Championship: Rashannon Stanley, Weaver pin Tim Chambers, Bristol Central, 4:52
3rd Place: John Gabordi, Ledyard def. Ray Belanger, Middletown, 4-2
5th Place: Humphrey Swift, Danbury def. Mike Danise, Bethel, 4-3
Fast fall: Resh Stanley, Weaver (285), 4 Pins, 14:41
Outstanding wrestler: Brock Coutu, Griswold
By GERRY deSIMAS, JR.
Connecticut Wrestling Online
NEW HAVEN, Feb. 17, 2008 – His Danbury High wrestling team had a pair of state champions, six medalists and won the State Open championship for the eighth straight season. Those accomplishments made Danbury High coach Ricky Shook smile.
But the Hatters have goals that extend beyond the borders of the Nutmeg State. It will a challenge to compete for a New England championship with just four wrestlers that finished among the top four in their weight class.
“That’s not good but it is what it is,” Shook said. “We had a rough tournament. The Open was very good this year. I think we may have had a better dual meet team that tournament team and it showed here.”
Shook didn’t dwell on that long, focusing on the achievements of sophomore Charlie Costanzo (119) and Dean Smith (152) who won championships and another first place trophy to bring home to Danbury.
“I’ll take that any day,” he said with a grin.
Ledyard finished second, just 10 points behind Danbury, 108½ to 98½ -- the closest finish since 2002 when Danbury beat RHAM by two.
The Colonels had five medalists including champions C.J. Satti (140) and Julian Hightower (189). John Gabordi (285) finished third.
Before the semifinals, Danbury held a four-point lead over Ledyard, 52½ to 48½. The Hatters extended the lead to 12 points after the semifinals and consolation quarterfinals.
It’s Ledyard’s best finish at the Open since winning three of four from 1972-75.
The Eastern Connecticut Conference had an outstanding day with seven individual champions.
Freshman R.J. LaBeef of Woodstock Academy (44-0) became the fourth freshman to win the Open with an undefeated record with a 5-3 overtime win over Middletown’s Vic Ekpenyong in the final.
Ekpenyong, who lost to LaBeef in the Class LL final a week ago, tied the bout with a driving takedown with five seconds left in regulation. LaBeef won the match with a takedown 11 seconds in OT.
“I didn’t mind (OT),” LaBeef said. “I like being on my feet.” LaBeef had an easier time with his 6-2 win in the Class LL, especially with an early 6-0 lead. “This time, he got in some nice shots,” LaBeef said of Ekpenyong. “He was attacking me more this time.” LaBeef told the Norwich Bulletin he may wrestle for Pomfret next year. “I only have one year to accomplish these things,” LaBeef said told the Bulletin. “My mom works at Pomfret and my dad coaches there so I was coming here to get one year of public school — better wrestling.”
The other freshman to win State Open titles with undefeated records were South Windsor’s Anthony Valles (103) in 2005, NFA’s T.J. MarcAurele in 1989 and Farmington's Mike Lingenfelter in 1982.
Ekpenyong had five takedowns in a 11-5 semifinal win over Southington’s Doug Fontaine, who finished third with a 4-2 win over Jonathan Law’s Rob Longergan.
Woodstock Academy junior Noah Smutnick upset Platt High’s West Johnson in overtime with a 4-0 victory. The match was scoreless into overtime when Smutnick attacked Johnson, tapping his head and driving into him slamming him to the mat for a takedown and near fall.
Johnson, who earned All-American honors by finishing eighth at the National High School Coaches Association Sophomore National tournament last April, beat Smutnick a week ago in the Class L finals, 4-2. The two wrestlers are training partners in the off-season.
“I wrestled the whole six minutes,” Smutnick said. “I hit an ankle pick and he was off balance.”
Smutnick improved to 19-1. He had quit the team early in the year, burned out by wrestling. But he rejoined the squad in early January.
Cheshire’s Mike Briskin used a takedown and escape to outlast Pomperaug freshman James Porzillo, 3-1 and finish third. After winning the first state title in school history a week ago in Class LL, Briskin fell in the quarterfinals Saturday to Porzillo (4-2) but didn’t lose sight of his goal to compete in the New England tournament.
