By GERRY deSIMAS, JR.
Connecticut Wrestling Online
WATERBURY, Dec. 20, 2001 -- Holy Cross wrestling coach Mike Diorio knew his wrestlers had the potential to do well in the first tournament of the season for the Crusaders on Saturday. After graduating only one starter, it was an experienced team returning for the 2001-02 campaign.
But another senior left to the team to take a part-time job. Another experienced wrestler went to the sideline with academic problems. With two other wrestlers out sick and another starter who failed to make weight, Holy Cross took only nine wrestlers to the Pomperaug Invitational. Other teams had wrestlers in all 14 weight classes.
It did not deter the Crusaders.
Eight of the nine wrestlers finished among the top four in their respective weight classes as Holy Cross earned its first tournament championship since 1984 with a 5.5-point win over St. Bernard, 137.5 to 132 in the 2001 Pomperaug Invitational. Seymour took third with 124 points while the host Panthers finished sixth while Nonnewaug was seventh.
Freshman Andrew Jackson (103) and senior captain Frank Juliano (130) finished first in their respective weight classes while junior Christo Vasiliou (215) was second. Junior David Martin (112), junior Shawn Canny (152) and senior Justin Dessereaux (171) were third. Senior Jeff Donnelly (145) and Anthony Mineos (189) each finished fourth.
"I have been trying to preach to them that if they work hard, good things will happen," said Diorio, beginning his third year behind the Cross bench. "They got their confidence early and kept gaining confidence throughout the day."
The Crusaders had a rough beginning to the season when they were shellacked by Conard-West Hartford last Thursday, 52-15.
"I knew we had the potential to be pretty good this year because we had a lot of wrestlers coming back," Diorio said. "We got roughed up on opening night but they didn't let that get to them."
While Diorio expected his team to be competitive, a championship trophy was a pleasant surprise.
Four teams were within 10 points when the final round of wrestling began. Juliano held on for a 4-3 decision over Seymour's Mike Campanelli in the 130-pound final while Canny and Dessereaux each had key third period pins to win their respective consolation finals.
For Cross, it was their first tournament championship since 1984 when they won the Brookfield Holiday Tournament. Diorio was a senior on that Crusader team and won the 157-pound weight class in that tournament.
Holy Cross competes in the Fermi Duals Saturday in Enfield.
Seymour, only in its third season, had a pair of champions in the Pomperaug Invitational. A.J. Powers (125) and Tom O'Neill (140) each were victorious. Vito Flammia (275) won for Terryville while Tim Farrell (160) and Josh Feldman (119) won for the host Panthers.
GILBERT TAKES THE FIFTH: At the Derby Invitational, Gilbert finished fifth as tournament MVP Devin Schibi (152) prevailed along with junior Evan Vold (112). Teammates Steve Romano (160) and Matt Gillette (275) each finished third. Chad Dubois (189) had the fastest pin of the tournament with a 12-second pin.
The Yellowjackets are a small team for first-year coach Doug Smith with only 16 wrestlers but the team is working hard. "I expect 100 percent from them all the time," he said. "I push them hard. It took them a few days to realize that I want 100 percent all the time."
Smith replaces long-time coach Jim Rollins, who stepped down after 17 seasons last spring. Smith wrestled four years under Rollins in the 1980s.
Despite only 16 wrestlers, Gilbert is filling all 14 weight classes.
The Yellowjackets have an eye on defending their BL championship. Key matches should include a January 2 match when they host Nonnewaug in Winsted and the BL Tournament on Feb. 2, which will be held in Winsted.
NEW COACH AT BACON: Ken Pera has resigned as the wrestling coach at Bacon Academy after six seasons. He has also stepped down as the football coach at Bacon Academy after guiding the program through its first two varsity seasons, the New London Day reported. Pera is pursuing his certification as an administrator. Because he will be required to take courses on Fridays and Saturdays, he was forced to give up his coaching positions.
The Bobcat football team was 7-13 the past two years. He coached wrestling from 1996-2001 and coached three Class S champions. His best record was in 2000 when the Cats were 14-12 overall and 2nd in the Charter Oak Conference.
Former Bacon assistant Michael Voiland, a former State Open finalist, has been named as the new wrestling head coach. Former Bacon wrestler Jim Hochdorfer, a current sophomore at Eastern Connecticut State, will assist Voiland.
TRIED TO SAVE THE TOURNAMENT: East Catholic coach Eric Gremmo tried to save the Skip Arden Tournament in Manchester but couldn't manage it. It would have been the 20th annual tournament, named in honor of the long-time Manchester High assistant wrestling coach in the late 1970s and early 1980s, who died.
The tournament began in 1981 as the Manchester Invitational as an eight-team tournament but blossomed into a 12-team event in the past few years.
Manchester decided not to host the tournament this year, citing lack of interest but Gremmo, a former MHS wrestler, did his best to resurrect the event. He booked the East Catholic gym and contacted several teams. But the East Catholic gym had been booked with a non-athletic event and the tournament had to be postponed.
"I would definitely try to resurrect it (for December 2002)," Gremmo said. But he wants to sit down and talk with long-time Manchester coach Barry Bernstein before he proceeds.
RHAM won the tournament last year, snapping a four-year winning streak by Simsbury.
FOUNDER OF GILBERT PROGRAM DIES: Condolences to the friends and family of former Gilbert School wrestling and football coach Charles Youmans, who died last week. Youmans, a long-time assistant coach in football and history teacher at the school, founded the wrestling program in December 1971.
The first varsity season was 1972-73 and he coached for 13 years, earning 98 wins, a BL title in 1983 and a third place finish in Class S in 1977. He coached a pair of Class S champions and seven Class S finalists, including Rollins.
AROUND THE MAT: No. 2 Southington finished second in the tough NFA Invitational with Jeff Fontaine (103), Larry Liseo (171) and Jon Vose (275) each finishing first. Ryan Lee (125) and Bill St. Pierre (135) each finished second. No. 3 NFA won the tournament with 235.5 points while the Knights finished with 196.5. Defending Class M champion Bethel was third with 153.
Housatonic's Wayne Godfrey won the 140-pound title at the Berlin Invitational while teammate Brenton Mahoney (152) finished second. It was a solid field with No. 5 Berlin, Avon, Xavier and Norwalk. Wolcott Tech's Steve Carpenter (215) was second in the Derby Invitational Northwestern Regional has a dual meet team for the first time ever under coach Gerry Trieshmann. Thomaston is also joining the BL this year with a new dual meet squad. ... One of the best matches of the month is Friday in
Danbury when the No. 1 Hatters (3-0) host perennial Vermont state champion Mt. Anthony at 7 p.m. Mt. Anthony (9-0) snapped Danbury's state-record 96-match win streak last December in Vermont. Mt. Anthony took third in a tough Ohio tournament over the weekend.