By GERRY deSIMAS, Jr.
Connecticut Wrestling Online
FAIRFIELD, Jan. 5, 2003 -- The Fairfield High wrestling team graduated three wrestlers that earned medals in last year's State Open and another two grapplers that earned medals at the Class LL championships.
But despite a schedule that coach Jason Shaughnessy said he loaded up, his No. 6 Mustangs are looking sharp with an 8-0 record. Fairfield's biggest notch thus far was last week's 42-27 win over No. 2
Southington. The Mustangs led 42-0 as they won the first nine matches, including three by pin.
Fairfield also beat NFA, 41-30, handed Bristol Central its only loss in seven starts, 43-28 and easily handed Bridgeport Central, 53-21.
Not only does Fairfield have its annual date with FCIAC rival Danbury on Feb. 1, but the Mustangs also have dates with Glastonbury (Jan. 23), Bethel (Jan. 29), Waterford (Feb. 1) and Fitch (Feb. 1). They will also compete in a tournament at defending New England champion Mt. Anthony, Vermont on Jan. 18.
"These kids will be tested," Shaughnessy said. "Each year, I try to step it up a bit. I just want to keep banging with the best teams in the state."
In the past two years, Fairfield has combined to win 46 of 51 dual meets, including a 22-4 record a year ago. The Mustangs finished second in Class LL to Danbury last year.
"I'm pleasantly surprised where we are," said Shaughnessy, now in his sixth year. "We're a strong team as long as everyone makes weight."
Maz Pazdan (189) was second in the Open and first in Class LL a year ago. Dan Wojnaski (112), Barrett Risley (152)and Dom Discala (119) each finished in the top four in Class LL.
Pazdan has begun the season at 11-0 for Fairfield while Eric Fellitto (275), Ryan Lavelle (160), Zack Wagner (171) and Dominick Morales (103) are each 10-1.
FALCONS FLY TO FRONT OF SCC: Under first-year head coach Mike Cunningham, the Xavier High wrestling team has surged to the top of the Southern Connecticut Conference (SCC) with an 8-1 record and 5-0 mark in the SCC.
Xavier's most impressive win so far has been a 39-27 win over three-time defending league champion Derby on Dec. 30 and a 35-25 win over Hand-Madison on Dec. 23.
"The kid are really working hard," said Cunningham, who coached at Rocky Hill for four years (52-31). "They're young and we're rebuilding. But we're trying to get tougher and instill mental toughness for six minutes (on the mat)."
A year ago, Xavier was 9-15-1 and 3-6 in the league. The Falcons lost nine seniors but 20 veterans returned. Another 20 freshmen came out for the team.
Xavier's strength has been in the upper weights. Seniors Sebby Barbagallo (152), Mike Pieczynski (171), Bill Wells (189) and Neil Amato (275) have wrestled well along with juniors Chris Bepko (215) and Paul Ciarcia (160).
STRONG START: Holy Cross senior
Shawn Canney is off to a strong start with a 10-0 mark and a Pomperaug Tournament championship. Canney beat Nonnewaug's Corey Patrick, 8-2, in the Pomperaug final.
Canney, who was second in Class M a year ago, gave up football this fall to prepare for the wrestling season. "He has a good combination of speed and power," Holy Cross coach Mike Diorio said. "He wrestled with Team Connecticut over the summer and really worked hard to get better."
Canney is one of five seniors on a 16-man squad.
Senior Christo Vasiliou (215), Dave Martin (119), Josh Bergin (135) and Jeff Armour
(145) are also in the starting lineup along with sophomore Andrew Jackson (112).
Vasiliou and Jackson each won at the Pomperaug Tournament.
"We have six or seven wrestlers that are experienced and doing well," Diorio said. "We also have some young wrestlers including four first-year wrestlers in the lineup. That makes life interesting.
"But we are progressing well."
KNIGHTHOOD: Southington High coach
Peter Sepko is one win shy of 300 career wins. He is 299-157-6. No. 6 Fairfield beat the No. 2 Knights on Monday, 42-27 to snap a 24-match winning streak, the second-longest run in school history. Southington (4-1) has already won NFA's Wildcat Invitational and the Fermi Duals.
SNOWED OUT: The 21st annual Bristol Central Invitational was snowed out for the second time in tournament history. No tournament was held in 1992 due to snow. Snow also cancelled the Glastonbury Duals and stopped the scheduled Fairfield High and Conard-West Hartford match on Jan. 4.
AROUND THE MAT: Nonnewaug may have one of the deeper teams in the Berkshire League but there are several other top wrestlers. Northwestern Regional sophomore
Joel Webster (125) has started strong. He won the Derby Invitational and earned Most Outstanding Wrestler honors. Teammate
Chris Marks (152) also won a title in Derby. Gilbert's Evan Bold (112) won a Derby Invitational title. Thomaston's Al Rice (160) and Terryville's Jared Griffin (130) also won at Pomperaug. . . . Housatonic's Jay Mahoney (95) won at the Berlin Invitational. . . . .Pomperaug's Josh Feldman, the defending Class L champion at 119, was the only Panther to win a crown at the Pomperaug Tournament. Teammate Shawn McKenna (103) was second.