By GERRY deSIMAS, JR.
Connecticut Wrestling Online
HARTFORD, Jan. 13, 2003 -- The Danbury High wrestling team traveled thousands of miles to earn its latest tournament championship to win the Disney Duals in Orlando, Florida earlier this month but it was worth it, DHS coach Ricky Shook said.
"All the guys came together as a team and we became a real team down there," Shook said. "I didn't worry about wins and losses. I would rather have my guys wrestle hard."
Danbury went undefeated in seven matches. In pool play, Danbury whipped Northside, Fla. (84-0), West Orange, Fla. (81-0), Satitllite, Fla. (49-19) and Westwood, Ariz. (51-19). In the championship round, the Hatters beat defending Florida 3A champion St. Cloud, 42-25 in the quarterfinals and topped Lakeland, Fla., 54-16 in the semifinals.
Danbury handled Catasaqua, Pa., in the final, 52-13.
"The scores didn't indicate how close some of the matches were," Shook said. "It wasn't go in, pin the guy and get out of there. Several times we were tied in the third period but came up with the pin."
The trip to Florida was the culmination of a two-year fundraising effort to raise $22,000 for the 23 boys that made the trip. "It was a lot of money and work but it was definitely worth it," he said.
The matches will count toward the CIAC tournament seeds for the Danbury wrestlers.
Danbury picked where it left off in Connecticut with four wins last week over No. 10 Bethel, No. 5 Southington, Plainville and Stamford.
Jeff Marra (135) remains undefeated at 18-0 while Mike Silvestri (103) is 17-0. Anthony Hayes (140) is 15-0.
The next big challenge for Danbury (15-1) is the Tournament of Champions in North Attleboro, Mass. this weekend.
PANTHERS ARE REALISTIC: Pomperaug High wrestling coach Mike O'Keefe smiles when you mention that his Panther squad sits near the top of the Southwest Conference with its 5-1 record in the league. He thanks you for the compliment but gently reminds you about the reality of the SWC.
The Panthers impressive start has been built upon some of the weaker teams in the league. Pomperaug (6-5, 5-1 SWC) faces No. 10 Bethel on Wednesday [Jan. 15] and still has league matches remaining against Jonathan Law, Newtown and Bunnell left on the schedule.
Defending Class L champion Josh Feldman (119) is undefeated with a 13-0 record while sophomore Shawn McKenna (103) has leapt out to a 13-1 start. But the rest of the Panther squad is young. Eight wrestlers in the starting lineup this weekend were freshmen or sophomores.
"We're a real young team," the veteran coach said. "We brought a lot of freshmen (14) into the program this year. We're just working on the fundamentals and getting the freshmen to learn as quickly as they can and keep up with the better kids in the (wrestling) room."
The loss of several other seniors hasn't helped. Senior Dan Phillips (145), who finished third in the Pomperaug Tournament, was lost for the season after dislocating his elbow on Dec. 28 against Fitch. Another veteran senior wrestler quit while Matt Fuller (130) was ill and missed last weekend's meet.
But Feldman and senior Alan Bouchard (215), fourth at Pomperaug Tournament, are working to teach their younger teammates. "Josh is a leader," O'Keefe said. "He takes everything in stride. He works with the younger kids and does what he has to help the program."
SECOND PLACE, SECOND YEAR: In its second year as a varsity program, Thomaston (6-4, 3-1 BL) has a firm grip on second place in the Berkshire League. The Bears dropped a 50-21 decision to league-leading Nonnewaug in December but have since beaten Terryville, 42-33, Gilbert, 60-12, and Northwestern Regional, 47-33.
Since losing to the Chiefs, Thomaston has won six of its last seven matches, only dropping a 48-21 decision to Portland on Saturday.
"We're very happy with the results so far," Thomaston coach John Perrucci said. "The kids are working hard and they are improving. We're wrestling better and better each match."
Only one wrestler undefeated junior Al Rice (160) has more than one year of wrestling experience. The rest are on year two.
"The kids want to be there and they're hungry," said Perrucci, who also coached for seven years at Holy Cross. "They want to succeed. They want to win as a team. In the past, I had teams that I've wanted to win more the kids did. That's not the case here. They want to improve and be the best wrestlers they can be."
Rice (13-0) is a two-time defending BL champion while senior Ricky Markey is 12-1 at 145 pounds. Senior Keith Souillard (275, 9-5), junior Savvas Kapros (215, 8-5) and junior Eric Blum (152, 8-3) have wrestled well for the Bears.
TIEBREAKER FOR A WIN: Wolcott Tech earned its first win of the season thanks to a tiebreaker. After Tech finished tied with Milford's Platt Tech, 36-36, on Jan. 2, Wolcott Tech was awarded the win because the Wildcats won seven of the meet's 13 weight classes.
Unfortunately, the Cats (1-8, 0-2 BL) haven't come close to a win since. Wolcott Tech began the season with 29 wrestlers but are now down to 16. Three starters left the team after becoming academically ineligible.
Still, there is plenty of room for optimism for coach Craig Schroeder's team. Freshmen Matt Mackiewicz (119) won seven of his first nine varsity matches while freshman Ben O'Connor (103) won four of his first six bouts. Junior captain Mike Hester (152) has wrestled well along with John Sobel (135/140).
One of the most exciting matches on the horizon for Tech will be the state Technical School tournament on Saturday, Feb. 8 at Cheney Tech in Manchester with five of the seven tech schools that have wrestling teams.
AROUND THE MAT: Nonnewaug had nine pins in an 83-0 win over Wolcott Tech, one shy of the school record of 10 set in 1999 against Foran-Milford. . . . Northwestern Regional's Chris Marks (152) is off a 12-0 start while Joel Webster (125) is 11-0. Webster finished first at the Derby Invitational and took home MVP honors. Marks also won at Derby . . . Southington coach Peter Sepko earned his 300th career win when the Knights slipped past Platt, 33-32 last Wednesday. . . Nonnewaug (13-3, 3-0 BL) has won 10 straight, including wins over New Canaan (43-33), Trumbull (41-21) and defending Class S champion Derby (49-20). ... The Bristol Central Invitational, snowed out on Jan. 4, will take place on Monday, Jan.20, Martin Luther King Day. ... New Britain beat Bristol Central last Wednesday, 41-38 for its first win over the Rams in several years. The Hurricanes won four of the final six matches, three by pin and one by forfeit to seize the victory.