PROVIDENCE, R.I., March 2, 2019 – At the New England tournament, it’s all about winning matches and picking up extra points for pins and major decisions. Danbury High coach Ricky Shook knew his team had enough athletes entered into the tournament – seven — to have a shot at winning the championship.
He was pleasantly surprised when his Hatters left Providence Saturday night with their third New England championship and their second New England title in the last three years.
Junior Ryan Jack won his second consecutive New England championship, senior Kyle Fields dropped a 1-0 decision in the final at 132 pounds and Kai O’Dell (106) and Tyler Johnson (120) both medaled by finishing in the top six.
Ben LeBlanc (145) didn’t medal but he picked up crucial points with three victories in five matches including a pair of one-point victories.
Danbury beat Rhode Island champion Bishop Hendricken of Warwick by the score of 88½ to 71½ with Coventry, R.I. taking third with 68½ points. There were eight Connecticut teams in the top 20. Fairfield Warde was the next Connecticut team in sixth place with 53½ points, closely followed by New Canaan with 50 points.
There were two all-Connecticut matchups in the finals and five Nutmeg State wrestlers brought home New England championships – Jack (126), Ellis Tech’s Sean Johnson (138), New Canaan’s Tyler Sung (145), Suffield/Windsor Locks’ Hunter Adams (152) and Joel Barlow’s Carson Licastri (182).
After a tough loss to New Canaan’s Justin Mastroianni in last week’s State Open championships, Johnson got a takedown with 26 seconds remaining to clinch a 7-4 victory on Saturday night to win his first New England championship.
It was impressive enough to have the coaches at the meet vote to give Johnson the tournament’s outstanding wrestler award.
“I didn’t expect this, really,” Shook said. “I thought we would be in the hunt and I knew we would be in contention but I didn’t we had a shot. But we wrestled very well. We had four placewinners. I thought this (year’s) tournament could be won with three placewinners and we had four. We wrestled our butts off.”
Jack (126) won his second straight New England title with another dominating tournament performance. For the second straight week, he beat Northwestern’s Angelo Folino in the finals. He had five takedowns and a pair of near falls before getting a pin.
Jack had 23 takedowns, two pins and a technical fall in four victories. “I just try to wrestle as I have all year and whatever the outcome is, I have wrestled my best,” he said.
Fields (132) had pins in each of his three victories to earn his first appearance in a New England final but he came up against Connor McGonagle of Timberlane Regional in New Hampshire. McGonagle, who won his fourth New Hampshire state title last week, beat Fields, 1-0 thanks to an escape 18 seconds into the second period.
It gave McGonagle (56-1) his third straight New England championship and automatic entry into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Fields had three solid attempts at a takedown in the final 30 seconds but McGonagle successfully defender each one.
“Connor is a tenacious competitor,” Timberlane coach Barry Choolijian said. “He came down with a high fever (on Thursday night) and we were quite worried. He fights through everything. He couldn’t be as aggressive as he would like. He didn’t have his usual zip but, my god, he is a composed athlete and nothing worries him.”
McGonagle advanced through the semifinal with another 1-0 decision over Jack Darling of Masconomet, Mass., thanks to a third period escape.
Kai O’Dell (106) finished fifth with a 6-4 win over Zachary Soda of Burlington, Mass., but his biggest win of the day came in his fourth consolation match when he beat Killingly’s Danny Charron in overtime to advance to the medal round where he beat Soda to take fifth.
Tyler Johnson (120) finished 3-3 but he had two pins in the tournament.
Both O’Dell and Johnson had a rough day at the State Open – each finishing fifth. But they qualified for the New England tournament, won matches to help their team win a New England championship and earned another medal.
“(Shook) understands the ingredients to create a good program,” Choolijian said. “You can’t just coach the All-Star athletes like (Ryan) Jack. You have to make other kids get better. Ricky does that.”
“We had guys who wrestled back well (in the consolation round) and studs who did their jobs,” Shook said. “Overall, this is just unbelievable. I did not see this coming.”
In December, the team was struggling. There were holes in the lineup. But the Hatters kept working. Shook admitted last week that he and his coaching staff have done more coaching this year than they have done in several years.
“Things changed as the year went one,” he said. “Our (challenging) scheduled helped and guys began to realize they would wrestle and beat guys that were supposedly better than them. (Individual) rankings don’t mean anything, you have to wrestle to win.”
