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No. 1 Danbury brings home another State Open championship

Danbury’s Ryan Jack became just the third wrestler in state history to win four State Open championships on Saturday with his victory at 138 pounds. More photos from the State Open. 

NEW HAVEN, February 29, 2020 – In most years, Fairfield Warde’s 146 points would have been good enough to win the State Open championship. The No. 3 Mustangs put two wrestlers into the finals and had eight wrestlers go home with medals for finishing in the top six in their respective weight classes.

But you can’t forget about No. 1 Danbury. They won’t let you.

The defending New England champions put four wrestlers into the finals and saw eight wrestlers finish in the top five as the Hatters won their fourth straight State Open championship Saturday with 193 points – the second-highest score in tournament history.

Danbury senior Ryan Jack won a title for the Hatters and became just the third wrestler in state history and the first in 22 years to win four consecutive State Open championships. DJ Donovan (220), Kai O’Dell (113) and Tyler Johnson (126) finished second for Danbury.

Class L champion Xavier finished third with 127 points thanks to victories from Michael Rapuano (113) and James Lunt (145) with Simsbury taking fourth with 99 points. With two individual champions, Joel Barlow was fifth.

“We are not a bunch of front liners. We have a bunch of tough kids at a lot of weight (classes). We wrestled great,” Danbury coach Ricky Shook said. “We won a lot of close matches and there were some disappointments. But it was a good weekend. Warde pushed us again.”

Shook was thrilled that eight Danbury wrestlers finished in the top five of their respective weight classes to qualify for next weekend’s New England championships in Meuthen, Massachusetts. The Hatters have won two of the last three New England titles.

“I was hoping for five or six (qualifiers) and we ended up with eight. We wrestled really well today,” he said.

Jayden Hawkins (170) and Tyrell Jones (182) each finished third for Danbury while Jordan Agosto (285) finished fourth. Logan Kovacs (145) took fifth.

“Being an FCIAC team, a Class LL team and a State Open team, we’re often chasing Danbury,” Fairfield Warde coach Jason Shaughnessy said. “But we focus on making ourselves better and doing our best. We had seven guys qualify for New England and eight (wrestlers) place. I am proud of our performance this weekend. We brought 10 wrestlers (to the State Open) and placed eight.”

Warde has finished second twice in the last three years and has been in the top three at the Open for the last four seasons.

Jack has been on top of the podium for the last four years. The Danbury senior became just the third wrestler in state history to win four straight State Open titles with his 13-5 win over Bristol Eastern’s Tommy Nichols at 138 pounds.

Jack joins an elite group of wrestlers with four Open titles. T.J. Marcaurele, wrestling with NFA and Ledyard, won four straight from 1989-92 and Somers’ Brendan Harris won four in a row from 1995-98. Fifteen other wrestlers have won three – including Jack’s older brother Kevin (2012-14).

“It’s very special because the way Connecticut’s level (of wrestling) is so high (now),” Shook said. “Our wrestling is a lot better than it was 25 years ago. To this now, that is special. He has been pretty dominant and the pressure has been building on him all year.”

“Not many people get a chance to do this,” Shook said. “You have to be healthy. You have to be good.” Ryan Jack won Open titles at 106, 120 and 126 pounds before Saturday’s event.

Prior to the finals, Jack won two of his three matches with pins. Against Nichols in the final, he had two takedowns in the first period and led 4-2. He opened it up in the final two periods with another four takedowns in a 13-5 victory.

“I wrestle the best I can and whatever happens, happens,” Jack said. “I know if I wrestle well, no one can beat me. That is my mindset.”

A week ago, Jack became the 13th wrestler in state history to win four CIAC divisional state championships (Class LL, L, M, S) and the second wrestler to win four Class LL titles.

“Coach Shook thought I had a lot of pressure on me but I just went out there like I usually do,” said Jack, who has been battling shoulder and elbow injuries this season. “I just out there and see what happens.”

Jack became the first person this century to win the Outstanding Wrestler award twice at the State Open. He also brought the OW trophy home a year ago.

Xavier’s Michael Rapuano (113), New Canaan’s Tyler Sung (152), Joel Barlow’s Carson LiCastri (195) and New Haven’s Jaylin Houston (285) each won their second straight State Open titles.

Hall’s Drew Currier (120), Middletown’s Kalil Schabazz (126), Simsbury’s T.J. Finn (132) and Xavier’s James Lunt (145) each captured their first State Open championships.

