By Gerry deSimas, Jr.
SIMSBURY, Feb. 26, 2001 — The performance of the Simsbury High wrestling team during the course of the 2000-01 campaign led long-time head coach Frank Chaves to expect big things from his Trojans in the post-season.
Simsbury finished the dual meet season with a 19-4 record, another CCC West championship and ranked sixth in the state coaches poll. Simsbury won its Farmington Valley Tournament, as per tradition, and the Trojans finished second to No. 2 Southington in the finals of the Fermi Duals and in the finals of the Art Powers Duals in Berlin.
The Class L tournament was supposed to be a battle between Simsbury and No. 4 Berlin. It wasn’t a contest as the Redcoats easily won their third straight state title by a Class L record 77.5 points over Simsbury.
“Berlin deserved to win. They wrestled very well,” Chaves said. “I would have been happy if we took second and we wrestled well. But we didn’t wrestle well as a team. Some individuals did well but as a team, we didn’t.”
Top-seeded Joe Zacchera, struggling with torn ligaments in his shoulder for the entire season, made the finals at 215 pounds but dropped a tough 3-0 decision to eventual State Open champion Greg Robertson of Warren Harding-Bridgeport.
Steve Hoffsis took second at 152 pounds, falling 11-4 to Guilford’s Jeff Sullivan. Scott Woodworth (145) finished third.
“In a tournament like this, you have to beat the lower-seeded kids and your lower seeds need to pull some upsets to build some momentum,” Chaves said. “Berlin wrestled phenomenally. They pulled some upsets and won matches they shouldn’t have won and didn’t lose any kids to upsets.”
Berlin led from start to finish and had control of the tournament from the start. Berlin wrestlers went 19-1 in the first two rounds of the tournament, had nine medalwinners and five finalists.
For Berlin, it was their eighth state title.
“They’re all sweet because they’re all about kids reaching their potential,” Berlin coach Jim Day said. “Every kids that places and medals is so satisfying. I’m so proud of them.”
Still, Simsbury finished second with 144.5 points, far ahead of third-place Fitch with 115.5 and Newington with 115. Simsbury finished in the top 10 for the 15th straight year and in the top five for the 14th time since 1984.
Hoffsis had three pins before holding off Berlin’s Bill Aust in the Class L semifinals, 8-6. But Sullivan was relentless in the finals.
Zacchera, who tore ligaments in his shoulder during the second game of the football season, finished second. He was supposed to have surgery in January but postponed it to wrestle in the Class L tournament and help his team take a shot at a state title.
Scott Woodworth was seeded second at 145 and was upset in the semifinals, 13-3 by third-seeded Dan Fortner of Ledyard. But Woodworth rallied to win two more matches and finish third.
Cory Everette (171) finished fifth while Marc Gollob (112) and Mac Cook (189) each finished sixth. Adrian Thibodeau (103) was seeded third but did not medal.
At the State Open, Hoffsis finished sixth at 152 with a 3-3 mark while Woodworth went 2-2 at 145 and didn’t place. Hoffsis pinned Bethel’s Joe DiIorio in 46 seconds in the consolation round and shutout Avon’s Derek Kon, 6-0.
Zacchera didn’t wrestle after he had surgery after the Class L tournament.
CANTON: The Warriors returned to the top 10 in the Class S tournament for the first time since 1997, led by junior Josh Kaplan’s third-place finish at 135 pounds.
Junior Tom Bujold (130) finished fourth while junior Adam Szychowski (215) and senior Zack Gurski (275) each finished sixth.
Kaplan, the top seed at 135, dropped a close 9-8 decision to Morgan’s Dave Iaquino in the semifinals. But Kaplan rebounded to finish third with a 7-3 decision over St. Bernard’s Shane Phillips.
Kaplan and Bujold also wrestled at the State Open with Kaplan finishing sixth.
After losing to eventual champion Ben Davis Oscar of Windham, 4-1, in the quarterfinals, Kaplan beat Ridgefield’s Andy Herring in overtime, 8-6 and slipped past Cheshire’s Ian Whyte, 7-6.
Against Herring, Kaplan trailed 4-0 and put Herring to his back. He fell behind again before tying the match with 15 seconds left on a reversal. Newtown’s Dan Maley nipped Kaplan for fifth place, 4-3.
“He had a real good year,” Canton coach Bill Phelps said of Kaplan, who finished 37-5. “He has gotten a lot better defending on his feet. He hasn’t been muscling wrestlers. He has been working on his technique.
“Working with (former State Open champion) Kacy (O’Connor) and (assistant coach) Ed (deSimas) is making him technically sound. And he goes to camp and to Windham High in the offseason to find the best competition he can. That’s how he got better,” Phelps said.
Bujold, 25-12, went 0-2 at the Open. Gurski finished with a record of 32-4 while Grafstein went 23-14 and Szychowski finished with a 30-5 record, a marked improvement from going 6-24 as a sophomore.
Canton posted its first winning season since 1997 with a 14-11 record.
“I was very happy with that,” Phelps said. “We eight of those matches by six points or less and we were giving up at least 12 points a match in most of them due to forfeits. So on the mat, we only lost two or three matches. And we have only two seniors (in the starting lineup).”
AVON: The Falcons returned to the top five in Class S for the first time since 1996 thanks to seven medalwinners.
Derby won its second straight Class S championship with 225 points with Morgan second with 201. But New London (181) and Avon (177½) were not far off the pace.
Brian Dubiel (275) won a Class S title while Don Papio (171) and Derek Kon (152) each finished second. Lance Phelps (112) and Dave Niek (140) finished third while Rob Tolk (125) and Brendan Roche (160) each finished fourth.
Dubiel and Kon each went 2-2 at the State Open but did not medal.
Dubiel finished with a record of 29-3 while Papio was 23-4. Other top records came from Kon (27-5), Phelps (22-8), Tolk (24-11) and Roche (24-10).
FARMINGTON: The Indians (7-14-2, 0-4 NWC) had no medalwinners at the Class L meet. Karl Dinkler (112) took third at 112 in the NWC meet.
GRANBY: The Bears, in their third varsity season, had three medalwinners at the Class S meet. Dean Anneser (140) was fourth in Class S and 0-2 at the State Open. Ross Martin (130) and Neal Regan (160) each finished sixth in Class S. Granby finished 4-12-1 and 2-4 in the NCCC.
This first appeared in a monthly newspaper called the Farmington Valley Post in February 2001.