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Provo, Taylor win NHSCA national titles, 12 earn All-America honors

Stratford’s Nico Provo, left, and Newtown’s Nate Taylor won national championships at the NHSCA national tournaments Sunday in Virginia Beach, Va. Both are students at Greens Farms Academy and train with Southside Wrestling Club in Bridgeport.

Two Connecticut wrestlers won national championships Sunday at the National High School Coaches Association (NHSCA) tournaments with 12 wrestlers earning All-American honors.

Stratford senior Nico Provo won his first NHSCA national title at 126 pounds in the Senior National tournament while Newtown freshman Nate Taylor won a national crown at 160 pounds in the Freshman National tournament.

Both wrestlers attend Greens Farms Academy in Westport and wrestle with Southside Wrestling Club in Bridgeport.

New Canaan senior Justin Mastroianni earned NHSCA All-American honors for the third time in his career by finishing second at 145 pounds. Mastroianni is also a Greens Farms Academy wrestler.

Joel Barlow’s Josh Brault (5th, 113), Milford’s C.J. Shea (132, 6th), J’Mari Lowman (145, 8th) and Simsbury’s Ty Finn (152, 7th) earned All-American honors in the Senior National tournament.

In the Junior National tournament, Norwalk’s Michael Bartush (195) finished third while Guilford’s Chris Murphy (195) finished sixth. In the Sophomore National tournament, Norwalk’s Brendan Gilchrist finished second at 195 pounds.

In the Freshman National tournament, Chefren Spodnik of Warren Harding in Bridgeport earned All-American honors with his third place finish at 220 while Danbury’s Dom Iaquinto was sixth at 182 pounds.

While Provo was entered in the tournament, his decision to compete was a last-minute one, according to Jack Conroy, the head coach at Greens Farms Academy and Southside Wrestling Club. Trying to recover from some injuries, Provo skipped the New England tournament earlier this month but he looked sharp in practice this week at Southside, Conroy said.

“I wasn’t going to go,” Provo said. But he reconsidered when he saw that FloWrestling was using his photo as a promotional photo. Provo usually competes at 120 pounds but didn’t have enough time to safely lose the weight so he decided to move up to 126.

“We just said we’ll wrestle up a weight and have fun,” Provo said. “We just took it a match at a time and now I’m a national champion. It was a long time coming for me.”

Provo, who will be going to Cornell next fall, rolled through the tournament, giving up just one takedown in five wins. He earned a spot in the final with a 6-2 win over Joshua Koderhandt of Illinois thanks to a pair of takedowns and a two-point reversal.

In the final, Provo got a takedown with two seconds remaining to beat Carter Bailey of Livermore, California, 2-1. The two wrestlers spent most of the match stalking each other, looking for openings. Provo found his in the waning seconds of the match.

“Sometimes you have to be patient,” Conroy said. “At a real high level, it is about the openings (to score). There wasn’t a lot of openings in that match but when he saw it, he took it.”

Provo literally tackled Bailey with a double leg takedown to win his first NHSCA national title.

“It means a lot,” Provo said. “It means a lot for GFA. It means a lot for my family. It means a lot to the university I’m going to (Cornell). It means a lot for my club team, Southside Wrestling. It’s bigger than me and that’s one of the coolest things about it.”

Provo is just the second senior from Connecticut to win a NHSCA national title. Fitch’s Jared Kosman (113) won in 2018.

Taylor rolled his way to a national title in the freshman tournament at 160 pounds with three dominating wins and one nail-biting victory in the semifinals. Taylor won the national crown with a 10-0 win over Gunner Cramblett of Saint Paris, Ohio.

He didn’t give up a point in his first-round pin of Jackson Eddy (Ohio) and in his 11-0 quarterfinal win over Ryan Gallagher of Pennsylvania.

It was different in his 4-3 semifinal win over Hoke-Poe Hogan of Jefferson, Georgia, that Taylor won with a takedown in the final second.

Hogan led 3-0 in the second period before Taylor cut the lead to 3-1 thanks to an escape with three seconds left in the second period. Another escape by Taylor with 49 seconds left in the third period cut the lead to one, 3-2.

In the final seconds of the match, Taylor took down Hogan but the referee waved it off saying that time had expired. Conroy, coaching the corner, challenged the decision and it went to video review with the referee reversing the call, giving Taylor a takedown in the final second.

Mastroianni (145) got a takedown with 19 seconds left in regulation to beat Ohio’s Jack Haslim, 5-3 in the semifinals to earn a spot in the championship match. Illinois’ Caine Tyus took control early and pinned Mastroianni in 3:59.

”I am sure he is disappointed,” Conroy said. “He is a tremendous athlete but he got into a wacky scramble. He takes it in stride. It won’t be the last time that (Justin) is in position to do something special.”

Mastroianni won the Freshman National title at 132 in 2018 and was fourth at 138 pounds in 2019 at the Sophomore Nationals.

Norwalk’s Brendan Gilchrist had four consecutive pins to earn a spot in the Sophomore National finals at 195 pounds. Gilchrist won with pins in 2:54, 0:44, 4:47 and 2:37. But he ran into Sonny Sasso of Nazareth, Pa., in the title match and fell, 13-2.

Bartush won six consecutive matches in the consolation round and didn’t give up a single point in his final three matches of the tournament to finish third at 195 pounds in the Junior National tournament.

An escape with 1:54 left in the second period was the winning margin of victory in Bartush’s consolation final win over Minnesota’s Jacob Meissner, 1-0.

Bartush, who also wrestles at Greens Farms Academy and with Southside, lost in his second match of the tournament to South Dakota’s Luke Rasmussen but beat Rasmussen, 5-0 in the consolation semifinals.

“Michael is just a hard-nosed wrestler and he really showed it,” Conroy said.

Spodnik had two pins in under one minute in the consolation round to finish third at 220 in the Freshman Tournament.

2021 NHSCA National Tournament results

Connecticut All-American wrestlers
Senior Nationals
Nico Provo (126), Stratford, first
Justin Mastroianni (145), New Canaan, second
Josh Brault (113), Joel Barlow (Easton), fifth
C.J. Shea (132), Milford, sixth
Ty Finn (152), Simsbury, seventh
J’Mari Bowman (145), eighth

Junior Nationals
Michael Bartush (195), Norwalk, third
Chris Murphy (195), Guilford, sixth

Sophomore Nationals
Brendan Gilchrist (195), Norwalk, second

Freshman Nationals
Nate Taylor, Newtown (160), first
Chefren Spodnik, Harding (220), third
Dom Iaquinto, Danbury (182), sixth

Girls Nationals
Ashley Reed (160), Southington, second
Ella Nichols (160), Bristol Eastern, fourth
Jacklyn Smith (185), Bridgeport, seventh

Middle School Nationals
Cole Lemovitz (75), Killingly, sixth
Max Richardson (80), sixth
Mason Whitney (80), Colchester, seventh
Jack Gedney (80), eighth
Drayvn Roberts (154), East Hartford, seventh

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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