Championship: Victor Ekpenyong, Middletown def. Ross Spencer, East Lyme, 14-2; Third: Tyler Keane, Glastonbury def. Brian Jennings, Danbury, 2-0, OT; Fifth: Ricky Jorge, Xavier def. Josh Dess, Bristol Eastern, Default
Championship: Charlie Costanzo, Danbury def. Taylor Grauer, Windham, 3-1; Third: Ben Pierre Saint, Stamford def. J.A. Richardson, Jonathan Law, 4-1; Fifth: Nick Amorando, New Milford def. Will Gerardi, RHAM, pin 1:43
Championship: Tyler Tilbe, Nonnewaug def. Ed Carroll, Daniel Hand, 6-4, OT; Third: Miguel Calixto, Windham def. Evan Fraser, Fairfield Warde, pin 4:46; Fifth: J.D. Damici, Danbury def. Chris Chorzepa, Newington, 7-6
Championship: Joe Sargenti, South Windsor def. Brandon Walsh, Griswold, 7-1; Third: Ian McAllister, Fairfield Warde def. Taylor Gunnels, Ledyard, 7-3; Fifth: Dalton Ahern, Westbrook/Old Saybrook def. James Gendler, Avon, pin 3:00
Championship: Nick Giulietti, Sheehan def. Aaron Cardona, Maloney, 5-4; Third: Lucas Muntz, Conard def. A Terlizzi, New Milford, pin 1:52; Fifth: Ty Cunningham, Xavier def. Nick Cipriano, NFA, 4-1
Championship: P.J. Mickens, Bacon Academy def. Jake O’Dell, South Windsor, 5-3, OT; Third: Zach Cooke, Killingly def. William Bonagura, Bethel, 2-1; Fifth: Nick Boots, Griswold def. Cam Gonzalez, Fitch, pin 1:00
Championship: Andrew Ford, Bethel def. Jesse Broderick, New Fairfield, 13-3; Third: Brian Onofrio, Daniel Hand def. Robert Garlick, Somers, 3-1; Fifth: Dillon Carter, Xavier def. Tom Anania, Fairfield Warde, pin 1:18
Championship: Alex Carpenter, Amity def. Dustin Wilcox, Montville, pin 4:28; Third: John Smith, Danbury def. Justin Scalise, Hall, 12-6; Fifth: Mike Zabala, Hartford Classical def. Brohen Krsulic, Woodstock, 1-0
Championship: Pat Gillen, Shelton def. Luke Wiggins, Waterford, 4-2, OT; Third: Adam Lynch, New Milford def. Dylan Hancock, Danbury, 3-2, 2 OT; Fifth: Ted Kostopolous, Jonathan Law def. Bryan Barnash, Trumbull, 2-0
Championship: Ronnie Walter, Nonnewaug def. Jeff Starr, Brien McMahon, 3-1, OT; Third: Joe Demichele, Daniel Hand def. Larry Burns, Conard, Default; Fifth: Matt McMahon, Montville def. Steve Storozuk, Manchester, 10-6
Outstanding wrestler: Victor Ekpenyong, Middletown (112)
Fast fall: J.A. Richardson From Jonathan Law, 119 Lbs, 3 Pins, 7:06
Costanzo wins 3rd straight title;
Seven individual titles decided in OT
10th straight State Open title
By GERRY deSIMAS, JR.
Connecticut Wrestling Online
NEW HAVEN, Feb. 28 – Quietly on a sleepy Sunday morning, the Danbury High wrestling team won its tenth consecutive State Open championship at the New Haven Athletic Center.
When wrestling had finished early Saturday evening, South Windsor left the gym with a 14½ point lead and three wrestlers in the finals. Danbury was in second place with just one wrestler in the final.
The difference was in the semifinals of the consolation round. South Windsor had no wrestlers left outside of their three finalists. Danbury had five wrestlers left. And the Hatters went to work.
Any hopes of an upset disappeared when wrestling resumed. Danbury won seven of its final 10 matches in the tournament to surge past the Bobcats and win the tournament with 95½ points to South Windsor’s 84.
New Milford finished a distant third with 67½ points with four wrestlers winning medals (top six) while Hand was fourth with 64 points followed by Bacon Academy (57) and Fairfield Warde (54½).
Danbury’s lone finalist, Charlie Costanzo, prevailed at 119 pounds to become the first Hatter wrestler and 13th wrestler in state history to win three straight State Open championships. John Smith (160), who finished third in Class LL, took third for the Hatters. Dylan Bryant (103), Brian Jennings (112) and Dylan Hancock (215) each finished fourth while J.D. Damici (125) took fifth.