“It’s always better to win a championship,” Briskin said. “But this has the promise of wrestling against better competition in the New England’s. I’m hoping to leave my mark in a bigger pond.”
All four semifinalists in this class were from Class L. Neither Johnson not Smutnick gave up a point in the semifinals. Johnson won by technical fall, 17-0 over New Milford’s Ant Amorando while Smutnick shut out Porzillo, 11-0.
Danbury wins title, ECC stands proud with 7 champions
Danbury sophomore Charlie Costanzo didn’t need the OT heroics he used in the semifinals to win his first State Open championship. Costanzo, the Class LL champion, used a key reversal early in the third period to beat Farmington’s Luke Walsh, 4-2. The reversal gave him a three-point cushion.
In the semifinals, Danbury’s Charlie Constanzo escaped with 35 seconds remaining and got a single leg takedown with 24 seconds left in overtime to beat Stratford’s Anthony Ricco, 3-1.
Walsh got an early takedown and near fall to jump out to an early-five point lead to beat RHAM’s Billy Lynn, 12-7 in the semifinals. Walsh had to rally even to make the semifinals. He had to secure a takedown in the waning seconds of his quarterfinal match with Windham’s Tony Torres to earn a 3-1 victory.
Walsh was the first Farmington wrestler to earn a spot in the finals since Pawel Szajda, who went to the finals twice in 1998 and 1999. The only Farmington wrestlers to bring home Open titles were brothers Mike Lingenfelter (112) and Jerry Lingenfelter (132) in 1982. Ricco took third with a 7-0 win over Lynn.
Windham High’s junior Nick Marouski had an impressive comeback in a thrilling 2-1 victory over Ridgefield junior Alexander Blank. Late in the second period, Marouski was on his stomach and Blank had a double chicken wing in. But as he tried to turn Marouski, the move slipped and Marouski scrambled to get a reversal with nine seconds left to take the lead.
“I was just trying to stay tough and not get turned,” Marouski said. “I didn’t expect a reversal.” Blank escaped with 1:33 left in the match to cut the lead to one but Marouski was able to deflect several takedown attempts to win the championship.
In 2006, Blank had beaten Marouski in the finals at 103. A year ago, Marouski finished fifth and didn’t even qualify for the Open. “From that moment, he began preparing himself for this moment,” Windham coach Pat Risley said. “He dedicated himself to being here. He really prepared himself mentally. A year ago, he was beating himself against good opponents. That doesn’t happen anymore.”
Marouski didn’t panic in the semifinals trailing by one midway through the third period before securing a takedown and throwing East Windsor’s Jake Miller to his back for a two-point near fall and a 9-6 semifinal win. Danbury’s George Madkour beat Fairfield Warde’s Curtis Watkins, 4-0 to take third.
Griswold’s Tyler Banks (44-0) was very dominating in a 9-2 victory over New Fairfield junior Mike Frick to win his second straight State Open championship. Banks has placed at the Open all four years at Griswold. He was third in 2006 at 112 and sixth at 103 in 2005.
Banks gave up just two points in the entire tournament, a takedown to Frick when a he slipped on a takedown attempt of his own. “I didn’t feel the pressure too much,” Banks said. “But I know people were aiming for me.”
Stamford’s Mike Batinelli won four straight bouts in the consolation round to finish third with a 1-0 win over Windham’s Andrew Blain. Batinelli shut out his final three opponents in the tournament by a combined score of 8-0.
Griswold’s Brock Coutu, the tournament’s outstanding wrestler, had three pins in four victories, including a pin in 2:55 over Amity senior Steve Krohley in the championship match. Coutu, the two-time Class S champion, pinned the Class LL champion (Krohley) and Class L champion (Hand’s Brian Onofrio, 4:18) in the meet.
Onofrio finished third with an 8-4 win over Stratford’s Jesse Inman.
A takedown and near fall early in the third period lifted Ledyard’s C.J. Satti to 8-2 win over East Lyme’s Ryan Clarke in the championship bout. Clarke had beaten Satti two weeks earlier in the ECC finals, 3-2 and won the Class L title a week ago. Satti grabbed the Class M title last week.