Fairfield Prep’s Dean Tsirandies (160), Westhill’s Thomas Mazur (182) and Avon’s Chris Gens (220) won their first Open crowns while Southington’s Billy Carr got a takedown with six seconds left in regulation for a one-point win at 182 pounds and his first Open title.

106: Class M champion Josh Brault finished the season undefeated (40-0) with a 6-3 win over Trumbull’s Michael Longo in the championship match. Brault, who had a pin and a tech fall in the tournament, built a 6-1 lead to win his first Open championship.

113: In a battle between two state champions, Xavier’s Michael Rapuano beat Class LL champion Kai O’Dell of Danbury, 7-0. It was the second straight State Open title for Rapuano, a junior with a 48-4 record.

Leading 2-0 after one period, Rapuano got an escape and takedown with 1:26 left in the second period to take command of the championship match

North Haven’s Giuseppe Iamunno and Hall’s Drew Carrier battle in the State Open finals at 120 pounds. More photos from the State Open. 

120: Hall High junior Drew Currier (47-2) has not forgotten his semifinal match with North Haven freshman Giuseppe Iamunno at the Connecticut Challenge in Southington on January 25. Currier had a three-point lead with 1:07 remaining. Iamunno escaped and was awarded a point due to stalling by Currier. But the lead was still one for Currier.

But Iamunno got a takedown with 17 seconds remaining and pinned Currier to advance to the final.

“I was winning that match and I gave it up,” he said Saturday at the State Open. “It’s been in my head. I have been thinking of that moment for weeks and weeks and I have been training hard. I was staying late, going in early and training my (tail) off for this.”

The two wrestlers met in the finals of the State Open. Currier won the Class LL title and Iammuno won the Class L title. And this time, Currier was prepared. He got a takedown in the first and second period to hand Iammuno his first scholastic defeat and win his first State Open championship, 5-0.

“He has been eyeing this match since he lost back in January,” Hall coach Justin Scalise said. “It was he thinked about and talked about in the room. His goals are simple. LL title. Open title and New England title. “

126: Middletown senior Kalil Shabazz beat Class LL champion Tyler Johnson of Danbury, 12-6 to win his first State Open title. Shabazz, who won the Class L title, led 6-4 in the second period before getting an escape with 17 seconds left in the period with a takedown and a two-point near fall to take a commanding 9-4 lead.

Shabazz, who improved to 37-1 on the season, is the first Middletown wrestler to bring home a State Open title since Elijah Cyr did in 2019.

132: A year ago, Simsbury’s Ty Finn dropped a heartbreaking semifinal and finished third in the State Open. The next day, he was back at work. “It’s been a 365-day process for him,” Simsbury coach T.J. Silva said. “His goal was to comeback here and win an Open title and he put in the work in every day, pretty much every day from that day. Today, he reaped the fruit of that labor.”

Finn (51-2) became the first Simsbury wrestler since 2015 to win a State Open championship with a hard-fought 3-0 win over previously undefeated Devin Matthews (44-1) of Gilbert. Finn, who didn’t give up a point in his four wins in the tournament, escaped early in the second period and got a takedown with 38 seconds left in the period.

But it was a struggle because the two wrestlers are friends that train together at Empire Wrestling Academy in Somers, N.Y. during the off-season. There were numerous stalemates, forcing the two wrestlers to begin again.

“You have to change things up,” Finn said. “He knows a low single (takedown) is coming. He knows the high crotch (ride) is coming.”

145: Xavier’s James Lunt (44-3) had five takedowns in the first two periods to beat Fairfield Warde sophomore William Ebert in the final, 14-4. Ebert, who won the Class LL title, advanced to the final with a 3-2 win over Killingly’s Ben Richardson thanks to a third period escape.

Carson LiCastri of Joel Barlow, right, battles Branford’s Cody McHenry in the semifinals of Saturday’s State Open championships.  More photos from the State Open. 

152: For the second time in three weeks, Fairfield Warde senior Cole Shaughnessy faced New Canaan’s Tyler Sung in a championship match. Two weeks ago, Sung blanked Shaughnessy in the FCIAC title match, 7-2. At the State Open, Sung (16-0) beat Shaughnessy, 6-0, for his second consecutive State Open title.

It’s been a challenging season for Sung, who has been recovering from a knee injury and saw his mother, Carol, pass away on January 26.

“(The win) means everything,” Sung said afterwards. “I’ve had a lot of adversity this year. It started with my injury.” And his mom was never far from his thoughts. “I’ve been talking to her a lot,” he said. “It’s something I am always thinking about.”

Shaughnessy, the Class LL champion, had three pins in four matches in the tournament.