“I told them all before the tournament began we were the underdog,” Danbury coach Ricky Shook said. “If South Windsor put four in the final, they would be tough to beat. But we wrestled a good tournament.
“We brought six wrestlers here and all six placed. Five are going to the New Englands,” Shook said. “They’ve carried us all year and they did it again today.”
Danbury has been vulnerable this year. They dropped a one-point decision match to Mt. Anthony, Vermont in December but those matches are always close. But the match that raised eyebrows was a 10-point loss to New Milford in December for its first dual meet loss in 14 years to a Connecticut team.
And in February, Fairfield Warde beat the Hatters in the FCIAC Tournament.
“Those losses we’ve had this year were the best thing to happen to our overall program,” Shook said. “Now, we have kids ready to do some work. The focus has changed. They’re ready to listen and work.”
Costanzo was in a tight bout with Windham High sophomore Taylor Grauer but his two-point takedown with 53 seconds remaining in the match was the difference in a 3-1 victory.
“His focus has been these three weeks,” Shook said of Costanzo, referring to the Class LL, Open and New England tournaments. “This is what he has wrestled for his whole life. He’s done all the work and put in all the time in school and on the mat.”
Costanzo is a straight ‘A’ student and has been accepted at West Point.
* * * *
The championship finals were exciting. Seven of the 14 bouts were determined in overtime. Here is a brief rundown of some highlights from each weight class.
Bristol Eastern junior Andrew Chase (40-3) earned the seventh Open title in school history and first since 1998 with a 7-5 win in overtime over New Milford’s Conor Kirkegard. Chase, who finished second in Class L a week ago to Kirkegard in a 4-2 decision, won the rematch this time. Kirkegard rallied from a five-point deficit and tied the match at 5-5 with a takedown with a minute left in the first period. Chase nearly had a reversal in the final seconds but the match went into overtime.
In the extra session, Chase was able defend when Kirkegard shot on him and spin behind for the match-winning takedown. “He was on a mission this weekend,” Eastern coach Bryant Lishness said. “(Chase) set the pace and made it his match.” Chase wrestled through the second half of the season with a broken finger.
Middletown’s Vic Ekpenyong has been close to an Open championship before. He was second at 103 as a sophomore losing in overtime to Woodstock Academy’s R.J. LaBeef. A year ago, he had a six-point lead in the semifinals but gave up three points in the final 40 seconds of a one-point loss. Ekpenyong rallied to finish third but he used that defeat as motivation in the off-season.
Ekpenyong won his second straight Class L title two weeks ago and was dominant on his way to the finals. He beat Danbury’s Brian Jennings in the semifinals, 11-2.
The opposition was defending State Open champion Ross Spencer of East Lyme. But for the third time this year, Ekpenyong came away a winner. He dominated in a 14-2 victory. He was named the tournament’s outstanding wrestler.
“He has been on a mission all year ever since he lost that semifinal here,” Middletown coach Mark Fong said. “Last year, he came here and he was undefeated and that didn’t work out. So, this year our plan was to challenge him. He’s been wrestling heavier kids all year. He didn’t complain. He just kept working.”
Glastonbury’s Tyler Keane beat Jennings in overtime, 2-0, to finish third.
Danbury’s Charlie Costanzo won his third straight Open title with a 3-1 win over Windham sophomore Taylor Grauer. (Details above).
Nonnewaug junior Tyler Tilbe didn’t let his ego swell after he marched through the regular season campaign with relative ease. He won his third straight Berkshire League title and his second Class S title in a row. He lost just one of his 40 matches.
He knew he would be challenged here at the Open – and often. He was up to the challenge. Tilbe’s third period escape gave him a 3-2 win over Evan Fraser of Fairfield Warde in the quarterfinals.
In the semifinals, Tilbe again won by a point, beating Windham High’s Miguel Calixto, 3-2 with an escape with 1:05 left in the third period. The key move came in the first period when Tilbe scored takedown with just 20 seconds gone in the match. “We wanted to put on a lot of pressure and score early,” Chiefs coach David Green said.
In the final, Tilbe had to go to overtime against Hand’s Ed Carroll. Tilbe (43-1) gave up the first takedown of the match and trailed, 3-1 after two periods. But early in the third period, Tilbe escaped and within two seconds, he picked up the takedown to take a 4-3 lead. The momentum was on his side.
“That was the difference in the match, he just kept going and going. We’ve been drilling about scoring off transition and attacking,” Green said. “By overtime, he was ready to score.”
Carroll escaped with 24 seconds left to tie the bout at 4-4. In overtime, Tilbe countered Carroll’s takedown attempt and spun behind for the victory. “I’ve never felt better in my life,” Tilbe said. “This is what I dreamed of.”
