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Bristol’s Ella Nichols brings home silver medals from two national tournaments

Bristol Eastern’s Ella Nichols at the 2020 CIAC Girls Invitational in New Haven just two weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic began sweeping across the country.

Two nationally-ranked Connecticut high school wrestlers picked up medals at meets in Coraville, Iowa this weekend.

Bristol junior Ella Nichols finished second in the USA Wrestling Folkstyle Nationals and at USA Wrestling’s inaugural High School National Recruiting Showcase at 164 pounds. Plainville junior Dakota Marie Dinelli finished second at 152 in the National Recruiting Showcase.

Both wrestlers were nationally ranked coming into the tournaments – which were filled in nationally ranked wrestlers. Nichols was ranked sixth in the latest USA Wrestling/National Wrestling Hall of Fame rankings at 144 pounds while Dinelli was ranked sixth at 152.

It was the first action of the year for both Nichols and Dinelli, who had the challenge of trying to stay sharp with wrestling banned for most of the winter season in Connecticut to mitigate the risks of spreading the COVID-19 coronavirus. Clubs and high schools were allowed to only conduct conditioning and non-contact drills until March 19 when that ban was lifted by Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont and the Department of Health.

Nichols, who attends Bristol Eastern, won three straight bouts in Saturday’s National Recruiting Showcase, a freestyle tournament, to get to the final. In the semifinals, Nichols beat Anya Hatch, who won a state championship in Utah this winter, 6-4. In the quarterfinals, Nichols outlasted Maggie Smith from Rock Springs, Wyoming, 8-7.

In the championship match, Nichols faced Rose Cassioppi, a sophomore from Hononegah, Illinois, who came into the tournament ranked No. 5 in the country at 152 pounds. Cassioppi grabbed a quick 5-1 lead with a pair of takedowns and a step out, but Nichols popped a four-point takedown to tie it at 5-5 after one period.

The match was tied 7-7 in the second period after each girl got a takedowns, but Cassioppi tossed Nichols and got the pin in 4:51 to win the tournament.

On Sunday in the folkstyle national tournament, Nichols had four matches against three nationally-ranked wrestlers – Cassioppi, Kaitlyn Pegarella of Nanticoke, Pa., and Shelby Zacharias of Charlotte, Tenn. Pegarella was ranked No. 7 at 164 with Zacharias ranked No. 13 at 164.

Nichols, who represented KT Kidz out of Rocky Hill, pinned Pegarella in 1:41 in her first match and followed that with a pin over Emma Burk of Black Fox in Colorado in 1:53. In the semifinals, Nichols pinned Zacharian in 4:53.

That set up another rematch with Cassioppi, who pinned Nichols in 2:27 for her second championship of the weekend.

Dinelli went 3-1 in the National Recruiting Showcase freestyle tournament. She began the tournament with an eight-second pin over Lainey Wooley of Columbia City, Indiana, followed by a 11-0 win by technical fall over Oklahoma’s Mia Cayard.

In the semifinals, Dinelli beat Oregon state champion Anna McDougal by tech fall, 11-0 before squaring off with two-time Missouri state champion Haley Ward of Independence in the finals.

Ward, who is ranked No. 9 at 152 pounds, won the tournament with a 10-0 win by technical fall over Dinelli. Ward scored a pair of takedowns, and followed with a four-point throw to take command early.

In the Folkstyle Nationals on Sunday, Dinelli lost both her matches by pin at 152 pounds. Dinelli was representing FishEye Wrestling Club out of Windsor.

Two other state wrestlers were at the National Recruiting Showcase. Bristol’s Thomas Nichols went 2-2 at 145 pounds.

Nichols, representing KT Kidz and Ella’s brother, won his first two bouts with a 5-4 decision and a pin in 41 seconds before getting pinned in the quarterfinals. He was eliminated in a 3-2 decision in overtime in the consolation round.

Canton’s Ethan Titus, who represented FishEye, went 2-2 at 106 pounds.

Titus lost his opening bout to Gabe Singleton of Rosenburg, Oregon, 5-3 in overtime before winning two straight in the consolation round including a 4-2 win over Jeremy Oani of Santa Maria, California with a reversal with 11 seconds left in the third period. Titus was eliminated by Keyan Hernandez of Billings, Montana, 6-3.

The National Recruiting Showcase had 111 nationally-ranked girls in the tournament along with 112 state champions. The boys side had more than 200 state champions.


2021 USA Wrestling National Recruiting Showcase

2021 USA Wrestling Folkstyle Nationals

Story published Monday, March 29, 2021

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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