Fairfield Prep’s Dean Tsiranides gets Brookfield’s Zahir McLean-Felix up into the air during the finals at 160 pounds. Tsiranides prevailed, 4-3. More photos from the State Open. 

160: Brookfield’s Zahir McLean-Felix had no easy ride to the State Open finals. The Class M champion had three victories – each by two points. Two came in overtime. So, it was no surprise that he battled Class LL champion Dean Tsiranides for six minutes. But for the first time in the tournament, McLean-Felix ended up on the short end in a 4-3 defeat.

Tsirandies (40-2) had an early 2-0 lead after getting a first period takedown but McLean-Felix tied the bout at 2-2 with a reversal with three seconds left in the second period. Tsirandies got a reversal with 1:17 left in the bout to take a 4-2 lead. McLean-Felix escaped with 41 seconds to go to cut the lead to one but Tsirandies was able to hold on for the victory.

McLean-Felix beat Guilford’s Brent Strand, 5-3, in his first match of the tournament with a takedown with 11 seconds remaining to advance. In the quarterfinals, McLean-Felix had a takedown with 14 seconds left in overtime for a 3-1 victory. In the semifinals, McLean-Felix was penalized for stalling with 27 seconds left in regulation to send his match with Manchester’s Traivon Nieves into overtime.

But McLean-Felix (36-4) got another clutch takedown in overtime, this time with 29 seconds remaining to earn a 3-1 win and advance to the finals.

Westhill’s Thomas Mazur gets in for a takedown in the State Open finals against previously undefeated Ryan Powers of Lyman Memorial/Windham Tech. More photos from the State Open. 

170: First-year Westhill coach Mike Cigala saw that Westhill High senior Tommy Mazur was already an outstanding wrestler. He wanted to give the senior some additional tools to succeed. They worked on his foot work, conditioning and exercises to make him faster on the mat.

That speed on the mat allowed Mazur (38-0) to beat a strong Ryan Powers of Lyman Memorial/Windham Tech, 14-4 and win his first State Open championship. It was the first loss of the season for Power (47-1), the Class S champion who had three pins in his previous three Open matches.

“He did a magnificent job,” Cigala said of Mazur. “We added foot work in this year. We did everything we could to make his faster on the mat.” Mazur had five takedowns, a reversal and a third period near fall to earn his 14 points.

Mazur has one goal remaining ahead of him, Cigala said. No Westhill wrestler has won an FCIAC, Class LL, State Open and New England title in the same year. “That’s our goal,” Cigala said.

182: Southington’s Billy Carr proved his can win the close match. He got a takedown with 23 seconds left in regulation to win his first match of the tournament over Norwalk’s Brendan Gilchrist, 5-3. After a 10-point win in the quarterfinals, Carr outlasted Fairfield Warde’s John Summers, 3-2 in the semifinals. Carr got a 3-0 lead after two periods and survived to advance to the finals.

Carr (41-4) won his first State Open title with a takedown of Class L champion Simon Flaherty of Amity with six seconds remaining in a 4-3 decision that ignited a wild celebration among the Southington coaching staff and the Blue Knight faithful.

“It had to be a perfect shot,” Southington coach Derek Dion said. “(Flaherty’s) defense is fantastic. I’m so happy for (Carr). He has worked so damn hard and for him to come up so big against a (strong) kid like that. (Flaherty) is so solid in all positions.”

Flaherty (42-3) took a 2-0 lead in the championship match thanks to a takedown with 15 seconds left in the first period but Carr escaped seven seconds left to cut the lead to one, 2-1. Flaherty escaped in the second period to extend his lead to 3-1. To open the third period, Flaherty let Carr up to cut the lead to 3-2 with a takedown winning it for whichever wrestler could get it done.

Carr is the first Southington wrestler to bring home a State Open title since Zach Murillo in 2015.

195: With two pins and two technical falls, Joel Barlow’s Carson LiCastri (30-1) looked smooth in winning his second straight State Open championship. LiCastri gave up just four points on escapes in the tournament. He had 12 takedowns in four matches including five in the 17-2 win over New London’s Jadian MacKenzie in the championship match.

220: Avon’s Chris Gens won his second Class M championship a week ago and set upon his quest for a State Open title. It didn’t take long to get challenged.

In the quarterfinals, Glastonbury’s Kirill Fioletov took Gens down early in the first period for a 2-0 lead. Gens tied it with a reversal but Fioletov took a 3-2 lead with an escape. Gens got a takedown and near fall with nine seconds left in the first period to take a 6-3 lead. He finished with a 7-3 victory.

