WINDHAM, February 16 – This was nothing new to Gilbert School wrestling coach Darek Schibi.
Fourteen years ago in 2005, he was a first-year coach at Northwestern Regional when the Highlanders came away with a two-point victory over Griswold to win the first state championship in the school’s history. The Highlanders trailed by 2½ before the finals but won three of five matches.
“Every little point, every little wrestle back victory, every little pin point made a difference,” Schibi said in 2005.
Now at the helm of his alma mater, Schibi’s Yellowjackets trailed Montville by 4½ points before the final round of wrestling at Saturday’s Class S championships.
Gilbert came up big to capture their first state championship with a 3½ point win over Montville, 193½ to 190. Three of Gilbert’s four wrestlers in the finals won and the Yellowjackets captured two fifth place bouts to bring home the championship.
Schibi-led teams have won two of the three tightest tournaments in Class S history. Avon also won by 3½ points in 1994. And Schibi is the first coach in Berkshire League history to win a state championship with two different schools.
It was a disappointing loss for Montville, which has finished second in Class S and Class M five times since their last state championship in 2003. The Indians went 1-3 in the finals. They won three of their four consolation round bouts but it wasn’t enough.
The final round of wrestling included competition on three mats – the championship finals, the consolation finals for third place and the fifth place bouts.
“We did all we could do,” Schibi said. “We battled. We had guys go deep for us (in the tournament) that shouldn’t have and win matches. That it is what it takes to win these tournaments.”
Nick Barber (138), Kyle Matthews (152) and Alex Smith (170) won titles for the Yellowjackets while Devin Matthews (132) lost by a point to the outstanding wrestler of the tournament – Morgan’s Louis Bradley.
Eli Pasternack (182) took fourth for Gilbert while Zack McLellan (145) and Kevin Sullivan (195) finished fifth. Bairum Gutic (220) and Dylan Keith (285) each finished sixth. Sullivan pinned a Montville’s Zach Doiron to finish fifth and earn four crucial points for Gilbert.
Gilbert’s Evan Jackson (160) and Neicko Clapper (126) won just two matches while Aqueel Hadah (120) won just once. But without those points, Gilbert wouldn’t have been in position to win a championship.
“They understand the game,” Schibi said. “We really try not to put too much pressure on them. What happens, happens. Just move forward with what we can get. Sometimes, you can overthink things.”
The finals began at 120 pounds and Devin Matthews (132) was first up for the Yellowjackets but he dropped an 8-7 decision to Bradley, who got a takedown with 1:03 left in the match and rode out Matthews to secure the win.
Barber got a two-point takedown in overtime to beat Stonington’s Samual Light, 4-2. “I had to push hard for the last minute,” Barber said. “It’s the best feeling I’ve had in my life.”
At 152, Kyle Matthews battled Montville’s Ian Anderson – the only match in the finals between Gilbert and Montville. It was 2-2 after two periods but Kyle Matthews got a two-point reversal and a three-point near fall with about a minute to go to take control in a 9-3 victory.
“All of my hard work has paid off and I couldn’t do anything without my brother (Devin),” Kyle Matthews said of his training partner in practice. “He pushes me every day. He is the reason I am here today. He’s a great wrestler and so I am I. We scrap back and forth.”
Leading by just one point, Smith (170) got a takedown with four seconds left in regulation to secure a 4-1 win over Granby’s Tyler Perez.
“He was waiting for me to throw myself out there and do a stupid move but I stayed put and waited for him to come to me,” Smith said.
Montville head coach Gary Wilcox was disappointed afterward. He was upset that Gilbert picked up four points when McLellan won by injury default in the fifth place bout at 145 pounds.
McLellan was trailing by two points, 3-1, in the third period when Haddam-Killingworth’s Nicholas Glynn picked up McLellan off the mat. McLellan was hurt on the play and couldn’t continue so he won the match by injury default. Wrestlers are responsible for safely bring their opponents back onto the mat.
“The kid get up to wrestle, the coach pushes him (stay) down (on the mat) so they get four points and win by a half point. It literally come down to that,” Wilcox said. “That’s not the way I would do it.”
Schibi said the meet trainer provided by the CIAC made the call. “That is not our choice. The trainer makes that decision. It is their decision,” he said.
“For a small team, we’re incredibly consistent,” Wilcox said. “There were one or two matches that made a difference. My kids wrestled about where I expected. Gilbert has some tough kids and they did a good job. I’m glad they won but not that way.”
