2006 State Open championships
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NEW HAVEN, Feb. 25 – They added another trophy to their already bulging trophy case. But the Danbury High wrestling team didn’t get everything they wanted Saturday at the CIAC State Open wrestling championships.

The Hatters won the Open title for the sixth straight year and crowned three individual champions, including Frank Cammisa (140), who won for the second straight year. But Danbury only qualified four wrestlers for next weekend’s New England Tournament.

Dean Smith, who finished second at 135 in the Class LL tournament, was hurt in practice and didn’t participate.

“We wrested well,” Danbury coach Ricky Shook said. “I was hoping for a few more breaks here and there but overall we wrestled well.”

Tyler Howe (130) and Kyle Rodgers (152) won titles while Jeff Espositi (171) finished third after losing a tough semifinal bout to Open champion Bran Crudden of Windham.

Still, it was more than enough to lift Danbury to its sixth straight State Open champion, scoring 123½ points, the second-lowest total since team scoring resumed in 2001. New Milford posted its best-ever team finish, taking second with 80½ points while Windham was third with 77. Ledyard was fourth with 63 and Griswold had its best-ever finish with 62 points in fifth place.

“Danbury is too strong and deep,” New Milford coach Pat Burns said. “They run so fast, you can’t keep up with them.”

Tom Ferrell (275) won a title in double OT for the Green Wave while Jamie Piscano (152) lost by three to Rodgers at 152. Sophomores Michael Bellagamba (4th, 140) and Cody Griswold (5th, 145) wrestled well along with junior Spiros Stefanatos (6th, 125).

The top four wrestlers in each weight class qualify for the New England Tournament next week. A review of the key events in each weight class follows.

Ridgefield’s Alexander Blank built a 8-2 lead and hung on for a 8-7 win over Windham’s Nick Marouski. Blank seemingly clinched the bout with a takedown with 1:48 left in the third period for a 7-2 lead. He added another point on a Marouski penalty. But Marouski, who beat Class LL champion Mike Battinelli in the semifinals, 1-0, didn’t give up. Blank’s win gives Ridgefield its first-ever State Open champion.

Marouski threw Blank (44-3) to his back with three seconds left for a takedown and three-point near fall. But he didn’t have enough time to get the pin. Blank outlasted Ledyard’s C.J. Satti in the semifinals, 11-10.

Despite being shoved out of bounds once and accidentally kicked in the face, Bristol Central’s Chris Lombardi (112) kept his composure. Leading by three points in a physical bout with Middletown junior Casey Lesile, Lombardi successfully countered a takedown attempt by Lesile for a crucial two point takedown late in the second period.

That solidified Lombardi’s lead and lifted him to a 10-2 victory and the first Open championship by a Central wrestler since 1992. Leading 2-1 in the second period, Lesile tried to turn Lombardi but when his grip loosened for a second, Lombardi slipped around for a reversal and a 4-1 lead.

Trying to escape with a roll, Lesile unintentionally hit Lombardi in the eye with his foot. Lesile eventually escaped to cut the lead to two but when he shot on Lombardi late in the second period, Lombardi was able to counter the move, get the takedown and take a 6-1 lead.

“(Lombardi) outwrestled him all over the mat,” Central coach Brian Archibald said.

Lombardi said, “I knew he would try to work his strength on me but I didn’t want to get out of my game of keeping pressure on him.” Lombardi improves to 43-2 on the year.

Lesile beat Class LL champion Jeff Solomon of Southington in the semifinals, 9-6. Trailing 4-2, Lesile reversed Solomon in the second period and put him to his back to take control of the bout.

In less than 20 minutes, a school that had never crowned a State Open champion had two. A takedown with 49 seconds left in the third period clinched a championship for Class L champion Corey Paulish of Ridgefield, who beat Avon’s Este Lara, 5-2.

After a scoreless first period, Paulish (49-1) escaped to take a 1-0 lead. Lara took a 2-1 lead thanks to takedown with 36 seconds left in the second period.  But Paulish managed to get a reversal to take a 3-2 lead into the third period.

