King Solomon; Brian Solomon launched a Southington wrestling dynasty

By John Goralski

Sports Writer

More than three decades have passed since Gary Solomon sat at the head of his kitchen table to celebrate his second state title in wrestling, and the story of that party has become a sort of legend in the Solomon family.

The high school senior had finally arrived. He’d finally stepped out from under his older brother’s shadow. He’d finally proven that he was a better wrestler than Brian Solomon could ever hope to be.

Suddenly, there was a commotion at the front door…

“I heard this rustling. I didn’t know who or what it was, but through the darkness comes Brian with all this hardware,” Gary said. “He had his duffle bag and all these trophies. When my parents left him at the college championships the day before, they didn’t know if he would place or how well he would do. Not only did he do well. He ran the table. He won the New England championship. He won the most outstanding wrestler and the most pins in the least amount of time. Listen. If my party is going to get rained on, there’s no better way for that to happen.”

Brian Solomon had raised the bar again.

“That might have been the one time that I overshadowed him,” said Brian with a laugh, “…slightly.”

Few families have dominated the sport of wrestling as much as the Solomons, and Brian Solomon was the clear leader of the pack. He was the first to try his hand at the sport. He was the first to place at the Class LL championship, and the first to go on to college. He was the first to win the New England championship in college, the first to be named as an all-American, and the first to claim academic all-American honors.

If there was an award to be won, Brian Solomon was the first to get it.

“When it comes to doing anything, he only knows how to do it one way, and that’s a disciplined, methodical approach,” said his brother. “When it came to wrestling, it was always no-nonsense. He was in it. He’s made a commitment to this, and he’s going to do it only one way—all out. That really set the bar for Ricky and me. He set it really high with the way he approached it, his work ethic, his discipline, his passion. We wanted to be like him.”

Solomon was one of the pioneers of Southington wrestling. The program was just a few years old when he came to the high school as a sophomore. He wasn’t varsity in his first season, but he was on the roster as the Blue Knights rallied for their first and only state championship.

He cut his teeth in practice against state-level wrestlers. He served his time as a practice dummy for defending champion Jeff Lee in the 126 pound division. He’d wrestle up a weight class to face another defending champion or down a weight to face yet another. But Brian Solomon wasn’t about to give up. In fact, he was studying the game and waiting for his chance.

“Brian just absorbed everything that he learned,” said former Blue Knight coach Bob Wittneben. “He was very talented, very athletic, and he wanted to succeed. He picked things up really quick, learned things from matches, and just kept getting better and better. You couldn’t ask for a better wrestler. He was always striving to be better.”

So when an injury struck Lee in Solomon’s junior season, Brian stepped in to cut his teeth on the varsity mat. He struggled to an 0-5 start before things began to click, and he entered the postseason with a .500 record. He upset a few kids in the early rounds of the Class LL meet, and went the distance against the top seed in a hard-fought loss.

Solomon wasn’t happy with a moral victory.

“I couldn’t do anything, but he couldn’t do anything on me either,” he said. “I walked off the mat a little discouraged that I couldn’t score on him, but I remember Coach Jack Alkon coming up to me and saying, ‘You did great.’ Did I? I kept it close, but I couldn’t score.”

The loss fueled his off-season workouts, and he returned to the gym, pushed himself in practice, and rallied to a 19-2 record as a senior on his way to a third place finish at the Class LL championships. That momentum carried through graduation as he walked onto the mat at Western New England College (WNEC) the following year.

“It was starting to click for me,” he said. “I wrestled a guy named Mike Daniels from Bristol [for a spot on the WNEC roster]. He beat me 15-3 as a junior in high school. He let me up three times, and that’s how I scored. When I wrestled him in college, I beat him and he couldn’t touch me. Mike was a good wrestler and a good friend, but I was on the up-swing.”

As a freshman, Solomon rallied to a 19-8 record in dual meets and it broke the school record first victories among first-year wrestlers. He set the record for most dual meet victories by second year wrestlers (40), third year wrestlers (58), and fourth year wrestlers (82) before he was through.

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