Avon High senior Isaiah Adams was selected as the state wrestler of the year at the recent Connecticut High School Coaches Association’s All-State banquet.
It’s the first time that a wrestler from Avon has been selected for his honor, which dates back to 1995.
Xavier head coach Michael Cunningham was selected as the state coach of the year while assistant coach Kareem Small was recognized as the state assistant coach of the year. Xavier (10-4), which won their second straight Class L and State Open championship was named the team of the year.
Adams (46-1) helped the Falcons win their first Class M state championship since 1995 with a pin in the finals. That was crucial as Avon slipped by RHAM by a half-point to win the title.
Adams became the first wrestler in the long-storied history of the Avon High program to win multiple State Open championships. He finished with three pins in the tournament. In a rematch of the Central Connecticut Conference finals from three weeks earlier, Adams faced South Windsor’s Kyden Merlin. Adams had a commanding 7-1 lead when he pinned Merlin with six seconds left in the match.
“He is just a phenomenal wrestler,” Avon coach John McLaughlin said of Adams. “He had some close matches today but that is what you expect at the Open. This is the best of the best in Connecticut.
“(Isaiah) was very aggressive on top and (Merlin) was very good at defending it,” McLaughlin said. “But (Isaiah) kept waiting for his opportunity, waiting and it appeared at the end. He is patient, waits for it and when he sees his opportunity, he pounces.”
Adams finished third at the New England championships, dropping his first match of the year in a 6-1 semifinal loss to Massachusetts champion Alex Schaueblin of St. John’s Prep. Tied at 1-1, Schaueblin threw Adams to his back with a five-point move with 28 seconds left in the match. Adams finished third with a 4-2 win over Xavier’s Braylon Gonzalez thanks to a pair of first period takedowns.
At the National High School Coaches Association’s Senior Nationals in Virginia in April, Adams earned All-American honors for the second straight year with a third place finish at 113 pounds. Adams went 5-1 in the tournament with two pins.
In the semifinals, Adams lost to eventual champion Tyler Washburn of Naples, Florida, 7-6 thanks to a three-point near fall with eight second left in the match that turned a 5-4 lead for Adams into a lead for Washburn. Adams beat Richard Albert of Cape Coral, Florida, 1-0 with an escape with 1:15 left in the second period in the consolation semifinals and pinned Gunner Chambers of Georgia in 1:121 to take third.
Adams will attend Harvard next fall.
Xavier was a unanimous selection for No. 1 by the 17 voters in Connecticut Wrestling Online’s poll of state coaches and media members. It’s the third time that Xavier finished No. 1 in the poll.
“We came back after last year focused and set some new goals,” Cunningham said. “We made the schedule harder and they didn’t complain one time. They did the work and I am proud of them.”
Xavier sent several wrestlers to the Beast of the East tournament in Delaware in December, went to the War on the Shore tournament in Maryland in January and attended the National High School Duals in Wisconsin in early January, going 2-4.
The Falcons have won 29 straight dual meets against Connecticut squads, including a win over then-No. 1 Danbury in January 2022. The last loss by the Falcons to a Connecticut team was to Danbury in January 2019. Xavier’s last six dual meet losses have been to out-of-state teams.
At the State Open, Xavier had seven wrestlers win medals for finishing in the top six of their respective weight classes. Four wrestlers went to the finals and two came home with State Open championships. Sophomore Charles Weidman (182) and junior Raekwon Shabazz (106) each won their first State Open titles with teammates Kyle Levesque (132) and Anthony Basile (138) each finishing second.
Cunningham was named coach of the year for the sixth time while Small was named assistant coach of the year for the fourth time.
2023 GameTimeCT All State
Brendan Gilchrist, senior, Norwalk, 195
Isaiah Adams. senior, Avon, 113
Nuh Ajdinoski, senior, Danbury, 285
Thomas Bock, senior, New Fairfield, 145
Khalil Bourjeili, senior, New Milford, 160
James Duhancik, senior, Stratford, 220
Joe Mahoney, senior, New Fairfield, 120
Jaeckez Mendez, senior, East Hartford, 138
Jack Richardson, senior, Killingly, 152
Raekwon Shabazz, senior, Xavier, 106
Dominick Spadaro, sophomore, Fairfield Warde, 126
Fisher Stites, junior, Newtown, 170
Kaden Ware, senior, Killingly, 132
Charles Weidman, sophomore, Xavier, 182
Wrestler of the year: Brendan Gilchrist, Norwalk
Anthony Basile, Jr., Xavier (138)
Ryan Gilchrist, Sr., Norwalk (170)
Luca Manfredi, Sr., Newtown (152)
Kyle Levesque, Jr., Xavier (132)
Naszier Matthews, Sr., Fitch (220)
Malachi Mercer-Robinson, Sr., Fairfield Prep (285)
Sammy Montovani, Jr., East Hartford (195)
Joshua Neiroda, Jr., Suffield/Windsor Locks (182)
Drayvn Roberts, Soph., East Hartford (160)
William Smith, Jr., Fairfield Prep (145)
Previous CHSCA All-State banquet programs