“They (Paulish and teammate Alexander Blank) had two things that made the difference. They were mentally and physically better conditioned than the other wrestlers," Ridgefield coach Gary Tiger told the Danbury News Times.

Plainville’s Nick Cavallaro (47-0, 37 pins) marched through the tournament with relative ease until he met Griswold’s Brock Coutu, a long-time summer sparring partner, in the finals. Cavallaro took a 2-0 lead on a first period takedown and extended it to 4-0 in the second period on a reversal. Coutu closed the gap in the third period but Cavallaro had enough to win.

“This was a testament to his hard work and dedication,” Plainville coach Aaron Sarra said. “It is a testament to the hours he has spent in the wrestling room with his brother. It was a testament to his mother, his father, his grandparents. And it was a testament to the Plainville wrestling program.”

Cavallaro’s brother Jesse was a two-time State Open champion in 2002 and 2004. “He told me to stay calm, wrestle with confidence but don’t be cocky and just get the job done,” Nick Cavallaro said. “I’ve never been happier in my wrestling career.”

Danbury’s Tyler Howe trailed 4-1 early in the first period of his championship bout with Suffield’s Dale Rollet. But Howe wasn’t worried. “I’m not that great on my feet,” he said. “I’m used to wrestling from behind.” But he rallied in the second period with quick pin in 2:37 to win the championship.

Howe had a tough 7-3 semifinal win over Killingly’s Brian Peek, who finished third. “That should have been the final,” Howe said.

For the fourth time this year, Ledyard junior T.J. Hepburn met ECC rival Brennan Ward of Waterford on the mat. And for the fourth time, Hepburn prevailed. This time, Hepburn’s 9-2 victory earned him a second straight State Open championship. Hepburn (46-0) built an 8-0 lead before Ward scored a takedown with 29 seconds left.

Hepburn wasn’t that impressed with his efforts in the tournament. “I guess it was OK,” he said modestly. “It was just a regular day of wrestling for me. I didn’t think of it as the Open or New Englands. It was just a regular match.”

Now, Hepburn has his eyes on the New England Tournament where he has finished third the past two seasons. “I’m loving next week,” he said with a smile. “Next week I will have to pick up the pace.”

Ward, who finished second to Hepburn in Class M, had three takedowns and a near fall in a 8-0 win over Berlin’s Shane Day in the semifinals. In the consolation final, Day had four takedowns in a dominant 10-3 win over New Britain’s Jordan Jacquo.

A third period takedown with 48 seconds to go lifted Danbury’s Frank Cammisa to a 2-0 win over Windham’s Jonathan Torres and a second straight State Open championship. Torres took the shot with a minute to go but Cammisa sprawled, flattening Torres and spinning behind for two points.
Torres earned a spot in the finals with a 5-3 win in overtime over New Milford’s Mike Beallagamba

Eight takedowns by Enfield’s Sam Gauvine (35-0) lifted the Raider grappler to his first State Open championship with a dominant 17-7 win over Fitch’s Adrian Gonzalez. Gauvine had lost in the finals twice.

Danbury’s Kyle Rodgers built a 5-0 lead and held on for a 5-2 victory over New Milford’s Jamie Pisano. The bout was a rematch of the Class LL championship won by Rodgers, 6-0. Pisano had a key 7-2 win over Hand’s Justin Camputaro in the quarterfinals and tough 8-6 win over Bacon Academy’s Sam Smith in the semifinals.

Xavier’s John Holzinger (160) was nearly pinned in the opening minutes of his bout with Norwalk’s Tim Petrides in a rematch of last week’s Class LL final that Holzinger won, 8-3. But Holzinger (40-1) fought off his back and trailed 5-0. It was the first time this year that Holzinger had been put to his back.

He escaped with two seconds left in the first period to cut the lead to four. In the second period, he escaped and got a takedown to cut the lead to one. His takedown with 1:35 left won his the championship.

“That was a lot of heart out there,” Xavier coach Mike Cunningham said. “So many years of hard work paid off tonight.”

Holzinger is the second State Open champion in Xavier history. Nick Ciarcia won in 2001.

