Cappello of Burlington, Mass.
However, in the consolation final, he dropped a 3-0 decision to Ridgefield’s Corey Paulish (53-2). “He’s like a spider,” Dion said of Paulish. “He is always clinging to you and it makes it tough to score.” Paulish outlasted a tough Tucker Glass of Morgan in the consolation semifinals, 6-4.
In the final, Trevor Deardon of Salem, N.H. pinned Timberlane’s Eric Morrill in 3:26. Morrill (48-5) lost in the New England finals for the third straight year. He lost in the 112 final last year and at 103 in 2004.
The dream of a championship can disappear literally in a second. Plainville senior Nick Cavallaro saw his title hopes expire in a 5-3 OT loss to Justin Belanger of Exeter-West Greenwich, R.I. in the quarterfinals. Cavallaro was penalized one point for stalling with nine seconds left in the third period to send the bout into overtime.
But Cavallaro won three straight bouts to earn a spot in the consolation final against Belanger. In the consolation semifinal, Matt Gauthier of Lowell, Mass., caught Cavallaro in a headlock to take a 4-2 lead but Cavallaro fought off his back and had a reversal to tie the bout at 4-4. An escape with 1:47 left was the difference in a 5-4 win for Cavallaro.
In the second bout against Belanger, Cavallaro snapped a 1-1 tie by sinking a nice, quick single leg takedown to grab a 3-1 lead with 1:28 left. But Belanger quickly escaped to trim the lead to one with 1:20 left.
Twice Cavallaro successfully fended off single-leg takedown attempts from Belanger. But with nine seconds left, Belanger tripped Cavallaro (51-2) and got behind him for match-winning takedown and a 4-3 victory.
In a rematch from last year’s finals, Mt. Anthony’s Corey Greene (61-1, 192-13) won his second straight New England title with a 5-2 win over Devon Hennessey of Bridgwater-Raytham in Massachusetts. Last year, Greene won 8-6 in OT at 125 pounds.
Killingly’s Brian Peek won four straight consolation round matches to finish third with a 3-1 win over Tony Gilmore of Belfast, Maine. Peek won a tight 2-1 victory over Alex Buessing of Concord, N.H., in the consolation semifinals. Danbury’s Tyler Howe was fifth.
Hepburn became the seventh Ledyard wrestler and first since T.J. MarcAurele (125) in 1992 to win a New England title. Waterford’s Brennan Ward lost in the semifinals to Archambault, 7-0 and eventually finished fifth.
Danbury’s Frank Cammisa relaxed for a second near the end of the second period and gave up two crucial near fall points in a 4-2 loss to D.J. Meagher in the finals. Meagher was able to wrap Cammisa up in a cradle long enough to pick up two points and tie the match.
In the third period, Cammisa started on top but Meagher hit a nice switch with 47.1 seconds to go and was able to effectively tie up Cammisa for the remainder of the match. It was the second year in a row that Cammisa finished second. He dropped a 2-0 decision at 135 pounds last year.
After taking fourth at 135 a year ago and third at 125 in 2004, Enfield’s Sam Gauvine was looking for his first New England title. But in the semifinals, he ran into Timberlane’s Tim Sullivan. Despite a nice takedown in the waning seconds of the second period, Gauvine trailed 3-2. But in the third period, a persistent and strong half-nelson eventually turned Gauvine, who was pinned with 15 seconds remaining.
But he rallied with two strong victories to finish third and finish 39-1 this year and 124-9 overall. Griswold’s James Gladue finished fifth.
It takes a special wrestler to dominate a Danbury wrestler. Brian Sheehan of Lowell, Mass., is a legitimate Division I recruit and he used five takedowns to dominate Kyle Rodgers in a 10-6 victory. Rodgers scored all six points on escapes.
Sheehan won his second straight New England title and finished undefeated (52-0) for the second straight year. He won three straight Massachusetts titles, something only five other wrestlers have done. He is considering wrestling at several Division I schools.
Undefeated sophomore Robert Hamlin (45-0) of Mt. Mansfield, Vt., won the title with a 3-0 victory over Alan Loignon of Biddeford, Me. Hamlin beat Xavier’s John Holzinger in the semifinals, 12-5.
