NEW HAVEN, Feb. 26, 2005 – A week from now, Danbury coach Ricky Shook may not look so kindly on the fact that he has just six wrestlers in the New England Tournament – an event that the Hatters have been striving to win the last few years. Two potential wrestlers lost in the consolation semifinals and will have to be left home.
But on Saturday night, Shook could only smile at the performance of his top-ranked Danbury High wrestling team. Danbury had a team-record eight medal winners (top six), had four wrestlers in the finals and had two champions as the Hatters easily won the State Open championship for the fifth straight year.
With a tournament-record 161 points, Danbury earned the most lopsided victory in tournament history beating Waterford by 60 points. Windham was third with 85.5 points. Ledyard was fourth with 81.5 points while Class S champion Northwestern Regional was fifth with 79 – the best finish ever by a Class S school.
“Eight wrestlers placing out of 14 is pretty good,” Shook said. “We had some tough breaks in the wrestlebacks. But overall, everything is about where we thought it would be.”
Simsbury’s Joey Martin (119) became just the 10th wrestler in state history to win his third straight Open championship. Next year, he will look to become just the third wrestler to win four straight Open titles.
Windham’s Kurtis Strout (145) and Bran Crudden (160) each defended their titles along with Danbury’s Matt Tricarico (171) and Waterford’s Shawn Karasevicz (215). Strout’s victory may have been the most thrilling match of the night as he escaped with five seconds left in double overtime to beat Danbury’s Jeff Marra, 6-5.
Five teams (Danbury, Northwestern Regional, Fairfield Warde, Waterford, Windham) had two champions each – the most ever in tournament history.
Only twice since divisional wrestling tournaments began (Class LL, L, M and S) in 1976 have multiple Open champions come from a Class S school. Milford (1981) and Berlin (1987) each had a pair of State Open champions.
The top four wrestlers in each weight class qualify for the New England Tournament in North Andover, Mass. Here’s a quick look at each weight class.
South Windsor freshman Anthony Valles (42-0) completed an undefeated season with a pin of Bristol Central sophomore Chris Lombardi in 3:47. The Hartford Courant reported that Valles is likely headed to nationally-ranked Blair Academy in New Jersey next winter to get some stiffer competition.
“It will be a lot better for me to go a tougher wrestling school where I can have more closer matches,” Valles told the Courant. South Windsor coach Jude Knapp told the Courant that just having Valles in the room with his wrestlers made his teammates better wrestlers.
Lombardi (37-6) had a stellar tournament. In the semifinals, he pinned Stamford’s Mike Batinelli in OT. Trailing 6-3, Lombardi rallied to force OT, escaping and sinking a takedown with two seconds left in regulation. Lombardi also beat Southington’s Greg LaFontaine, 4-2 in the quarterfinals.
“He finds a way to get it done,” Central coach Brian Archibald said. “He is a determined little guy. He finds what he has to do and gets it done.”
For the second time in a week, Waterford’s Ken Fratus beat Avon’s Este Lara by technical fall. This time, he beat Lara in the final, 16-0 in 4:45. At the Class M tournament, Fratus (39-0) topped Lara in the semifinals. It was a sweet victory for Fratus who watched the entire post-season from the grandstands after missing weight in the 2004 Class M tournament. “I keep going back to last year ... I have so much to make up for,” he told the New London Day.
Lara earned his spot in the final with a thrilling 9-8 victory over Class LL champion Tyler Howe of Danbury. Howe lost his chance to compete in the New England tournament when New Britain’s Hector Garcia gained a bit of revenge in an 6-1 victory in the consolation semifinals. Howe beat Garcia in the Class LL final when a potential takedown by Garcia was waved off for being too late.
Simsbury’s Joey Martin easily dispatched Ledyard’s Will Heuschneider with a pin in 4:12 to win his third straight State Open title. Martin (45-0) won three matches by pin. Martin led 5-0 after two periods but frustrated by Heuschneider’s lack of movement, he hit a quick and hard switch and put the Ledyard grappler to his back for the pin.