* * * *
Northwestern had three finalists and two individual champions. Angelo Folino (126) won his second straight Class S title with a dominating performance. He beat Montville’s Quinn Bond by technical fall in the final, 16-1. He also had a pair of pins.
“I kept my composure in each of my matches, didn’t go overboard and wrestled my style of match,” Folino said.
He was thrilled to win another state championship. “Definitely,” he said. “Another title, that was awesome.”
Senior Joshua Schwartz (160) won his first Class S championship by pinning Griswold’s Dakota Gardiner in 28 seconds. Schwartz had four pins in the tournament and three were in under 35 seconds. His match in the final was the shortest of the day.
Freshman Jamikael Lytle dropped an entertaining slugfest to Griswold’s Johnny Falco in the final at 195 pounds, losing 17-15 in overtime.
Falco put Lytle on his back twice in the second period to build a 14-11 lead. In the third period, Lytle got his third takedown of the match to cut the lead to one 14-13 with 1:22 left in the match. Falco escaped with 50 seconds remaining to extend the lead to two, 15-13.
But Lytle got a takedown with five seconds left in the match to tie it at 15-15 and send it into overtime.
* * * *
St. Paul sophomore Ben Foligno (220) beat a pair of seniors — No. 1 seed Braydon Fluckiger of Canton and the No. 4 seed Travis Boone of Plainville – to become the first Falcon to wrestle for a state championship since 1992.
Foligno, a first-year wrestler from New Britain, got a takedown in overtime to beat Fluckiger, 7-5 in the quarterfinals. Fluckiger tied the match with an escape with 17 seconds but Foligno wasn’t rattled.
In the semifinals, Boone put Foligno to his back twice and nearly pinned him in the first period. Foligno fought off his back to survive and trailed 12-3 in the third period before he threw Boone to his back with a headlock and pinned him to advance to the finals.
Foligno (15-11) lost to Haddam-Killingworth senior Aidan Maher by pin in 23 seconds.
Foligno was the first St. Paul wrestler in the finals since Jim Smith (119) at the 1992 Class S championships. Foligno is the first Falcon finalist since the program was resurrected under head coach Ed deSimas six years ago.
* * * *
East Catholic senior Jacob Marselli marched to his second straight Class S championship with a dominate performance at 106 pounds. Marselli (37-2) had three pins – all in less than 62 seconds.
Marselli pinned Montville freshman Blake Chapman in the final in 1:02. He also had pins of 42 and 56 seconds.
“I try to pin in the first period to save energy,” Marselli said with a grin. “I put on some strength (this season) in the weight room.”
Marselli said he did feel some pressure as the returning champion. “You don’t want to lose so you continue to push on to win another one,” he said.
* * * *
At 113, East Hampton’s Dylan Levesque beat Windham’s Elijah Vertefeuille, 3-1 to win his first state championship thanks to a takedown with 47 seconds left in the match. Levesque was one of three wrestlers from one-man teams in the finals but the only one to win. Levesque trains with Portland. Valley Regional’s Ben Falivene (285) and Stonington’s Samual Light (138) each finished second.
Terryville’s Caleb LeClerc (145) dropped a tough 6-5 decision in the final to Windham’s Marcos Rodriguez-Rivera. Rodriguez Rivera had a 6-1 lead in the third period before LeClerc got a two-point reversal with 51 seconds to go and a two-point near fall with 22 seconds left to cut the lead to one. But LeClerc couldn’t turn him to his back again.
Nonnewaug’s junior Jack Cronin (182) won a state title with a pin over Griswold’s Stephen Sims.
At 120, Windham senior Kevin Fantoli pinned Nonnewaug sophomore Thomas Verdiglione in 2:27 to win a title. At 285, Montville’s top-seeded Darrick Deveau pinned Valley Regional’s Ben Falivene in 1:26.