Danbury won their first New England title in 1990 and grabbed their second crown in 2017. They had seven top five finishes from 2001 through 2016.
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Ellis Tech’s Sean Johnson won four consecutive Class M titles – an amazing achievement that has been done by just 10 other wrestlers in state history. But when it came to the State Open and the New England championships, Johnson found winning a bit elusive.
He made three straight State Open finals but lost three one-point decisions, including a 4-3 loss to New Canaan sophomore Justin Mastrioianni a week ago. At the New England championships, he lost in the semifinals as a sophomore and junior – also to Mastroianni.
But Johnson turned the tables Saturday. He was leading 4-3 in the third period with Mastroianni riding him and trying to turn him. Johnson escaped with 39 seconds left to extend the lead to two and then won his first New England championship with a takedown with 26 seconds remaining to beat Mastroianni, 7-3.
His hard-fought victory earned Johnson (45-1) outstanding wrestler honors as well.
“I had to play smart,” Johnson said. “He was pushing on me. My favorite move is a duck under so if he pushed me, he was going to get ducked and that is what he got.
“It’s amazing,” he said of the victory. “I feel like I am in a dream. It’ so crazy. It’s such an amazing feeling.”
Mastroianni gutted out a 1-0 win over Trumbull’s Matt Ryan in the semifinals thanks to an escape with 1:47 gone in the second period. Mastroianni spent the third period fending off scoring attempts from Ryan. In the quarterfinals, Mastroianni beat Tyler Glynn of Central Catholic in Lawrence, Mass., 17-6. Glynn was second in Massachusetts a week ago.
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Joel Barlow junior Carson LiCastri (182) had his game face on Saturday and only after winning his first New England championship and accepting his championship hardware did it begin to crack a bit with a smile.
LiCastri (52-0) beat Rhode Island champion Cory Grifka of Mount Hope, 8-1 to win a New England title. LiCastri also beat New Hampshire champion Sterling McLaughlin of Pinkerton Academy, 12-4, in the semifinals and Maine champion Cole Dunham of Oxford Hills with a pin (3:50) in the quarterfinals.
“I’m pretty hard that all of the hard work during the season paid off and I am happy I am here now,” he said. “I thought I wrestled to my full potential. I laid it all there and did the best that I could.”
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New Canaan junior Tyler Sung (47-1) outlasted Rhode Island champion Sean Caltigirone of Coventry, 3-2 to win a New England championship at 145 pounds. Sung beat the No. 2 wrestler from Rhode Island – Cumberland’s Aidan Faira – in the semifinals, 5-0 and beat New Hampshire champion Anthonio Pallaria of Timberlane, 13-3 in the quarterfinals.
“Tyler has been wrestling on top of his game the last two tournaments,” New Canaan coach Paul Gallo said. “He’s really been on.”
Caltigirone got the first takedown of the match in the first period for a 2-0 lead but in the second period, Sung escaped with 1:39 left and took the lead with a two-point takedown of his own with 24 seconds left in the match.
In the third period, Sung was able to fend off attempts from Caltigirone to get a takedown to secure the win. The match was stopped four times because Caltigirone’s nose was bleeding.
“That was a little tough with all of the blood time (stoppages) but you just have to keep wrestling,” Sung said. “I knew he had a great takedown and a great shot. I just needed to find a way to defend it. At the end it worked out. I kept my composure and kept moving.”
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It was a painful third period for Suffield/Windsor Locks’ junior Hunter Adams in the finals of the New England championships at 152 pounds. Adams was leading by one, 4-3, over New Hampshire champion Noah Strout of Oyster River, who was riding Adams and trying to turn him over and score some points.
Adams (48-1) was in obvious pain when Strout tried to hook his arm with a chicken wing and turn him over and when Strout grabbed some of Adams’ fingers. No calls were made by the match official and Adams gutted it out to earn a 4-3 victory and become the first New England champion from Suffield.
“It was super difficult with him pulling my arm back the wrong way. I was getting frustrated because it was painful and the ref wasn’t calling it,” Adams said. “At one point, he had two of my fingers and was pulling them back. I looked at the ref and said call it.”
Adams didn’t get the call so he let it go. “I said if the ref wants to be like this then I have to outsmart the ref and outsmart my opponent so I did,” he said.
Adams took a 4-0 lead in the first period with a takedown and a near fall with few rolls included. “I do a lot of rolling around,” he said. “I like doing it. It is fun. People think that it is risky but it’s not. You take control and roll.”
