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East Hartford finishes strong to beat Berlin in season opener, 47-29

East Hartford’s Drayven Roberts, a defending Class LL champion, puts Berlin’s Tim Mrachek on his back during Wednesday’s match at 190 pounds.

BERLIN, Dec. 13, 2023 – If there was a preseason top 10 poll for wrestling, these might be two teams ranked in the top 10.

East Hartford, which finished second in Class LL last March, took to the mat Wednesday night with five wrestlers who won medals at the Class LL championships and two who won medals at the New England championships.

Berlin, which was fourth in Class M and won a second consecutive CCC South title, came to the gym with five wrestlers who won medals at the Class M championships.

On the opening night of the season, East Hartford got pins in five of the final seven matches to beat Berlin, 47-29.

“I knew it would be a tough go. My lineup (tonight) wasn’t very flexible,” Berlin head coach Peter Veleas said. “They have some guys who are great and they beat some of my guys who are very good.”

But Veleas was thrilled that his team has a chance to challenge the Hornets, who shared a Class LL championship in 2022.

“We want these matches,” he said. “Anytime you can get a match like this, you will take it. Now, maybe, their eyes are open. We have to work harder. We have to do this or do that. It’s important. It matters in February. Our technique has to be sharper. We have to learn to fight off our back. We haven’t done that a lot.”

East Hartford coach Todd Albert said, “Not everyone is at the weight class they should be at,so the first match shows you what you got and where it is and where we need to go (work on).”

The Hornets have two New England finalists returning with Sammy Montovani, who was second at 195 a year ago, and Jaeckez Mendez, who was second at 138. Drayven Roberts (160) and Issac Quiles (120) each won Class LL championships with Yaxier Rivera (145) finishing second.

“We need to train hard every single day,” Albert said. “Hopefully, we can make a run at (Class) LL and the (State) Open again. It will rely on everyone staying healthy, focused and working hard. Hopefully, we get that opportunity.”

East Hartford’s Usman Akhtar controls Berlin’s Ryan Sullivan during Wednesday night’s CCC match in Berlin. The Hornets won, 47-29.

East Hartford took an 11-6 lead with victories in two of the first three matches. Roberts got a pin in 2:20 and Montovani won by tech fall, 16-0, over Nick Ebrahimi, who finished third in Class M a year ago.

Berlin’s Syabella Landric pinned East Hartford’s Xavier Alicea in 5:19 to give Berlin their first lead of the evening, 12-11. Victories by Collin Sullivan (113) and Mason Arborio (126) gave the Redcoats a 19-17 lead at the midway point of the match. Arborio won 17-3.

But East Hartford had pins in five of the final seven matches to secure the win. Usman Akhtar (132), Quiles (138), Mendez (150), Jesean Lewis (157) and Rivera (165) each pins. Quiles and Rivera pinned in less than a minute.

Akhtar  and Quiles won to give the Hornets a 29-19 lead but Berlin’s Jed Dubuc got a pin in 2:54 to cut the lead to four, 29-25. But three straight pins from East Hartford clinched the bout for the Hornets.

Berlin returns to the mat on Saturday when they host the C.J. McCormack Invitational while East Hartford heads to Manchester High for the Skip Ardan Invitational.

It was the first night with changes in seven upper weight classes due to the new National Federation of High School (NHSCA) rules. Weight classes at 145, 152, 160, 170, 182, 195 and 220 were modified to be 144, 150, 157, 165, 175, 190 and 215 pounds.

The first Connecticut Wrestling Online top 10 poll will be issued in the first week in January.

East Hartford 47, Berlin 29
At Berlin
190: Drayven Roberts (EH) pin Tim Mrachek, 2:20; 215: Zander Varricchio (B) pin Yadell Madillo, 0:18; 285: Sammy Montovani (EH) tech fall Nick Ebrahimi, 16-0; 106: Syabella Landric (B) pin Xavier Aliceo 5:19; 113: Collin Sullivan (B) dec. Chris Montevani, 12-7; 120: Luis Fuster (EH) pin Nate Deegan, 3:01; 126: Mason Arborio (B) dec. Jose DeJesus, 17-3; 132: Usman Akhtar (EH) pin Ryan Sullivan, 4:59; 138: Issac Quiles (EH) pin Trent Spilka, 0:28; 144: Jed Dubuc (B) pin Josh Javillinar, 2:54; 150: Jaeckez Mendez (EH) pin Hiram Sepulveda, 1:19; 157: Jesean Lewis (EH) pin Jack Heeps, 2:52; 165: Yavier Rivera (EH) pin Kamil Szck, 0:45; 175: Colan Simard (B) dec. Mason Martinez, 10-0
Records: Berlin 0-1, East Hartford 1-0

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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