Ledyard sophomore T.J. Hepburn (40-0) won his first Open title with a 7-1 win over Bethel senior Nick Palmero in a very physical match. Twice, Hepburn slammed Palmero to the mat. While the moves were all legal, Palmero was sluggish. “Last year, T.J. got a little conservative in the postseason. This year, he is going after people,” Ledyard coach Steve Bilheimer said. “I’m really happy with his wrestling.
A year ago, Danbury’s Nick Weyer spoiled the championship dreams of Northwestern’s Joel Webster with a loss in the Open semifinals. This year, they met again in the finals and there was no doubt who the better wrestler was after Webster’s 11-0 victory. The win earned Webster the tournament’s outstanding wrestler award.
Webster (34-0) was hardly challenged during the tournament. Webster expected a serious challenge from Weyer, a defending Open champion and a four-time Class LL champion. But using a single chicken wing, he twice tilted Weyer in the second period for a 6-0 lead. Weyer never really challenged Webster from that point. “It’s very satisfying,” said Webster, a three-time Class S champion. “I was hoping he wouldn’t stall so much.”
Danbury junior Frank Cammisa outlasted Enfield’s Sam Gauvine by pinning the Enfield grappler in 5:11. “Two months ago, I started to run everyday after practice to get more stamina,” Cammisa told the Danbury News Times. “That made the difference for me today. I was in better condition. That was the difference.”
Cammisa had a thrilling semifinal bout beating Old Saybrook’s Jeff Haddad, 4-2 in overtime. Leading 2-1 in the third period, Haddad intentionally let Cammisa escape to tie the score and try for the takedown. The bout went into overtime when Cammisa got the winning takedown with eight seconds left after both wrestlers rolled around the mat, striving for control.
Foran’s Jared Czarneski beat RHAM’s Mike Karpman by technical fall, 16-0, in 5:17 to claim a championship. A week earlier, Czarneski (42-2) beat Karpman, 16-4 in the Class M finals. "I was more attacking," Czarneski said. "I was making things happen by taking the shots." Czarneski beat Danbury’s Kyle Rogers in the semifinals, 2-0.
Windham senior Kurtis Strout (40-0) nearly let his second straight Open championship slip away in a battle with Danbury’s Jeff Marra. Down by one, Strout took a 5-4 lead with 16 seconds left in the second period with a driving takedown. But Marra tied it up four seconds into the third period with an escape.
The two wrestlers went into overtime where Strout couldn’t convert on a takedown attempt in the final 20 seconds. They went into the second 30-second OT period and Strout chose down. The whistle blew and Strout moved forward on his knees and looked like he was away. He hesitated, waiting for the whistle and the victory. But it never came and Marra clamped down on Strout again. But the time the two rolled out of bounds there were only 10 seconds left.
“I thought I had it and I relaxed a bit,” Strout said. “I was excited but he got my leg again.”
This time, Strout dug deep, crawled away and didn’t stop until he was on his feet celebrating. It was the first match in his high school career that had gone to overtime.
For the second week in a row, Northwestern’s Chris Marks topped Suffield’s Colby Johnstone to claim a championship. Looking for points to help the Highlanders win a Class S championship, Marks was a bit sloppy in a 9-6 decision. In the Open final, he had four takedowns and two near falls in a dominating 16-2 victory. Marks won this title in the semifinals against three-time Class LL champion Andy Liseo of Southington, prevailing in a thrilling 5-4 decision in double overtime.
With an escape early in the third period, Marks took a 3-2 lead but Liseo took a 4-3 lead with a takedown. But six seconds later, Marks escaped again to tie the bout at 4-4. In overtime, both had chances at takedowns but couldn’t convert. It came down to thirty seconds in the second OT. Since Marks had the first takedown of the match, he had the choice and selected down. If he escaped or scored any points, he would win. If Liseo could hold him, he would prevail.
It took Marks six seconds to escape. “We keyed (on getting the first takedown) in practice all week,” Northwestern coach Darek Schibi said. “You can break an opponent mentally if you do that and it gives you the advantage in the second overtime.”
