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Fairfield Warde captures another Guilford Invitational championship

Xavier’s Zack Dixon (106) controls James Cascio of Agawam, Mass. in Saturday’s Guilford Invitational.

GUILFORD, Dec. 16, 2023 – For more than four decades, wrestlers have been coming to the Guilford Invitational to get their first tests of the new season.

“The competition is good and it lets the kids know where they are at the beginning of the year,” former Guilford head coach Art Fonicello said Saturday.

With six individual champions and eight finalists, Fairfield Warde won the tournament for the seventh time with a solid 251-169 win over Newtown. Xavier finished third with 163½ points. Both Newtown and Xavier had five wrestlers competing at the two-day Beast of the East tournament in Newark, Delaware with the remainder of their teammates in Guilford.

It was the 47th year of the Guilford Invitational, the longest running regular season tournament in Connecticut. The next closest tournament is the Bristol Central Invitational, which will celebrate their 41st year in January and the Lancer Invitational in Waterford, which held their 39th tournament on Saturday.

The tournament began in December 1975, organized by Bill Wallach, the Hall of Fame soccer coach at Guilford, who won six state titles in soccer. But Wallach also founded the Guilford wrestling program in 1972 and got the program up and running, according to Fonicello, who succeeded Wallach behind the bench in the early 1980s.

Ward Melville High from East Setauket on Long Island began making annual trips to the tournament and won it a record 21 times, including as recently as 2016. At one point, the tournament was a two-day event similar to the state championship meets at the end of the season, Fonicello said.

For a time, Ward Melville wrestlers stayed at the homes of Guilford wrestlers and Guilford wrestlers would be the guest of Ward Melville families later in the season when visiting Long Island for a Ward Melville tournament, Fonicello said.

Xavier’s John Lagana (150) has East Lyme/Norwich Tech’s Anthony Caisse on his back in Saturday’s semifinals. Lagana won the match, 17-6.

Fonicello said Ward Melville provided the tournament some legitimacy. “It made our tournament a legit tournament,” Fonicello said. At one point, Ward Melville won six straight years from 1985 through 1990 with Guilford finishing second five times in that time span.

Wrestling for Guilford, Fonicello won an individual championship in the first year of the tournament (1975) at 147 pounds. Current Guilford head coach Craig Vedrani won three consecutive tournament titles (1991-93) wrestling for Fonicello.

Fonicello coached Guilford for 28 years. Vedrani has been with the program for the past 25 years and has been the head coach for the last 21 seasons.

“It’s working out pretty well.” Vedrani said. “People are able to wrestle and we have some good teams here – Xavier, (Fairfifeld) Warde, Newtown. It’s a good field.” The field is limited to 16 teams.

Vedrani and Fonicello each touted the support of the parents and members of the Guilford Wrestling Club to host the Guilford Invitational and the Class L championship meet. “Without their support, this would never happen,” Vedrani said.

The tournament is one of the Guilford Wrestling Club’s main fundraisers so don’t except the Guilford Invitational to stop any time soon, Vedrani said.

On Saturday, Fairfield Warde’s Dominick Spadaro won his third straight tournament championship with a 6-4 victory at 144 pounds over Xavier’s Cael Loria, who gave up two early takedowns. Warde’s Owen Sheiman (132) and Newtown’s John Dasilva (285) each won consecutive titles with victories. Sheiman beat Nicholas Ugolini of Agawam, Mass. 11-8 to win the tournament with Newtown’s Jon Dasilva (285) winning his second consecutive tournament championship.

Warde has won four of the last five tournaments and finished second in 2020 .

Bristol Central’s Alex Lamarre (126) won his first Guilford Invitational title with a 10-8 win in overtime to beat Xavier’s Seamus Hallnan.