Strout, in the New England finals for the second straight year, cut the lead 4-2 with a reversal in the later stages of the first period and pulled within a point with a second period escape, 4-3. He was on top riding Adams in the third period but couldn’t turn him over to score any points.
“He went through a lot. (Strout) was a real bruiser,” Suffield/Windsor Locks coach Matthew Mangelli said. “He earned every minute of it. He is one of those wrestlers who feels those positions. When he feels it, he runs with it and he is good at it.”
Adams rolled into the championship bout. He pinned Westhill’s Tommy Mazur in the semifinals in 51 seconds and beat Maine’s David Spinney of Marshwood, 12-0 in the quarterfinals. He pinned Tyler MacKieman of Pinkerton Academy in New Hampshire in 36 seconds in his first match.
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Four years ago, Middletown’s Elijah Cyr was finishing the freshman basketball season. But Mark Fong had been encouraging Cyr to give wrestling a try. He did as a sophomore.
On Saturday, he earned his first New England championship medal, finishing second at 113 pounds, dropping a hard-fought 5-2 decision to junior Hunter Adrian (58-0) of Melrose, Mass., who has won the last three Massachusetts All-State titles.
It was 2-2 after two periods. Adrian got the first takedown early in the match but Cyr was able to tie it up with a pair of escapes. In the third period, Adrian nearly escaped and put Cyr on his back so head coach Mark Fong instructed Cyr to let him go.
Adrian got the one point for the escape with a 3-2 lead but both men were on the feet looking for the match-winning takedown. In the end, Cyr was pressing for the takedown, slipped and Adrian picked up the takedown with 15 seconds left to clinch the match and his second straight New England title.
“We gave up an early takedown and generally you have to get the first takedown to win,” Fong said. “(Adrian) was a tough wrestler. It was tough to get inside (for a good takedown opportunity). He (Cyr) went for it and I’m proud of him going for it. It was a good run.”
Cyr (45-2) won his first State Open title a week ago. At the New England tournament, he beat the No. 2 wrestler in Massachusetts, Calvin Dalton of Salem, 9-3 in the first round; New Hampshire champion Nick Roeger of Timberlane in the quarterfinals, 12-5 and Vermont champion Ben Steward of Mt. Anthony in the semifinals with a pin in 4:41.
“Today was one of my better days,” Cyr said before the final. “I finally leveled off. I opened up on my feet and got a lot of takedowns.”
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At 126 pounds, Northwestern’s Angelo Folino became the third wrestler in school history to make a New England final before getting pinned by Jack, who is ranked No. 4 in the country. Folino also lost to Jack in last week’s State Open final.
Folino (45-5) grinded his way to the final with four wins – all by decision. He beat Jaden Estrada of Middleborough, Mass., 7-4 in the first round and topped Maine champion Joshua Cote of Noble, 7-4, scoring four points in the last 1:44 to snap a 3-3 tie.
In the quarterfinals, Folino beat Vermont champion Roman Mayer of Mount Abraham, 16-3 before beating Fairfield Warde’s Will Ebert in the semifinals, 6-4. Folino got three takedowns to race out to a 6-0 lead.
“He has been wrestling great, one match at time,” Northwestern co-coach Peter Folino, his father, said. “He had a game plan, followed through with it and it put him in the finals. He has been focused and scoring points early. There is no better way to finish a high school career than in the New England finals.”
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Fairfield Warde’s Joe Gjinaj got a two-point near fall with 1:21 left in the third period to beat Conor Maslanek of Pelham, New Hampshire and earn a spot in the New England final against New Hampshire champion Beau Dillon of Salem.
But Dillon scored six points in the second period thanks to an escape, takedown and near fall to take control and win in the final at 195 pounds with a 9-1 decision.
“Joe looked a little tired in the finals. I think he is better than that kid but he allowed him to control the tie and wear him down a bit,” Warde coach Jason Shaughnessy said. “He has had a great career and a great season but that is wrestling.”
Gjinaj (48-2) beat Kyle Setzer of Pinkerton Academy in New Hampshire in the quarterfinals by technical fall in 4:52 and pinned Kaream Sangare of Cumberland, R.I. in the second round in 2:19.
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Nothing came easy to Shelton’s Ray Weiner at the New England championships. Three of his five matches went into overtime.
