By John Goralski
The three point lead was more than Derek Dion could have hoped for as his Knights entered the final bout of the championship match.
On Saturday, Dec. 29, the Blue Knights trailed Winchester, Mass. by 21 points at the beginning of the final round, but a hard fought decision and a forfeit gave the Knights their first lead of the day with one wrestler remaining.
Dion grabbed Zach Bylykbashi to explain the math.
Don’t let him pin you, the coach instructed. Don’t let them score a major decision, he said to the 120-pounder, and the Knights would win by tie breaking criteria. Don’t lose too badly, Dion cautioned as his sophomore entered the circle against a senior captain that placed in the top three last year in the Massachusetts state tournament.
Bylykbashi scoffed and muttered something under his breath. The coach couldn’t help but laugh.
“He said, ‘Forget that. I’m winning,’” said Dion. “He went out there and got thrown around a little at the start, but he stuck around and decked him. I don’t know what he even hit him with. He just out-toughed him. He kept going after him, after him, after him, and he ended up planting him.”
Bylykbashi’s victory erased any doubt that Southington was the best team at the annual SHS Dual Meet. The 39-30 victory over a tough Winchester team capped a perfect 3-0 day for the Knights. For Dion, it showed the mental and physical toughness that he’s been looking for from his varsity wrestlers.
“We’ve still got a lot of work to do, but I think we’re headed in the right direction and that’s key,” said Dion. “It’s starting to come around. We still had a couple of hiccups that would have made it even better, but this was a good win for sure.”
The Knights have won seven straight matches since losing their season opener to Bristol Eastern, and that’s good news as Southington enters the new year. Dion said that his team is starting to settle into their proper rotation. The early season conditioning is starting to pay off, and the gritty performance in the holiday tournament was the icing on the cake.
“We had that hiccup in Bristol that was hard to swallow. They out-toughed us, and that bothered me, but we have some pretty good kids, and we’re beginning to find our weight classes,” said the coach. “We’ve really wrestled out of shape until Christmas. Now, it’s time to get them in shape, tighten up their technique, and get them in the right place to be successful.”
The Knights opened the day with a lopsided victory over an overmatched Staples team. Southington wrestlers scored six pins, two decisions, and a handful of forfeits as they advanced with a 63-18 win. In the second round, they rallied past Newtown, 57-24, with eight pins and one decision. In the championship, the Knights rallied from a 24-3 deficit by winning eight of the last nine bouts.
“These were all good Class LL teams and a very good team from Massachusetts,” said Dion. “We were a little bit too physical for Staples. We drew Newtown in the second match. They wrestled tough and had some good kids, but they just haven’t had a lot of time in the gym after that tragedy. Then, we were fortunate to get that win [against Winchester]. They got out to a huge lead, so I had to make a couple of moves.”
Bylykbashi and Austin Sullivan (182) won all three of their bouts by pin, and Sullivan won his last match at 195 pounds. Nate Solomon pinned two opponents at 132 lbs and was bumped up to 138 lbs against Winchester to get a 6-0 decision. Zach Maxwell went 3-0 with a forfeit and pin at 195 lbs before pinning his 220 lb opponent in the final round.
Ryan DuPuis (160), Tyler Hyde (170), and Travis Daly (285) finished 3-0. Luigi Camputaro (113) drew three forfeit victories. Zach Murillo (106), Shawn Devin (145), and Alex Martin (152) each finished with two wins as Southington improved to 7-1.
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