Newington’s Anthony Kaponis (35-3) was the big underdog against Crudden, who was looking to become just the 11th wrestler in state history to win three Open titles. “He’s just a regular person,” Kaponis said before the match. “He is very technical but he is human.”

Kaponis stunned the crowd by getting the first takedown but that was all he would get. Crudden led 3-2 after one period and pinned Kaponis in 3:25 when he tried a roll to escape.

“He caught me. What can you do?” Kaponis said with a shrug and a smile afterwards. “I took him down.” Crudden, who has more career wins (191) that any other wrestler in state history, was named the tournament’s outstanding wrestler.

Tough on his feet, Kaponis earned a spot in the Open final at 171 pounds. He had five takedowns in a 11-4 win over Conard’s Andrew Frazer in the semifinals.

Greenwich’s Brandon Williamson added a State Open crown to the Class LL title he earned a week earlier. Williamson (50-1) handed East Catholic’s Nate Shippee his first loss of the season in a dominant 14-3 decision. Williamson put Shippee (47-1) on his back twice in the first and second period. Shippee had a close 7-5 victory over J.J. Casagrande of Fairfield Warde in the semifinals.

Class LL runnerup Platon Koukides of Norwalk held off a late surge from Ledyard sophomore Julian Hightower to prevail, 6-3. Hightower (42-2) escaped with 59 seconds left to cut Koukides lead to one, 4-3. But when Hightower shot for the takedown in the waning seconds of the bout, Koukides was able to spawl, flatten Hightower and spin behind with two seconds left to clinch the championship.

New Milford’s Thomas Ferrell beat Trumbull’s Anell Montanez for the sixth time in the last two years and the second straight week to win an Open championship. Ferrell escaped with 25 seconds left in the second OT to prevail, 2-1. Each wrestler had an escape during regulation but neither came close to sinking a takedown.

Maloney’s Willie Brown hurt his knee Friday and dropped a 5-1 decision to Montanez in the quarterfinals. But Brown continued to wrestle and finished third. “I knew when I woke up this morning it was bad,” Brown told the Meriden Record Journal.  “I don’t want to say so, but it did (make a difference). I couldn’t do my normal shot because I push off that leg. But that’s just an excuse.”

Contributions from the Danbury News Times and Meriden Record Journal included in this report.