Windham’s Bran Crudden (41-0) pinned New Fairfield’s Ryan Quinn in 3:08 to claim his second straight Open championship. For Crudden and Strout, it was another year with dual Open titles. “They both had great years,” Windham coach Pat Risley said. “They’ve prepared well and took care of themselves. They pushed each other hard.” Crudden and Strout are training partners during practice.
Danbury’s Matt Tricarico (41-2) wanted to make some history and that can be a difficult task in such a successful program as the Hatters. But winning two State Open titles is something special – even in Danbury. Tricarico won his second Open crown with a 13-2 decision over Hartford Public’s Luis Gomes thanks to four takedowns and two near falls.
“Ihave a lot of things to live up to and I wanted to be a legend like Ben Levitt,” Tricarico said. “I really looked up to him and wanted to take my place next to him.” Levitt is the last Danbury wrestler to win two Open titles.
Anthony Parrish of Fairfield Warde (37-1) surged in the third period to beat Darien’s Billy Haire, 6-4 to win an Open championship. Tied at 3-3 after two, Parrish took a 4-3 lead with an escape and extended that lead to 6-3 with a takedown with 43 seconds remaining. Haire escaped seven seconds later but couldn’t convert on a match-tying takedown of his own.
The two wrestlers had split two previous matches with Parrish winning by one in the FCIAC Tournament and Haire winning in double OT earlier this year.
Waterford’s Shawn Karasevicz (41-0) had five takedowns in an 11-5 win over Fairfield Prep’s Dave Bernstein to win his second straight Open title. Now the goal is to complete the post-season sweep of the ECC, Class M, Open and New England Tournaments. His brother Adam won three of the four losing in the New Englands. “That's the deal,” Karasevicz told the New London Day. “My brother left the door open for me a little bit ... it's my job to sneak through that door this year.”
At only 235 pounds, Fairfield Warde’s Brendan Herlihy (37-0) completed an undefeated season by outlasting New Milford’s Thomas Ferrell, 5-1 to win a championship. “He is very quick and technical,” Warde coach Jason Shaughnessy said. “He focuses on attacking.” Indeed, Herlihy had two takedowns, including a takedown with 19 seconds left that clinched the match.
Reports from the Hartford Courant, New London Day, Danbury News Times and New Haven Register also used to compile this report.
Team results – 1. Danbury 161, 2. Waterford 101, 3. Windham 86½, 4. Ledyard 81½, 5. Northwestern Regional 79, 6. Fairfield Warde 65, 7. New Milford 51, 8. RHAM 42, 9. Hartford Public and Berlin 41; 11. Suffield 38, 12. Bristol Central 35, 13. South Windsor 31, 14. Simsbury 30, 15. Foran-Milford 27½,16. New Fairfield and Enfield 23½, 18. Southington 23, 19. Xavier and Killingly 22, 21. Stamford, Fitch and Bristol Eastern 21, 24. Fermi 20½, 25. Griswold, Darien and Cheney Tech 20, 28. Bethel 19, 29. Trumbull, Fairfield Prep, East Haven and Avon 18; 33. Ridgefield and NFA 17, 35. Platt Tech/West Haven 16½, 36. New Britain 16, 37. Platt and Old Saybrook 15, 39. Pomperaug, Nonnewaug and Masuk 14; 43. East Hartford, Hand and Bulkeley 12; 46. Plainville, Montville and East Catholic 11; 49. Stafford 49½, 50. Warren Harding 10; 51. Norwalk 8, 52. St. Bernard’s, East Windsor and Conard 7; 55. Newtown and Gilbert 6; 57. Holy Cross and Morgan 5; 59. Windham Tech 4½, 60. Newington and Maloney 4; 62. Middletown, Bunnell, Branford and Bacon Academy 3; 66. Somers, Seymour, Granby, Derby and Cheshire 2; 71. Windsor and Lyman Memorial 1
