By GERRY deSIMAS, JR.
Connecticut Wrestling Online
SIMSBURY, Jan. 1, 2002 --- The Fitch-Groton wrestling program, like most schools in the Eastern Connecticut Conference, has long lived in the shadow of the legendary Ledyard High program and more recently, Norwich Free Academy.
But Fitch is making noise this season that they could be a contender for its first ECC championship.
Fitch outlasted another up-and-coming program, Bridgeport Central, to claim the 15th annual Farmington Valley Tournament last week in Simsbury. Fitch slipped past Bridgeport Central, 203½-195. Host Simsbury, which had won 13 of the previous 14 tournament titles, finished a distant fourth with 142 points. Glastonbury was third with 157½.
Four of the five wrestlers that Fitch placed in the finals won titles but they also had five other wrestlers finish third. "The kids really stepped it up in the consolation rounds," Fitch coach Mark Kosman said. "In one (consolation) round, we won every match we wrestled. Six by pin and two by decision."
A year ago, Fitch was second to RHAM-Hebron in the tournament.
"Each year, we've been here, we've gotten better," Kosman said.
Charles Isif (103), Chris Coppolo (125), Bill Leischner (135) and Will DeVeau (160) each won titles while Will Ross (215) finished second to tournament MVP Wigberto Diaz of Bridgeport Central. Matt Lamb (119), J.P. Gilbert (125), Fielding Pagel (145), Josh Bergerson (152) and Chris Bridgeman (275) each finished third while Matt Menard (140), Dan Cichon (171) and Jeremy Schlimgen (189) took fourth.
"Last year, we had a lot of young talented kids but they were young," Kosman said. "We added a few talented kids from the town youth program. The team is more dedicated."
This year, Fitch won Waterford's Lancer Invitational for the first time and is off to a 4-2 start on the season.
Kosman was pleased his team wrestled well in the tournament.
"It's a great tournament," he said. "We get to see guys we normally don't see and it's a good benchmark for us to see what we have to do for the remainder of the season."
Fitch will compete in the CIAC Class L tournament in February. Fitch, which won a Class L title in 1988, finished third a year ago in the Class L tournament.
Pagel earned the tournament fast fall award with three pins in 4:39.
NOT QUITE A ROOKIE TEAM: Thomaston isn't your ordinary first-year team. Sophomore Alex Rice wrestled as a one-man team from THS last winter and won a Berkshire League championship at 152 pounds.
This winter, the Bears have 28 wrestlers out for the squad including several that competed in a wrestling club last winter run by current coach John Perrucci, a biology teacher in the school.
Thomaston earned its first dual meet victory on Dec. 27 with a 57-22 victory over Lyman Memorial-Lebanon. On that same day, they came close to upsetting Gilbert for its first-ever BL victory in a 47-36 defeat. One Thomaston wrestler was leading 10-1 but got reversed and pinned. The match came down to the final bout with the outcome still in doubt but Gilbert earned the pin to seal the victory.
"Our goals are not much different than any other established team," said Perrucci, who was the head coach for seven years at Holy Cross. "We're trying to progress as much as we can. The team has a good attitude and the kids are extremely tough."
NEWINGTON LOW ON NUMBERS: The Newington High wrestling team has long contended in the CCC South is facing a long year in terms of dual meets. At one point this season, Newington (2-6) had to forfeit six out of 14 weight classes. It is now down to three forfeits (18 points) a match but it puts Newington in a deep hole before the first wrestler hits the mat.
"We go and wrestle hard," coach Matt Rossi said. "Whatever happens, happens. We just have to go after them and make teams earn wins from us."
But there was some sunshine for Newington at the Farmington Valley Tournament. Senior Tom DiScipio earned his first career tournament championship with a win at 152 pounds while Craig Ryan (112) won for the second straight year in the tournament.
Senior Matt Kaminsky (189) finished second while Tim Owens (171) grabbed a third to lead Newington a fifth place finish in the field of 10 teams.
MAT DUST: Northwestern Regional has had individual wrestlers represent the school in Berkshire League and Class S tournaments dating back to 1989. But they finally have a dual meet team. Jerry Trieshmann, an assistant coach for two years under former Gilbert coach Jim Rollins, is the new Highlander head coach. Mike Welcome, a former Northwestern wrestler competed for four years while training with Gilbert, is the volunteer assistant coach. ..
Southington remains undefeated at 10-0 after winning the Glastonbury Duals over the weekend with a 42-21 win over Fairfield High. . The 20nd annual Bristol Central Invitational is Saturday with the finals scheduled to begin around 5:30 p.m.