2019 CIAC Class S championships
Team results – 1. Gilbert-Winsted 193½, 2. Montville 190, 3. Haddam-Killingworth 162, 4. Windham 145½, 5. Griswold 138, 6. Canton 123, 7. Northwestern 120, 8. Nonnewaug 109, 9. Plainville 98, 10. East Catholic 88, 11. Rocky Hill 54½, 12. Morgan 52, 13. Somers 50, 14. Granby 45, 15. Stafford 43½, 16. St. Paul 43, 17. Oxford 39, 18. Terryville 35½, 19. Derby 33, 20. Portland 32½, 21. East Windsor 30½, 22. East Hampton 27, 23. Valley Regional 26, 24. Coventry and Stonington 24, 26. St. Joseph-Trumbull 22, 27. Notre Dame-Fairfield 18, 28. Thomaston/Holy Cross/Litchfield 17, 29. Bolton, Seymour and Woodland 14, 32. SMSA-Hartford 3
Final: Jacob Marselli (East Catholic) pin Blake Chapman (Montville), 1:02
3. Cameron Hines (Haddam-Killingworth) dec. Ethan Titus (Canton), 4-3
5. Aiden Christie (Griswold) pin Nick Faraci (Rocky Hill), 2:59
Final: Dylan Levesque (East Hampton) dec. Elijah Vertefeuille (Windham), 3-1
3. Matt Webb (Canton) dec. Tyler Arsenault (Griswold), 7-0
5. Derek Debbis (Montville) dec. Elias Sturdevant (Woodland), 6-4 O
Final: Kevin Fantoli (Windham) pin Thomas Verdiglione (Nonnewaug), 2:27
3. Benjamin Williams (Haddam-Killingworth) dec. Cooper Barrett (Somers), 12-0
5. Jayden Colon (Montville) dec. Thomas Chappa (Oxford), 7-0
Final: Angelo Folino (Northwestern) tech fall Quinn Bond (Montville), 16-1, 4:00
3. Joshua Loza (Rocky Hill) tech fall Hermin Pomales (Windham), 16-1, 5:00
5. Dominic Pedrolini (Plainville) dec. Colden Williamson (Nonnewaug), 2-0
Final: Louis Bradley (Morgan) dec. Devin Matthews (Gilbert), 8-7
3. Tristan Julian (Stafford) dec. Matthew Durant (East Catholic), 7-0
5. Wyatt Wright (Haddam-Killingworth) pin Anthony Deicicchi (Seymour), 0:43
Final: Nick Barber (Gilbert) dec. Samual Light (Stonington), 4-2, OT
3. Richard Lawton (Portland) dec. Noah Vail (East Catholic), 7-0
5. Brian Connolly (Canton) pin Owen Bogli (Granby), 3:35
Final: Marcos Rodriguez (Windham) dec. Caleb Leclerc (Terryville), 6-5
3. Christopher Rivera (East Catholic) pin Ben Niez-Charest (Nonnewaug), 0:51
5. Zack McLellan (Gilbert) injury default over Nicholas Glynn (Haddam-Killingworth), 3-2, 4:59
Final: Kyle Matthews (Gilbert) dec. Ian Anderson (Montville), 9-3
3. Alex Hernandez (Plainville) pin Connor Smith (St Joseph), 2:16
5. Kaleb Carlson (Bolton) pin Mark Delima (Notre Dame-Fairfield), 2:39
Final: Joshua Schwartz (Northwestern) pin Dakota Gardner (Griswold), 0:28
3. Zackarie Navarrete (Montville) dec. Jose Candia (Windham), 9-7
5. Samuel Martino (Oxford) dec. Kyle Voisine (Plainville), 8-7
Final: Alex Smith (Gilbert) dec. Tyler Perez (Granby), 4-1
3. Nate Tardif East (East Windsor) dec. Flori Cenkolli (Nonnewaug), 7-1
5. Austin Kilduff (Canton) pin Cadan Odom (Griswold), 0:58
Final: Jack Cronin (Nonnewaug) pin Stephen Sims (Griswold), 2:18
3. Matthew Carson (Haddam-Killingworth) pin Elijah Pasternack (Gilbert), 2:25
5. Kaleb Korona (Plainville) dec. James Pelehach (Canton), 5-0
Final: Johnny Falco (Griswold) dec. Jamikael Lytle (Northwestern), 17-15, OT
3. Nate Bartone (Derby) dec. John Vignone (Coventry), 7-3
5. Kevin Sullivan (Gilbert) pin Zach Doiron (Montville), 2:27
Final: Aidan Maher (Haddam-Killingworth) pin Ben Foligno (St. Paul), 0:23
3. Braydon Fluckiger (Canton) dec. Cory Carr (Griswold), 6-3
5. Travis Boone (Plainville) pin Bajrum Gutic (Gilbert), 4:56
Final: Darrick Deveau (Montville) pin Ben Falivene (Valley Regional), 1:26
3. Thomas Perry (Haddam-Killingworth) pin Nole Snieckus (Northwestern), 0:58
5. Domonic Zuccalo (Somers) pin Dylan Keith (Gilbert), 1:14
Outstanding wrestler: Louis Bradley, Morgan (132)
Brackets on Flo
Photos from the Class S tournament