Championship: Anthony Valles, South Windsor pin Chris Lombardi, Bristol Central, 3:47; 3. Mike Batinelli, Stamford dec. Greg Fontaine, Southington, 6-0; 5. Jay Mahoney, Daniel Hand, dec. Tyler Banks, Griswold, 8-6
Championship: Ken Fratus, Waterford tech fall Este Lara, Avon, 16-0, 4:45; 3. Hector Garcia, New Britain dec. Corey Paulish, Ridgefield, 4-2; 5. Tyler Howe, Danbury, dec. Shawn McKenna, Pomperaug, 10-4
Championship:T.J. Hepburn, Ledyard dec. Nick Palermo, Bethel, 7-1; 3. Chris Ebersole, Waterford, dec. Brian Peek, Killingly, 10-5; 5. Gregg Martel, Stafford, dec. Joe Kelly, St. Bernard, 5-4
Championship: Joel Webster, Northwestern dec. Nick Weyer, Danbury, 11-0; 3. Zeth Nolda, Waterford, dec. Shane Day, Berlin, 3-2; 5. Jonathan Torres, Windham dec. Peter Stefanatos, New Milford, 6-2
Championship: Frank Cammisa, Danbury pin Sam Gauvine, Enfield, 5:11; 3. Jeff Haddad, Old Saybrook, dec. Eric Campbell, RHAM, 1-0; 5. Joey Bullard, Harding, dec. CJ Staiger, East Windsor, 7-4
Championship: Jared Czarneski, Foran, tech fall Mike Karpman, RHAM, 16-0, 5:17; 3. Kyle Rogers, Danbury, dec. Spenser Hennes, Platt Tech/West Haven, 3-2; 5. Mike Fiorini, Bristol Central win by default over Levi Shelley, Fairfield Warde
Championship: Kurtis Strout, Windham, dec. Jeff Marra, Danbury, 6-5, 2 OT; 3. Justin Dodge, East Haven, dec. Jamie Pisano, New Milford, 10-2; 5. Sam Molina, Masuk, dec. Andrew Brown, Ledyard, 7-3
Championship:Chris Marks, Northwestern, dec. Colby Johnstone, Suffield, 16-2; 3. Jim Solek, Berlin, dec. Ismeal Nieves, Bulkeley, 13-1; 5. Jeff Esposti, Danbury dec. Andrew Liseo, Southington, 8-5
Championship: Bran Crudden, Windham, pin Ryan Quinn, New Fairfield, 3:03; 3. William Esposito, Danbury, dec. Luke Gabordi, Ledyard, 5-4; 5. Dan Strong, Bristol Eastern, default over Ted Banks, Griswold
Championship: Matt Tricarico, Danbury, dec. Luis Gomes, Hartford Public, 13-2; 3. Fielding Pagel, Fitch, dec. Phil Thompson, Westhill, 9-4; 5. David Loomis, Killingly, dec. Aaron Weinhofer, Plainville, 5-3
Championship: Anthony Parrish, Fairfield Warde, dec. Billy Haire, Darien, 6-4; 3. Ferdinand Quiles, Windham, dec. John Ragno, Fermi, 6-2; 5. Nate Shipee, East Catholic, dec. John Curry, Platt, 7-3
Championship: Shawn Karasevicz, Waterford, dec. Dave Bernstein, Fairfield Prep, 11-5; 3. Brian Sanford, Hartford Public dec. David Johnson, Norwich Free Academy, 7-0; 5. Mike Coleman, Northwestern, default over Nick Jubrey, Suffield
Championship: Brendan Herlihy, Fairfield Warde, dec. Thomas Ferrell, New Milford, 5-1; 3. Tracy Deleston, Cheney Tech, pin Angel Montanez, Trumbull, 2:08; 5. Nathan McNeese, Ledyard, dec. Andy Dohan, Nonnewaug, 2-1
Outstanding wrestler: Joel Webster, Northwestern, 130
Fast fall – Andy Dohan, Nonnewaug, 275, 3 pins in 6:41