“All year he has been used to pinning kids,” Avon coach John McLaughlin said. “We talked about at this level, you have to be content with a 3-1 or a 1-0 victory.”

In the semifinals, a three-point nearfall with 13 seconds left in the second period was the difference in Gens’ 4-1 win over Southington’s Jacob Vecchio.

In the finals against Danbury junior DJ Donovan, Gens got a takedown with 1:01 left in the first period and added an escape early in the third period for a 3-0 lead. And it held up as Gens (43-0) became the first Avon wrestler in 13 years to win a State Open championship. Este Lara won an Open title in 2007.

The takedown came when Donovan aggressively went after a takedown against Gens, who was able to counter and slip behind for the 2-0 lead. “That counter wrestling was great,” McLaughlin said. “Chris is so hard to score on. His strength is ridiculous. His positioning in ridiculous. A lot of times, kids get desperate to shoot and they open themselves up to (moves) that (Chris) can finish.”

New Haven wrestling coach Marcello Catapano, right and his assistant coach cheer in the final seconds of Jaylin Houston’s second State Open championship win. More photos from the State Open. 

285: New Haven’s Jaylin Houston is right at home at the State Open in his hometown on the Hillhouse campus. A year ago, Houston became the first New Haven wrestler to win an Open championship. A week earlier, he had finished fourth in the Class LL tournament.

A week ago, Houston dropped a 5-1 decision in the Class LL semifinals to Shelton’s Matt Weiner, who went onto win the Class LL championship. Houston rallied to finish third.

Given another shot to beat Weiner, Houston didn’t disappoint. This time, it was Houston with the 5-1 victory in the State Open final, handing Weiner (40-2) his second loss of the season.

Weiner took a 1-0 lead with a second period escape but Houston grabbed the lead with a takedown with eight seconds left in the second period. He extended that lead to 3-1 thanks to an escape with just 10 seconds gone in the third period.

Houston (32-5) clinched the match – and his second straight Open championship – with a takedown with nine seconds left in regulation.

2020 State Open
At New Haven
Team results – 1. Danbury 193, 2. Fairfield Warde 146, 3. Xavier 127, 4. Simsbury 99, 5. Joel Barlow 88½, 6. Bristol Eastern 69½, 7. Southington 61, 8. New Milford 80, 9. Killingly 55, 10. Suffield/Windsor Locks 53½, 11. Foran, Trumbull and Haddam-Killingworth 53, 14. Glastonbury 49½, 15. New Haven 47, 16. Gilbert 46, 17. Ledyard 45½, 18. Bristol Central 40, 19. Middletown 39½, 20. Branford 39, 21. Avon 35½, 22. Wethersfield 35, 23. Lyman Memorial/Windham Tech 33, 24. Amity, Fairfield Prep, Newtown 31, 27. Shelton and Westhill 30, 29. New London 29, 30. Brookfield 28, 31. Hall, Staples 27, 33. New Canaan 26, 34. Greenwich 25, 35. New Fairfield 24, 36. New Britain, North Haven, Windham 23½, 39.  East Lyme/Norwich Tech, Stafford 21, 41. Montville, Northwestern, Platt 19; 44. Pomperaug 17, 45. Bacon Academy, East Hampton 16; 47. NFA 15½, 48. Conard, Newington 15; 50. Fitch 13, 51. Guilford, Manchester, RHAM, Weston 12; 55. East Haven, Plainville, Ridgefield 11; 58. Canton, E.O. Smith, Watertown 9; 61. Harding 8½, 62. Enfield, Norwalk, Oxford, Thomaston/Holy Cross 8; 66. Griswold 7; 67. East Hartford, Stratford 6; 69. Farmington 5½, 70. Abbot Tech, Maloney, Morgan, Waterford 5; 74. Brien McMahon, Bunnell, Masuk, Seymour, St. Paul 4; 79. Nonnewaug, Terryville 3; 81. Berlin, Hand, Ellis Tech 2; 84. Bethel, Derby, East Catholic, Fairfield Ludlowe, Granby, Law, Notre Dame-Fairfield, Putnam, Somers, Stamford, Stonington, Woodland 0

Individual results
106 LBS
Final: Josh Brault (Joel Barlow) dec. Michael Longo (Trumbull), 6-3
Third: Evan Lindner (New Milford) dec. William Hamilton (Bristol Central), 10-0
Fifth: Kaden Ware (Killingly) dec. Cameron Hines (Haddam-Killingworth), 13-4