Calixtro finished third by pinning Warde’s Evan Fraser in 4:46. Danbury’s J.D. Damici finished fifth with a reversal with six seconds left in a 7-6 win over Newington’s Chris Chorzepa.
Pomperaug’s Brendan Quinn was patient – to a point. Quinn (44-1) got a takedown with eight seconds left in overtime to beat South Windsor freshman Casey Mitchell, 4-2 and win the first State Open championship in school history.
Mitchell took a good shot at a takedown early in OT but Quinn was able to defend against it. As the first OT period wound down, Quinn shot in for a single leg takedown and drove Mitchell into the mat for the winning points.
“I just wanted to take him down because I wasn’t sure if I could last another OT period,” Quinn joked. Quinn won the Class L title over Bristol Central’s undefeated Nick Cyr a week ago after he tied the match up with 20 seconds left in third period and scored the winning takedown in OT.
Quinn took a 2-0 lead late in the second period with a reversal with 15 seconds left. Mitchell tied the match with a reversal of his own with about a minute left in the third period.
Quinn became just the second Pomperaug wrestler ever to earn a spot in the State Open finals with his 4-2 victory over Forest Dolby of Cheney Tech. Tied at 2-2 in the third period, Dolby was controlling Quinn, who was warned for stalling.
But when the opportunity arose, Quinn took it, scoring a two-point reversal with 33 seconds left. “I went for a switch and a quick sit out and his hips flopped a little,” Quinn said. “He gave me that little gap.”
Dolby finished third with his third pin of the tournament, pinning Derby’s Tyler O’Connor in 2:45.
South Windsor’s Joe Sargenti won his second straight Open championship with a solid 7-1 victory over Griswold sophomore Brandon Walsh, the Class S champion with one takedown in each period.
Walsh earned his spot in the final with a 1-0 semifinal victory over Ledyard’s Taylor Gunnels. It was just a bit tighter than Walsh’s 7-0 win in the ECC finals two weeks earlier.
Fairfield Warde’s Ian McAllister won four straight bouts including one-point wins over Hand’s John Jongbloed, 3-2, and Old Saybrook/Westbrook’s Dalton Ahern, 6-5 to finish third.
It’s been hard for Sheehan’s Nick Giulietti to get matches. As a one-man team, there isn’t a lot of incentive for teams to send out wrestlers against Giulietti, especially as he has gotten better the last two seasons.
But coaches couldn't duck Giulietti at the Class M tournament where he won a state championship. Giulietti got plenty of competition at the Open. He outlasted Conard’s Lucas Muntz, 6-3 in the quarterfinals and slipped by Xavier’s Tyler Cunningham, 4-3 in the semifinals.
In the championship match, Giulietti used a pair of takedowns and an escape to earn a 5-4 win over Maloney’s Aaron Cardona, the Class L champion. Giulietti added a takedown in the third period to extend his lead to 5-2. Cardona’s reversal at the buzzer just made the score closer.
"This has been my dream ever since I started wrestling," Giulietti told the Meriden Record Journal. "I feel like all of the hard work paid off. All of the weekends, when everyone was out partying and I was home cutting weight, everything paid off. This is the best feeling that I have ever had."
Cardona slips to 27-2 and 101-24 in his career. Cardona earned a spot in the final with a 2-0 win over NFA’s Nick Cirpriano. Muntz, a freshman, pinned New Milford’s Anthony Terlizzi in 1:52 to take third.
Bacon Academy’s P.J. Mickens became the first wrestler in school history to win an Open title with a 5-3 win in overtime over South Windsor’s Jake O’Dell. Mickens led 3-2 after two periods but O’Dell escaped early in the third period to tie the match.
In overtime, Mickens got a nice double leg shot and secured the takedown with seven seconds remaining in OT.
Zach Cooke of Killingy finished third with a 2-1 win over Bethel’s William Bonaguara.
Bethel’s Andrew Ford took care of business in a dominating 13-3 win over New Fairfield’s Jesse Broderick to win his second straight State Open championship. There would no repeat of Broderick’s 3-2 upset win over Ford in the SWC Tournament. This time, Ford (51-1) had two takedowns and a near fall to take a 6-1 lead after one period.
Ford was no less merciful to the rest of the field. He had a 12 second and a 33 second pin and won his semifinal over Warde’s Tom Anania, 20-8. Ford has 40 pins on the season.
Hand’s Brian Onofrio finished third with a 3-1 win over Somers’ Robert Garlick. Broderick whipped Onofrio in the semifinals, 11-0.