2006 State Open
At New Haven
Team results – 1. Danbury 123½, 2. New Milford 80½, 3. Windham High 77, 4. Ledyard 63, 5. Griswold 62, 6. Waterford 54, 7. Ridgefield 48½, 8. Norwalk 47, 9. Bristol Central and Trumbull 45, 11. Killingly 42, 12. Montville 32, 13. Amity 31, 14. Greenwich 30½, 15. Conard 30, 16. Enfield 29, 17. Bethel and Avon 28, 19. Southington, Cheshire and Berlin 27, 22. Plainville 26½, 23. NFA and RHAM 26, 25. Maloney 25½, 26. Middletown, Granby and East Catholic 24; 29. Xavier 23, 30. New Britain 22, 31. Fitch 21½; 32. Suffield, Newington, Morgan and Masuk 20½; 36. Hand 18, 37. Portland and Bacon Academy 17; 39. Stamford and Fermi 15; 41. Manchester, Fairfield Warde and Bristol Eastern 13; 44. Stratford 12; 45. Foran, East Hartford and Derby 11; 48. Weaver 9; 49. Platt High, Lyman Memorial, Hartford Public and Bunnell 8; 53. E.O. Smith 7; 54. Guilford and New Fairfield 6; 56. Stafford and Rockville 5; 58. Simsbury, Northwestern Regional and New Canaan 4; 61. St. Bernard, Shelton and East Windsor 3; 64. Brookfield 2½, 65. Glastonbury, Wilton, South Windsor, Somers, Holy Cross, Gilbert and Farmington 2; 72. Wethersfield and Bridgeport 1
Individual results
Championship: Alexander Blank (Ridgefield) dec. Nick Marouski (Windham), 8-7; 3. C.J. Satti (Ledyard) dec. Mike Battinelli (Stamford), 1-0; 5. Nick Custodio (Trumbull) dec. Nathan Nadeau (E.O. Smith), 9-6
Championship: Chris Lombardi (Bristol Central) dec. Casey Lesile (Middletown), 10-2; 3. Tyler Banks (Griswold) pin Ronnie Waters (Cheshire), 2:49; 5. Carlos Cruz (Windham) dec. Jeff Solomon (Southington), 5-3
Championship: Corey Paulish (Ridgefield) dec. Este Lara (Avon), 5-2; 3. Tucker Grass (Morgan) dec. Dave Badgley (Southington), 10-6, OT; 5. Steve Cessario (East Hartford) win by default over Will Heller (Montville)
Championship: Nick Cavallaro (Plainville) dec. Brock Coutu (Griswold), 5-3; 3. Pat Ryan (Montville) dec. Nelson Gonzalez (Platt), 9-3; 5. Brett Kalbacher (Conard) dec. Spiros Stefanatos (New Milford), 12-1
Championship: Tyler Howe (Danbury) pin Dale Rollet (Suffield), 2:37; 3. Brian Peek (Killingly) dec. Chris Ebersole (Waterford) 12-2; 5. Mike Vernik (Amity) dec. Nick Spinnato (Hand), 9-7
Championship: T.J. Hepburn (Ledyard) dec. Brennan Ward (Waterford), 9-2; 3. Shane Day (Berlin) dec. Jordan Jacquo (New Britain), 10-3; 5. Casey Smith (Trumbull) dec. Nick Watson (Granby), 4-3
Championship: Frank Cammisa (Danbury) dec. Jonathan Torres (Windham), 2-0; 3. Eric Campbell (RHAM) dec. Mike Bellagamaba (New Milford), 7-5; 5. Steve Flathers (Stratford) dec. Derek Fish (Hand), 5-3
Championship: Sam Gauvine (Enfield) dec. Adrian Gonzalez, Fitch, 17-7; 3. James Gladue (Griswold), dec. Dave Brown (RHAM), 6-4; 5. Cody Griswold (New Milford) dec. Todd Krolikowski (Bristol Eastern), 11-1
Championship: Kyle Rodgers (Danbury) dec. Jamie Pisano (New Milford), 5-3; 3. Samuel Molina (Masuk) dec. Sam Smith (Bacon Academy), 1-0; 5. Dave Fiorillo (Berlin) dec. Blerim Hodza (Bethel), 6-5
Championship: John Holzinger (Xavier) dec. Tim Petrides (Norwalk), 6-5; 3. Dave Loomis (Killingly) pin Chris Nadeau (Granby), 2:07; 5. Michael Kaptein (Bethel) pin Rich Zschoche (Danbury), 3:27
Championship: Bran Crudden (Windham High) pin Anthony Kaponis (Newington), 3:25; 3. Jeff Espositi (Danbury) pin Andrew Frazer (Conard), 1:35; 5. Joe Colella (New Britain) dec. William Sedlmeier (Lyman Memorial), 4-1.
Championship: Brandon Williamson (Greenwich) dec. Nate Shippee (East Catholic), 14-5; 3. Nick Murphy (NFA) dec. Matt Dabrowski (Bristol Central), 8-4; 5. J.J. Casagrande (Fairfield Warde) win by default over John Ragno (Fermi)
Championship: Platon Koukides (Norwalk) dec. Julian Hightower (Ledyard), 6-3; 3. Matt Vernik (Amity) pin Rob McAviney (Cheshire), 1:51; 5. William Knight (Manchester) win by default over Leonard Stanley (Weaver)
Championship: Tom Ferrell (New Milford) dec. Anell Montanez (Trumbull), 2-1, 2 OT; 3. Willie Brown (Maloney) dec. Tim Rustek (Portland), 14-5; 5. Thomas Izzo (Derby) dec. Mike Ward (NFA) 6-4
Fast fall – Tyler Howe (130), Danbury 3 pins in 5:57
Outstanding wrestler – Bran Crudden (171), Windham

SO: The Herald Press, Feb. 26: Cavallaro adds Open title to his undefeated season

Hartford Courant, Feb. 24: Danbury looks beyond State Open to next week's New Englands

Sixth straight crown for Danbury; Crudden wins 3rd Open title