113 LBS
Final: Michael Rapuano (Xavier) dec. Kai O’Dell (Danbury), 7-0
Third: Bryce Arnold (Wethersfield) pin Lucas Coleman (Fairfield Warde), 4:35
Fifth: Connor Doran (Ledyard) dec. Nicholas Urso (Conard), 12-2

120 LBS
Final: Drew Currier (Hall) dec. Giuseppe Iamunno (North Haven), 5-0
Third: Dylan Levesque (East Hampton) dec. Carlos Dewinter (Greenwich), 8-4
Fifth: Martial Sutton (Glastonbury) dec. Mason Lishness (Bristol Eastern), 1-0

126 LBS
Final: Kalil Shabazz (Middletown) dec. Tyler Johnson (Danbury), 12-6
Third: David Charron (Killingly) dec. Zachary Johns (Suffield/Windsor Locks), 3-0
Fifth: Parker Sutton (Glastonbury) dec. Michael Carpenter (Pomperaug), 5-0

132 LBS
Final: Thomas Finn (Simsbury) dec. Devin Matthews (Gilbert), 3-0
Third: Jack Ryan (Trumbull) pin Peter Coniglio (New Milford), 1:33
Fifth: Nathan Cuoco (Fairfield Warde) dec. Braeden O’Brien (Bacon Academy), 3-2

138 LBS
Final: Ryan Jack (Danbury) dec. Thomas Nichols (Bristol Eastern), 13-5
Third: Tristan Julian (Stafford) dec. John Mairano (Simsbury), 12-3
Fifth: Khalil Bourjelli (New Milford) dec. Devin Anderson (New Fairfield), 5-2

145 LBS
Final: James Lunt (Xavier) dec. William Ebert (Fairfield Warde), 14-4
Third: Saul Pera (Simsbury) dec. Ben Richardson (Killingly), 3-1 OT
Fifth: Logan Kovacs (Danbury) dec. Dylan Washburn (Suffield/Windsor Locks), 3-0

152 LBS
Final: Tyler Sung (New Canaan) dec. Cole Shaughnessy (Fairfield Warde), 6-0
Third: Kyle Matthews (Gilbert) dec. Alex Klein-Wassink (Joel Barlow), 10-3
Fifth: Breon Phifer (Weston) dec. Alexander Marshall (Bristol Eastern), 12-4

160 LBS
Final: Dean Tsiranides (Fairfield Prep) dec. Zahir McLean-Felix (Brookfield), 4-3
Third: Brayden Grim (Ledyard) dec. Luke Tischio (Xavier), 9-3
Fifth: Yarian Grant (New Haven) pin Xavier Powell (Watertown), 2:05

170 LBS
Final: Thomas Mazur (Westhill) dec. Ryan Powers (Lyman Memorial/Windham Tech), 14-4
Third: Jaylen Hawkins (Danbury) dec. Frankie McNeary (Joel Barlow), 9-0
Fifth: Hunter Rasmussen (Fairfield Warde) dec. Colman Doucette (New Fairfield), 5-4

182 LBS
Final: William Carr (Southington) dec. Simon Flaherty (Amity), 4-3
Third: Tyrell Jones (Danbury) dec. John Summers (Fairfield Warde), 2-1
Fifth: Isaiah Medina (New Britain) dec. Aidan Lozada (Newington), 4-1

195 LBS
Final: Carson LiCastri (Joel Barlow) tech fall Jadian MacKenzie (New London), 17-2, 4:38
Third: Jamikael Lytle (Northwestern) dec. Cody McHenry (Branford), 10-1
Fifth: Griffin Gallati (Fairfield Warde) pin Marcelius Ruiz (Xavier), 4:07

220 LBS
Final: Christopher Gens (Avon) dec. DJ Donovan (Danbury), 3-0
Third: Jacob Vecchio (Southington) pin Roark Ryan (East Lyme/Norwich Tech), 3:37
Fifth: Kirill Fioletov (Glastonbury) dec. Alec Nardone (Fairfield Warde), 9-5

285 LBS
Final: Jaylin Houston (New Haven Wrestling) dec. Matt Weiner (Shelton), 5-1
Third: Thomas Perry (Haddam-Killingworth) dec. Jordan Agosto (Danbury), 3-1
Fifth: Pat Rescanski (Foran) pin Jacob Rizy (Staples), 2:43
Outstanding wrestler: Ryan Jack, Danbury (138)
Brackets and results
Brackets and results on FloWrestling.com

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of Connecticut Wrestling Online. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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