By GERRY deSIMAS, JR.
Connecticut Wrestling Online
BRISTOL, Feb. 10, 2000 -- About 2½ weeks ago, the Bristol Central wrestling team saw its chances for a CCC South championship melt away in a 13-point loss to No. 2 Southington.
Instead of brooding over lost opportunities, the Rams decided to find some new mountains to conquer. Central won five matches in a row to capture the Jonathan Law Duals and have been surging since.
Central concluded its regular season with its 10th straight victory, a conclusive 42-22 decision over arch-rival Bristol Eastern at the shiny, new Eastern gym.
Not only did the victory give Central its third win over Eastern in the past four years, but the Rams set a new school record with their 23rd victory. Central finished 23-3, eclipsing the 1999 mark of 22 wins (22-1-1).
"We've started to wrestle with more intensity, more than we had at the beginning of the year," said Central co-captain Corey Kozuch (152 pounds). "We're trying harder and working harder."
In most matches, the Rams finished off their moves and capitalized on Eastern mistakes. Several Eastern wrestlers got good penetration on takedown attempts but were unable to finish off the move, succumbing to counter-pressure from Central.
"They're working a lot harder," said Central coach Pat Parente of his Rams. "They are wrestling more physically and they're starting to hit their moves. The seniors know it is their last hurrah."
Four seniors in the middle of the lineup paved the way for the Central win.
Eastern took its only lead at 10-9 after senior co-captain Joe Kapacziewski (125 pounds) earned a 10-2 decision over Alex Armento.
But Central senior Kevin Kozikowski (130) picked up a forfeit, senior Ryan McKenna (135) pinned Mike Smith in 28 seconds, senior John Valenta (140) prevailed 11-5 over Eric Hermann and Kozuch (152) won a 9-4 decision over Greg Matulis.
Central junior Joel Fulton (145) pinned Nick Roy in 2:47. After Kozuch's win, Central had a 33-10 lead.
Senior Josh Young (160) won for Eastern with a pin but Don Gagliardi (171) clinched the match for Central with a pin in 1:37.
"We knew Central was real tough coming in," Eastern coach Jason Krueger said. "We were hoping not to get as many pins (against us) in the lower to middle weights but they beat us there."
Eastern finishes 12-8 and 3-4 in the CCC South. Central finished second in the league at 6-1 behind champion Southington.
The tone of the match was set early at 103 pounds as Central's A.J. Boi survived a 10-7 decision over Eastern's Ryan Lavoie. Boi had a 10-2 lead late in the third period but got caught in a headlock with 20 seconds to go. Boi stayed off his back to survive.
Lavoie, who had pinned Boi in the Bristol Central Invitational in January, frequently had good opportunities for takedowns but couldn't finish off the move against Boi, who wrestled with poise and patience.
Valenta (140) had four takedowns in his 11-5 victory. Four of the five points he allowed were intentional escapes.
Kozuch, who normally wrestles 145, was bumped up to 152 to wrestle Matulis. Late in the third period, Matulis had a good takedown opportunity but couldn't finish it.
Two of the more exciting matches of the evening came late.
At 189, Eastern's James Martin outlasted Mike Drury in overtime, 8-6. Trailing by two, Martin escaped with 10 seconds left in regulation to cut the lead to 6-5 and sent the match into overtime when Drury (29-4) was penalized one point for stalling as the buzzer sounded
Two first-period takedowns gave Eastern's Nick Carbone (215) a 5-2 decision over Mike Croce.
At 275, Central's Chris Porrini prevailed in overtime, 3-1, over Eastern's Steve Beecher. Porrini tied the match at 1-1 with an escape with 1:46 left in the third period.
MAT DUST --- Valenta set a new Central single-season record for takedowns in dual meets. Valenta finished the dual meet season with 61, breaking the old mark of 50. ... Central leads the all-time series between the two schools at 21-16-2. The series began in 1963. Last night's match was the 39th in the series. ... Eastern honored its seniors along with their parents prior to the beginning of the match. Kevin Martin, Matulius, Josh Young, James Martin, Carbone, Beecher, Nick Gamble (215) and Aaron Hunter (275) were recognized. ... Central lost only three times this year twice to Southington and once to Berlin.