Clarke took a 2-0 lead on a takedown but Satti moved ahead 4-2 on a reversal and two-point near fall. After a scoreless second period, Satti seized control with about 1:30 remaining.
Clarke had a hard-fought 7-4 semifinal win, taking a quick five-point lead and holding off Danbury’s Tucker Schaefer. Trailing by two in the third period, Satti scored a two-point near fall to tie the match and then pinned Amity’s Mike Vernik to earn a berth in the finals. Vernik beat Schaefer, 4-3 to finish third.
Satti added to a family tradition. "Winning this State Open title is like a dream that I’ve had for 14 years,” he told the Norwich Bulletin. “My dad won one (State Open title), my uncle won two. Now I’ve lived up to the family tradition.”
Class L champion Derek Hand of Fish won his final two matches in overtime to win his first State Open championship. Fish beat Stamford’s Erialy Pierre-Saint, 3-2 in double OT in the semifinals. In the finals, he scored a takedown with three seconds left in OT to beat Rocky Hill’s T.J. Magnoli, 3-1. “I knew I could score on him because near the end I could hear that he was getting winded,” Fish said.
Magnoli (37-2) took a 1-0 lead on a second period escape and Fish tied it with an escape of his own in the third period.
With about 30 seconds left in the first sudden death OT period, Fish grabbed a single leg and had Magnoli hopping on one leg. But Magnoli effectively kept the leg that Fish had in between Fish’s legs. But with four seconds left, Magnoli’s leg came free and Fish was able to drop Magnoli to the mat for the takedown.
“He was a lot more athletic than I was so I knew I had to stay tight to him,” Fish said. Pierre-Saint finished third with a 5-2 win over Killingly’s Juan Flores.
Magnoli became the first Terrier in school history to earn a spot in the championship match with his 3-1 overtime victory over Class M champion Shane Sullivan of Ledyard in the semifinals. Magnoli took a 1-0 early in the second period on an escape. Sullivan tied it at 1-1 with 40 seconds left in regulation when Magnoli was penalized for stalling. Magnoli’s takedown came with 11 seconds gone in OT.
An escape with 1:42 left in the match lifted Danbury’s Dean Smith (30-0) to a 1-0 win over Bethel’s Andrew Ford (49-3) and a State Open championship. Smith was able to successfully deflect several late takedown attempts by Ford. "You don't get extra points for moves that look good," said Smith. "In the second, just scoring any back points was going to be a bonus. In the third, the escape was all that was needed."
In the semifinals, Ford was able to beat New Milford’s Mike Bellagamba for the second time in three weeks with a 4-2 victory, scoring a decisive two-point near fall with 1:30 remaining. Ford also prevailed in the SWC championship match.
Bellagamba finished third by pinning Ledyard’s Caleb Morth in 1:45. Thanks to three wins in the consolation bracket, Housatonic’s Sam Schwartz finished sixth to become the first Mountaineer since 1990 to earn a medal at the State Open.
Southington’s Trevor Ritchie had a thrilling OT victory over previously undefeated Jon Fiorillo of Berlin in the semifinals on Saturday and was looking forward to a rematch of last week’s Class LL final with Westhill’s Ronald Thompson that he lost 4-2.
But Thompson quickly took Ritchie down and caught him in a cradle to pin him in 63 seconds – a stunning end to decide a weight class filled with close decisions. Thompson had advanced to the final with a tight 3-2 decision over Guilford’s Kyle Lundberg. “I had been called for stalling earlier in the tournament I didn’t want to give the referees any excuse to influence the match,” Thompson said.
In the semifinals, Ritchie (160) beat previously undefeated Jon Fiorillo of Berlin, 5-4 in overtime. Twice in the third period, Fiorillo (49-3) had excellent shots at takedowns but he couldn’t finish.
“We knew we couldn’t give up on any takedown attempt,” Southington coach Derek Dion said. “Jon has such a good shot, Trevor just had to keep scrambling and keep the pressure on as much as he could.”
Fiorillo led 3-2 for most of the third period as both jockeyed for the most favorable position for a takedown. Fiorillo got another clean shot and but Ritchie kept fighting and managed to get a two-point takedown of his own with five seconds left for a 4-3 lead. Fiorillo escaped at the buzzer send the match into overtime. But in the extra session, Fiorillo was penalized one point for an illegal move.