After giving up just three points in his first two victories, Holzinger gave up five points in the first period in his loss to Hamlin, the Vermont state champion. Trailing 5-2, Holzinger escaped in the second period to trim the lead to two but Hamlin was able to secure a takedown late in the second period to take command.
The win snapped Holzinger’s 39-match winning streak.
But Holzinger (44-1) responded by outlasting Killingly’s Dave Loomis, 3-2 and dominating Moore to finish third.
“It’s the best he wrestled all day,” Xavier coach Mike Cunningham said of the win over Moore. “He looked like a machine out there. It’s good to go out a winner. After you lose that semifinal, a world of pressure is released from you. He was so relaxed.” Killingly’s Dave Loomis beat Granby’s Chris Nadeau for fifth place, 5-2.
Windham’s Bran Crudden has the most wins of any wrestler in state history. But a stunning 6-5 loss to Nick Avery of Foxboro, Mass., denied Crudden (50-1, 194-9) a New England championship.
Avery got a takedown on Crudden with 18 seconds left in the first period. “The early takedown hurt him. The kid got in deep and he got a nice takedown,” Windham coach Pat Risley said. “Getting the first takedown is so crucial at this caliber of wrestling.”
A year ago, Avery was known for his wrestling on the mat. He worked on his takedowns over the summer and this year with Crudden in mind. “I knew he was the guy to beat,” said Avery. “I knew he was a takedown guy and I knew if I could frustrate him on his feet, I would have an advantage.”
In the second period, Avery (40-1) extended his lead to 4-0 with a reversal. Crudden cut the lead to two with a reversal of his own but Avery slipped away for a crucial escape with 8 seconds left and a 5-2 lead.
Crudden cut the lead to one, 5-4, with 1:39 left with a reversal after Avery was riding too high but he couldn’t turn the Massachusetts champion. With 40 seconds left, Avery tried a granby roll but Crudden nearly pinned him before Avery went back to his stomach. With 25 seconds, Crudden let him to attempt to tie the match with a takedown.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Risley said. Crudden was 2nd at 160 a year ago and third at 145 in 2004.
Newington’s Anthony Kaponis (171) won his initial match on Friday night despite tearing a ligament in his hip in waning seconds of a 15-9 victory over Wayne Tetreault of Ponaganset, R.I.. Kaponis iced the injury and tried to continue but withdrew from his next match.
East Catholic’s Nate Shippee (51-2, 146-39) became the first New England medalwinner in school history by finishing third. Shippee beat Ryan Connors of Xaverian Brothers in Massachusetts, 7-0. Greenwich’s Brandon Williamson finished fifth with a 5-1 win over Matt Forcier of Cranston East. In the final, Central Catholic’s Shaun Fendore won his second straight New England title with a 5-3 victory over Natick's Jimmy Hamel, who beat Fendore for the Massachusetts title a week ago.
Norwalk’s Platon Koukides was literally a second away from the New England final. Trailing 2-0 in the third period in the semifinals against Cody Rideout of Londonderry, N.H., he escaped with 1:01 left and took a 3-2 lead with 50 seconds to go with a takedown. The rest of the period, Koukides worked well to control Rideout. But with less than a second to go, Koukides relaxed and Rideout slipped away at the buzzer to tie the match and send it into overtime.
An attempt at an upper body throw failed in overtime as Rideout prevailed, 5-3. Rideout lost in the finals to A.J. Hunte of Brookline, Mass., 8-1. Koukides finished fifth with a 3-2 win over Quincy’s Chris Pratt.
A takedown with three seconds left in the third period lifted New Milford’s Tom Ferrell into the championship match with a thrilling 3-1 win over Zack DesRochers of Greater Lowell. Ferrell drove into DesRochers, got his hands under both arms, pushed them up into the air and drove in for the takedown.
In the final, Ferrell held a 1-0 lead over Josh Pelletier of Foxcroft Academy in Maine. But with 36 seconds left, Pelletier hip checked Ferrell who couldn’t maintain control and fell to his back. Pelletier quickly held Ferrell there to gain the reversal and near fall to win the bout, 5-1.
Thrilling win for Hepburn, heartbreaking losses for other Nutmeg wrestlers