Weiner (46-5) beat New Hampshire champion Noah Giffard of Concord, 3-2 in triple OT in the second round, escaping with 17 seconds remaining. In the quarterfinals, Weiner beat William Ogebebor of Foxborough, Mass., 3-2, with a takedown with 38 seconds remaining.
In the semifinals, Weiner beat the No. 2 wrestler from Massachusetts, O.J. Pekacar of Dedham, 3-1 in overtime with a takedown just nine seconds into the extra session.
But the overtime magic ended in the championship final against undefeated Omar Eldaly of Shawsheen Valley Tech of Billerica, Massachusetts in a 5-4 loss in double overtime. Eldaly (58-0), the Massachusetts champion, escaped and got a takedown with 15 seconds left to secure the win.
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Six Connecticut wrestlers finished third – Xavier’s Michael Rapuano (106), Hall’s Drew Carrier (113), Fairfield Warde’s Will Ebert (126), Tolland’s Michael Angers (160), New London’s Jacob Commander (182) and Bristol Eastern’s Trinidad Gonzalez (220).
Currier had the longest road to the medal stand. He went 7-1 in the tournament including a 1-0 win over Trumbull’s Travis Longo in the consolation semifinals and a 5-3 victory over Agawam’s Dylan Beddow in the consolation final.
Ebert went 5-1 and had a pair of overtime wins and a 1-0 decision. Angers and Commander both went 5-1 with Commander winning his last matches of the tournament in overtime. Gonzalez lost his first match of the tournament and then won five in a row, finishing with a 3-1 win over New Hampshire champion Noah Gifford of Concord in the consolation final.
Westhill’s Tommy Mazur (152) finished fourth. Trumbull’s Travis Longo (113), Danbury’s Kai O’Dell (106) and Manchester’s Shamar Schand (138) each finished fifth while Danbury’s Tyler Johnson (120), Trumbull’s Matt Ryan (138), Fairfield Warde’s Cole Shaughnessy (145) and Ellis Tech’s Hayden Minski (285) also earned medals for finishing sixth.
The New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame held their annual induction ceremony before the finals. They recognized Vermont’s Danny Gordon and David Fournier, Rhode Island’s Alan Yanku, Massachusetts’ Craig Stone and Connecticut’s Richard Perry.
2019 New England championships
Team results (top 25): 1. Danbury 88½, 2. Bishop Hendricken-Warwick, RI 71½, 3. Coventry RI 68½, 4. Salem, N.H. 68, 5. Springfield (MA) Central 55, 6. Fairfield Warde 53½, 7. New Canaan 50, 8. Timberlane Regional-Plaistow, N.H., 48, 9. Shawsheen Valley Technical-Billerica, MA, 10. Mt. Anthony Union-Bennington, VT 43, 11. Chariho RI 41, 12. Mansfield, MA 40, 13. Ellis Tech 39½, 14. Northwestern Regional and Cumberland RI 37, 16. Joel Barlow 34½, 17. Suffield/Windsor Locks and Saint John’s Prep-Shrewsbury, MA; 19. Trumbull 32, 20. Pinkerton Academy-Derry NH 31, 21. Bristol Eastern 30½, 22. Camden Hills, ME, Xavier, Central Catholic-Lawrence, MA and North Attleborough, MA 30
Other Connecticut teams: t26. Hall 28; t30. Shelton 27; t39. Middletown and Tolland 22; t44. New London 20; t49. Westhill 18; t58. Manchester and Simsbury 15; t67. Killingly and Ledyard 11; t77. Southington 8; t87. Berlin, Glastonbury, New Haven, New Milford, South Windsor 6; t98. Nonnewaug 5; t107. Branford, Griswold, Wethersfield 4; t120. Gilbert, Lyman/WT, Platt 3; t127. Foran and Ridgefield 2, 136. Norwalk 1; t137. Avon, Law, Shelton 0