A rare pin in the finals, Amity senior Alex Carpenter was able to get Montville’s Dustin Wilcox into a cradle and pin him in 4:28 to win his first championship.
Cheshire senior Kyle Copes (171) won the first Open championship in his school’s history with a 11-3 victory over Middletown sophomore Devon Carrillo.
Copes (43-1) was in a battle with Carillo and held a 4-3 lead early in the third period after Carillo escaped. But in one swift motion, he threw Carillo to his back for a takedown and three-point near fall to open up a commanding 9-3 lead. He turned Carillo to his back a second time to ice the win.
“It was pretty tough but I kept my heart in it,” said Copes, who trains with Sheehan’s Nick Giulietti, the 140 pound champion. Giulietti has been training with Cheshire for four years.
In the semifinals, Copes avenged his lone loss of the season beating RHAM’s Eric Brainard by injury default late in the third period. Copes had a commanding 9-2 lead when the match was stopped.
Copes took a 2-0 lead thanks to a first period takedown and easily escaped three seconds into the second period for a 3-0 lead. Ten seconds later, Copes led 5-0 with another takedown.
“Once you get a lead on him, he tries too hard,” Copes said. “I knew he would come hard at me (on his feet) and I used that to take him down three times.”
Carrillo outlasted Waterford’s Shane Sullivan in the semifinals, 1-0. Sullivan finished third with a 5-1 win over Bacon Academy’s Devin Covone.
Waterford senior Shane Battista (45-0) kept alive his undefeated season with a thrilling 3-2 victory over hometown favorite Tito Slaughter of New Haven in triple OT. Slaughter led 2-0 thanks to a second period reversal but Battista escaped to cut the lead to one. With 1:25 left in the third period, Battista escaped to tie the score.
Neither could manage a takedown in the first one-minute OT. In the second OT, Battista held Slaughter scoreless for 30 seconds. But Battista was able to escape in the final second of his 30 seconds to earn the win. Slaughter (32-1) lost for the first time.
“I knew I had to keep being aggressive,” Battista said. “You never stop wrestling until you hear the whistle.”
Slaughter beat Farmington’s Sean O’Connell in a hard-fought semifinal match with a pair of takedowns in the final 30 seconds to earn a 9-5 victory. O’Connell rallied to take third with a 3-1 win over Bacon Academy’s Aren Norman.
A two-time high school All-American, Shelton junior Pat Gillen felt the pressure this season because he had never won a state title in high school. A week ago, he won his first title with a Class LL crown a week ago after finishing second twice. He was named the outstanding wrestler of the tournament.
Second at the Open a year ago, Gillen (44-0) earned his first State Open title with a 4-2 win in overtime over Waterford’s Luke Wiggins.
Wiggins had a 2-0 lead thanks to a first period takedown but Gillen scored a pair of escapes to get the match in OT where he scored a takedown 17 seconds to win the Open crown. “All year, he has carried the pressure,” Shelton coach Bob Gillen, his father, said. “It was nice to see him get that win.
In the third place bout, New Milford’s Adam Lynch beat Danbury’s Dylan Hancock in double overtime, 3-2.
Four years ago, former Nonnewaug coach John Lawless urged 6-foot-4 Ronnie Walter to wrestle. Head coach David Green did the same. Walter politely declined and played on the freshman basketball team. But basketball wasn’t the sport for him. “It wasn’t for me. I wasn’t having fun,” he said.
So, as a sophomore, he took up wrestling and had moderate success. He turned the corner this year. He won his first Berkshire League title and first Class S championship.
At the State Open, Walter (42-1) won three straight matches in OT to become the first wrestler in Nonnewaug history to win an Open championship with a 3-1 win in triple OT over Brien McMahon’s Jeff Starr. The finals began at 189 pounds.
Walter took a 1-0 lead when Starr let him go in the second period. The match was tied when Walter was one point for stalling in the third period. In overtime, Starr tried to throw Walter but he kept his weight low and ended up slipping out of Starr’s hold with two seconds left to earn the victory.
“In practice, we work on wrestling all six minutes,” Green said. “Keep wrestling and it will all work out.”
Walter said, “I was nervous. He was strong. He tried to throw me but I countered and brought him down.”
In the semifinals, Walter prevailed in triple OT victory over Hand’s Joe DeMichele, escaping with 22 seconds left for a 3-2 victory. Walter tied the bout at 2-2 with an escape with 10 seconds left in the second OT.
Walter won his quarterfinal match in OT with a 2-1 decision over Xavier’s Matt Kunkel. Walter is 5-1 in OT matches this year. “It is who wants it more,” Walter said.
Walter also sang the national anthem before the start of the finals.