Top 6 wrestlers in each weight class qualify for State Open
By GERRY deSIMAS, JR.
Connecticut Wrestling Online
There have been years when Middletown High coach Mark Fong has had wrestlers that didn’t qualify for the State Open wrestling championships because they couldn’t crack the top four in a competitive Class L championship meet.
Since 1988, the top four wrestlers in each of the 14 weight classes at the Class LL, L, M and S tournaments have qualified to participate in the State Open.
And Fong could see the frustration on the face of his wrestlers. They hadn’t qualified but there was a Class S or Class M champion competing at the Open that his wrestler had beaten in the regular season.
That shouldn’t happen anymore.
Beginning this year, the top six wrestlers in each weight class from the CIAC’s Class LL, L, M and S tournaments will qualify for the State Open on Feb. 24-25 at the Floyd Little Athletic Center on the campus of Hillhouse High in New Haven.
The top two wrestlers in each weight class will receive a first round bye. The third place finishers will face a sixth place finisher and the fourth and fifth place finishers will compete in the first round.
The CIAC’s Board of Control approved a proposal from the CIAC’s wrestling committee last fall. The wrestling committee unanimously approved the initial proposal from Fong.
“I think it is good,” said John Lawless, the long-time former athletic director at Nonnewaug High who is now the director of the State Open. “Anytime you can involve more kids, it is a good thing.”
Added Fong, “Additional kids will have a chance to wrestle. Now, they will have a chance to show they belong (at the Open with the top wrestlers in the state).”
The double-elimination tournament will have 10 mats running on Friday, up from eight a year ago. And there is plenty of room at the Floyd Little Athletic Center.
“It’s a great idea because it gives kids an opportunity to get there at a younger age,” Terryville coach Peter Veleas said. “Some kids thinking winning a Class S championship is it. But they get to the Open and (they find that) these wrestlers are better. It’s an eye opener for them. They see that this is how hard I have to work.
“Some kids didn’t get to the Open until their junior or senior year and that opportunity was lost,” Veleas said. “It will raise the level of competition in the tournament it was make our state (wrestlers) better.”
Only the top two wrestlers in each class qualified from 1975-85 and it was increased to the top three in 1986 and 1987.
The Class LL, L, M and S tournaments will be Feb. 17-18 at Trumbull, Bristol Central, Windham High and Haddam-Killingworth High, respectively.
THRILLER: No. 9 Southington clinched a share of its third straight CCC West title with a thrilling 28-24 victory over No. 6 Farmington. Southington (15-1, 5-0 CCC West) won three matches by a single point, twice getting match-winning, one-point escapes with under 20 seconds remaining.
“The gym was rocking. It was very exciting,” Southington coach Derek Dion said. “I really think the tough schedule we wrestle helped. We try to face the toughest competition we can.”
No. 6 Farmington (22-1, 4-1 CCC West) led 24-19 with two matches remaining. Southington’s Connor Morrell (220) escaped with 20 seconds remaining to earn a 4-3 decision and cut the Indian lead to two. Travis Daly (285) got a pin to win the match and send the SHS crowd into a frenzy.
Southington was tough. They got pinned only once and came up with some clutch wins. At 106, Tyler Mirando got an escape with eight seconds remaining to beat Tim Orell, 1-0. At 113, Zach Bylykbash got a two-point takedown with one second left in the first period of a 2-1 victory.
At 138, freshman Shawn Devin made his varsity debut. He lost 4-0 but didn’t get pinned, giving up just three points for a decision instead of six for a pin. Alex Richardson (120) and freshman Austin Sullivan (195) also lost decisions. But they gave up just three team points – not six.
“They wrestled with great passion,” said Farmington coach Eric Misko, whose team lost for the first time this season. “From top to bottom, they were very stingy with the points (given up) and they wanted it badly.”
Southington won the CCC West title outright with a win over New Britain and Farmington finished the season at 26-1 with a win over Simsbury.
McCamish is 2nd girl to win conference title
SUFFIELD, Feb. 11 -- Avon's Jessica McCamish (106) became the second girl in state history to win a league championship when she won the 106 pound title at the NCCC Tournament on Sunday.
McCamish (17-4) pinned Somers; Christian Andrade in 3:44 to win the title. The first girl to win a conference title was Housatonic’s Juliet Lyon, who won a Berkshire League title in 1997 at 103 pounds.
McCamish (17-4) went to the NCCC finals as a freshman and lost. She missed her sophomore year after a knee injury. She has been slowed this year with an arm injury and has been wrestling with torn ligaments in her elbow.
“She is fighting through the pain,” Avon coach John McLaughlin said. “She is a very smart wrestler and she has been very focused.”
As an eighth grader, McCamish was a USA Wrestling national champion in the middle school division. She will wrestle in the U.S. Girls Wrestling Association New England and national championship tournaments this summer.
FIRST CHAMPION: Oxford’s Ben Blue (160) became the school’s first SWC champion with a 3-0 win over Brookfield’s Ryan McManus. In just its fourth varsity season, the Wolverines put two wrestlers in the finals for the first time. In the final at 145 pounds, Oxford’s Steve Persson lost to New Milford’s Anthony Terlizzi by pin.
Will Denslow (152) finished third while Chris Maley (138) took fourth. Oxford won its second straight SWC Patriot Division title this winter with a 10-1 record in the league.
CIAC TOURNAMENTS: The CIAC’s Class LL, L, M and S tournaments will kick on Friday and conclude on Saturday.
The Class LL meet is at Trumbull, Class L at Bristol Central, Class M at Windham High and Class S at Haddam-Killingworth.
Danbury is the favorite in Class LL but will be pushed by defending champion Xavier. Southington is a contender to finish among the top five. Class L is stacked with defending champion New Milford behind challenged by Fairfield Warde, Farmington, Hand along with Bristol Eastern and host Bristol Central.
Wolcott Tech is competing in Class M, which is expected to be won by Ledyard with Windham High and Bacon Academy expected to challenge. In Class S, Westbrook/Old Saybrook is looking for its first-ever state title and they should be challenged by host Haddam Killingworth. Oxford and Terryville could make some noise.