Final: Joziah Fry (Coventry RI) dec. Tyler Knox (Pentucket, MA), 9-5
3. Michael Rapuano (Xavier) dec. Evan Kinney (Chelmsford, MA), 7-2
5. Kai O’Dell (Danbury) dec. Zachary Soda (Burlington, MA), 6-4
Final: Hunter Adrian (Melrose, MA) dec. Elijah Cyr (Middletown), 5-2
3. Drew Currier (Hall) dec. Dylan Beddow (Agawam, MA), 5-3
5. Travis Longo (Trumbull) dec. Brady Gillis (Cumberland, RI), 10-0
Final: Andrew Fallon (Bishop Hendricken, RI) dec. Maximillian Leete (Danvers, MA), 3-1 OT
3. Mike Glynn (Central Catholic, MA) dec. Ryan Parmenter MA (Pembroke, MA), 5-4
5. Matt Adams (Salem NH) pin Tyler Johnson (Danbury), 1:54
Final: Ryan Jack (Danbury) pin Angelo Folino (Northwestern), 3:38
3. Will Ebert (Fairfield Warde) dec. Nathan Williams (Bishop Hendricken, RI), 3-1
5. Joey Valentino (North Andover, MA) dec. Chris Gomez (Cranston West, RI), 14-6
Final: Connor McGonagle (Timberlane, NH) dec. Kyle Fields (Danbury), 1-0
3. Mason Clarke (Coventry RI) dec. Jack Darling (Masconomet, MA), 7-4
5. Calvin Curtis (West Springfield, MA) dec. Josh Sharron (Newport, NH), 9-5
Final: Sean Johnson (Ellis Tech) dec. Justin Mastroianni (New Canaan), 7-4
3. Ryan Garlitz (Saint John’s Prep, MA) dec. Nicholas Fine Warwick, (Bishop Hendricken, RI), 2-0
5. Shamar Schand (Manchester) dec. Matt Ryan (Trumbull), 7-3
Final: Tyler Sung (New Canaan) dec. Sean Caltagirone (Coventry RI), 3-2
3. Aidan Faria (Cumberland, RI) dec. Noah Lang (Camden Hills ME), 10-5
5. Keegan Coon (Mount Anthony, VT) dec. Cole Shaughnessy (Fairfield Warde), 3-0
Final: Hunter Adams (Suffield/Windsor Locks) dec. Noah Strout (Oyster River. NH), 4-3
3. Brevin Cassella (Nashoba, MA) dec. Tommy Mazur (Westhill), 3-2
5. Chase Anestis (Bedford/AB, MA) dec. Noah Beal-Hernandez (Massabesic, ME), 6-3
Final: Cesar Alvan (Springfield Central, MA) dec. Tristen Cabinta (Salem NH), 9-4
3. Michael Angers (Tolland) pin Dakota Peters (Rutland, VT), 0:27
5. Zachary Elowitch (Portland/So. Portland, ME) pin Andrew Goddard (Algonquin, MA), 5:49
Final: Jayden Curley (Mansfield, MA) dec. Ben Dougherty (Chariho, RI), 7-5
3. Colby Giroux (Mount Mansfield, VT) pin Isaac Gladey (Concord, NH), 4:35
5. Dohnivin Harvey (Springfield Central, MA) dec. Matthew Pooler (Massabesic, ME), 9-1
Final: Carson Licastri (Joel Barlow) dec. Cory Grifka (Mt. Hope, RI), 8-1
3. Jacob Commander (New London) dec. Abraham Spurlock (Brookline, MA), 5-4, 2 OT
5. Gregory Gregorian (LaSalle Academy, RI) medical forfeit over Sterling McLaughlin (Pinkerton Academy, NH)
Final: Beau Dillon (Salem NH) dec. Joe Gjinaj (Fairfield Warde), 9-1
3. Conor Maslanek (Pelham, NH) pin Kyle Setzer (Pinkerton Academy, NH), 1:03
5. Aaron Diaz (Lowell, MA) pin Sampson Wilkins (Mount Anthony, VT), 3:03
Final: Omar Eldaly (Shawsheen, MA) dec. Ray Weiner (Shelton), 5-4, 2 OT
3. Trinidad Gonzalez (Bristol Eastern) dec. Noah Giffard (Concord, NH), 3-1
5. Jeffrey Worster (Oxford Hills, ME) pin O.J. Pekacar (Dedham, MA), 1:02
Final: Mattuez Kudra (North Attleborough, MA) dec. David Gross Bucksport, (Bucksport, ME), 5-4
3. Grant Laws (Xaverian, MA) dec. Addison Boisvert (Scarborough, ME), 9-2
5. Thor Griffith (Portsmouth NH) dec. Hayden Minski (Ellis Tech), 9-2
Best finals match: 220 pounds
Outstanding wrestler: Sean Johnson, Ellis Tech (138)