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Danbury’s Shook, three Xavier assistant coaches named state coaches of year

Xavier wrestlers celebrate after winning the Class L state championship in Bristol.

MANHEIM, Pa., June 16, 2020 – For the second consecutive season, the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) has selected Danbury High head coach Ricky Shook at the Connecticut coach of the year.

This year, the NWCA made a change to their assistant coach of the year award. Instead of an award to a single assistant coach, the NWCA is now recognizing each of the assistant coaches on a staff. The Assistant Coaching Staff of the Year award in Connecticut went to Xavier High’s staff of Kareen Small, Seve Burgos and Jake Eliades.

Shook, a member of the Connecticut chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, led Danbury to an undefeated season (16-0), their second straight New England championship, a State Open title and another Class LL pennant.

The Hatters beat Timberlane Regional (Plaistow, N.H.), Mount Anthony Union (Bennington, Vt.) and Nashoba Valley Tech (Westford, Mass.) this winter along with victories over Simsbury, Fairfield Warde, New Milford and Trumbull – schools that each finished in the top 10 of the final Connecticut Wrestling Online poll. Danbury finished undefeated for the first time since 2016 – extending their state record with a 12th undefeated season.

It’s the fourth time that the NWCA has named Shook state coach of the year. He was also honored in 2008, 2009 and 2019.

Ricky Shook is on his feet during the State Open championships in 2017 in New Haven.

Small, Burgos and Eliades helped Xavier, under head coach Mike Cunningham, win its first Class L state championship since 2012 with a 2½ point win over Simsbury. The Falcons (8-0) finished undefeated for the first time in school history.

They spent their weekends traveling around New England, New York and Pennsylvania participating in challenging tournaments to get ready for the postseason.

“Every day in practice we pushed each other. We deserve this,” said Xavier’s Michael Rapuano, who a Class L and State Open title at 113 pounds. “We’ve been training all year for this. We have a real tough schedule.”

The Class L tournament was the sixth tournament Xavier won this season.

Xavier won the Mid-Hudson Classic in Arlington, New York  in late December against a field of all New York state teams. In early January, the Falcons were third at the SWAT tournament in Sanford, Maine, which was won by Danbury. Xavier won their own Colter Abely tournament on Jan. 18 in Middletown, captured the Methuen, Mass., Invitational on February 1 against a tough field of Massachusetts and New Hampshire teams and took the Bobcat Classic title at Bacon Academy on February 8.

A week later, they won the Southern Connecticut Conference tournament.

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 40 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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