Guilford Invitational  at a glance
First tournament: December 1975. Won by Pulaski-New Britain’s junior varsity team. Pualski’s varsity team won the East Hartford Invitational on the same day.
Most championships: Ward Melville-East Setaucket 21, Fairfield Warde 7, Guilford 4, Fairfield High 2, St. Bernard 2
Tournament records: Most points — Warde Melville, 2005 with 381 points.
Of note: Guilford has won the tournament four times. Their most recent championship came in  1998. …. The closest tournament came in 1999 when Ward Melville beat Greenwich’s Brunswick School by one point for the championship, 249½ to 248½. … Valley Regional, Southington, Jonathan Law, Rocky Point, New York, Newtown and Xavier have each won Guilford Tournament championships. … Since 1975, the tournament has been held each year except for two years. In 2016, the tournament was snowed out and in 2020, the season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

2023 Guilford Invitational
At Guilford
Team results –
1. Fairfield Warde 251, 2. Newtown 169, 3. Xavier 163½, 4. Agawam, MA 139½, 5. East Lyme/Norwich Tech 137½, 6. Guilford 122, 7. Bristol Central 111½, 8. Amity 87, 9. Notre Dame-West Haven 85, 10. Hall 79, 11. Fitch 63, 12. Greenwich 58, 13. North Haven 46, 14. Hand and Wilton 45, 16. Stonington 18, 17. Morgan 14
Individual results
106 Jude Grammatico (Fairfield Warde) dec. Zack Dixon (Xavier), 8-5
113 Andres Bernal Mendoza (Fairfield Warde) dec. Boone Henry (Fairfield Warde), 3-0
120 Zach Brzoska (Fairfield Warde) dec. Kaden Dragon (Bristol Central), 9-3
126 Alex Lamarre (Bristol Central) dec. Seamus Hallinan (Xavier), 10-8, OT
132 Owen Sheiman (Fairfield Warde) dec. Nicholas Ugolini (Agawam), 11-8
138 Alex Uzzo (Guilford) dec. Mason Sassu (Xavier), 8-3
144 Dominick Spadaro (Fairfield Warde) dec. Cael Loria (Xavier), 6-4
150 John Lagana (Xavier) dec. Vincent Rivera (Xavier), 13-4
157 Jake Maddox (Newtown) pin Zachary Fong (Xavier), 3:58
165 Louis Soracco (Fairfield Warde) dec. Brayden Levin (Fairfield Warde), 8-1
175 Lincoln Carlson (East Lyme/Norwich Tech) pin Branimir Lah Amity), 0:42
190 Brayden Soleau (East Lyme/Norwich Tech) dec. Charles Dunn (Newtown), 4-0
215 Max Holloway (Agawam) dec. Jonathan Harms (East Lyme/Norwich Tech), 5-3
285 Jon Dasilva (Newtown) pin Logan Murphy (Guilford), 1:15
Consolation final
106 Tommy Milligan (Newtown) pin Angel Stimson (East Lyme/Norwich Tech), 2:50
113 Christian Bernal mendoza (Fairfield Warde) MD Gavin Kubik (Amity), 8-0
120 Jordan Agosto (Agawam) pin Gianno Pearson (East Lyme/Norwich Tech), 4:27
126 Lincoln Despard (Agawam) pin Dante Bilskis (Guilford), 0:36
132 Thomas Lemieux (Xavier) dec. Joseph Niek (Bristol Central), 5-1
138 Grayson Renkert (Newtown) dec. Dylan O’Brian (Fairfield Warde), 18-15
144 Nicholas Dumais (Xavier) dec. Larkin Pantano (Daniel Hand), 4-2 OT
150 Ilya Shlemanov (Agawam) dec. Anthony Caisse (East Lyme/Norwich Tech), 7-2
157 Austin Rasmussen (Fairfield Warde) pin Lincoln Archibald (Bristol Central), 0:11
165 Lorenzo Caratozzolo (Wilton) pin Sebastian Miranda (Notre Dame-West Haven), 2:51
175 Jaden Seabrook (Wilton) dec. Cooper Light (Stonington), 11-6
190 Cole Grenier (Fairfield Warde) pin Evan Berey (Hall), 1:25
215 Tim Hastings (Guilford) dec. Colin Falla (Greenwich), 6-5
285 Luc Abbatemarco (Hall) dec. Dominic Tourigny (Agawam), 3-2
Outstanding wrestler: xx
2023 Guilford Invitational brackets and results

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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