Tomlinson faced rival Kyle Lundberg of Guilford for the fourth time this year and gutted out a 2-1 victory with a third period escape to finish third. Lundberg had beaten Tomlinson in the quarterfinals, 7-6 on criteria on Saturday.
Somers’ Tim Vollaro needed a pair of overtime wins to get to the championship match. In the final, he won in regulation – barely. Vollaro got a takedown with 1:21 remaining in the third period and held off the charging Cody Griswold of New Milford for the remainder of the match to earn a 7-6 victory.
Vollaro beat Windham’s Zach Fleming in the quarterfinals, 5-3 with an overtime takedown. In the semifinals, Vollaro escaped in double OT to earn a 2-1 decision over NFA’s Pat Sawyer. Bacon Academy’s Sean Burgess finished third with a 12-7 win over Manchester’s Tim Dark.
In his third straight appearance in the State Open final, Ledyard’s undefeated Julian Hightower (39-0) finally brought home the big prize, winning his first Open title with a 7-2 victory over Terryville’s Justin Cronan, the first wrestler from his school to compete in the finals in 16 years.
Cronan (45-2) faced a tough challenge to beat the undefeated Hightower (39-0) who was second in 2006 and third a year ago. “He is just so solid,” Ledyard coach Steve Bilheimer said referring to Hightower. “He is next to impossible to score on. You can’t ride him and he can ride you.”
A linebacker on the Ledyard High football team, Hightower used a clean tackle to drive Cronan onto the seat of his uniform for a takedown and a 2-0 lead 17 seconds into the first period.
Cronan (45-2) escaped midway through the second period to trim the lead to one 2-1 but couldn’t get a takedown. In the third period, Hightower escaped early to extend the lead to 3-1. From that point, Cronan had to take some chances to try for a takedown and Hightower took advantage with a pair of takedowns to secure the victory.
“He isn’t the best kid in the state for nothing,” Terryville coach Peter Veleas said of Hightower, a three-time Class M champion. “He is very powerful. We got in a few shots but couldn’t finish. Once we got behind, we had to go and try to make things happen and got into his wheelhouse.”
Cronan earned a spot in the final with an exciting 6-4 overtime win over Waterford’s Shane Battista. Cronan led 4-3 after two periods but Battista tied it with an escape with about a minute to go. Cronan nearly got a two-point takedown in the final seconds of regulation but failed.
Battista took the initial shot in OT and Cronan flattened him, spun around behind him for the match-winning takedown. It was Cronan’s third win of the year over Battista. Simsbury's Lawton Arnold beat Battista, 2-0 to finish third.
Middletown’s Richard Perry dominated most of his championship final against Simsbury’s Marcus Furze, who hobbled around the mat with an injured toe. But with an 8-2 lead, Perry made the Dragon fans shudder when Furze threw him to his back with about two seconds left in the match. But time ran out and Perry walked away with an 8-4 decision.
“I wasn’t worried,” Perry said after doing a celebratory flip on the mat. “There were only about two seconds left.”
In the semifinals, East Lyme’s Lucas Bowman tied his match with Furze with an escape with one second left in regulation. But Furze had the match-winning takedown in OT for a 5-3 victory. In the other semifinal, there was no comeback for Derby’s Steve Lazurek in a 15-8 loss to Perry. In the quarterfinals, Lazurek was on his back and down 5-0 early in the first period but he rallied to outlast Weaver’s Josh Akpan, 13-11.
Bowman, who lost a titanic struggle to Perry in the Class L finals that left both wrestlers exhausted, beat Windham’s Travis Koch, 6-2, to finish third.
The final at 285 pounds between Bristol Central junior Tim Chambers and Weaver’s Rashannon Stanley (31-0) was the the only final between two undefeated wrestlers. Stanley led 1-0 after escaping to lead off the second period and caught Chambers (39-1) when he turned the wrong way to pin him in 4:42. Stanley earned the fast fall award with four pins in 14:41.
In the semifinals, Chambers got a key reversal in the third period to beat Ledyard’s John Gabordi, 4-2. Gabordi finished third with a 4-2 decision over Middletown’s Ray Belanger.