By JOHN GORALSKI
When Austin Abacherli (120) drove his opponent off his feet in overtime, it was like a hungry shark sensing blood.
The Southington sophomore scrambled over the top to score the takedown. He scored three more points trying to wrench his foe onto his back.
“I always say that you’re just sort of clicking at that rock, and you never know when it’s going to break,” said Blue Knight wrestling coach Derek Dion. “When it breaks, it breaks. Abacherli got that one score, and you sort of knew that it was going to be difficult for his guy to come back.”
The fatigue from their first six minutes was gone from Abacherli’s face. The lopsided Simsbury score didn’t seem to matter. Abacherli was in the moment and battling like his life depended upon it.
“Sometimes, you can break a guy’s will, and I think that kid knew it was going to be difficult to come back,” said Dion. “Abacherli capitalized on it, and he really attacked him. He scored on the score, and that’s what I’m always trying to tell the kids. Sometimes, that’s when it’s easiest to score on someone—right after you’ve scored.”
Perhaps it was because of Abacherli’s comeback win. Maybe it had something to do with a 6-4 decision earlier in the match when Shawn Devin (182) scored early and held on for another tight win, but Dion didn’t seem overly distraught after a 51-24 loss to Simsbury on Wednesday, Jan. 7.
Instead, he focused on the wins.
“This is a very good team. They are very talented and a seasoned team with eight or nine seniors,” said the coach. “I thought we battled pretty tough. There were two really big matches for us, Shawn and Abacherli. We will put asterisks next to both of those because we really came out and wrestled well.”
They weren’t the only ones. Kyle Solomon battled toe-to-toe in the 132 pound division before losing late in the match. Shawn Wagner (113) dominated in his bout, scoring a pin with 15 seconds left in the opening period.
There were a lot of good matches late in the contest, but Simsbury scored too early and too often. Southington was trailing 24-0 before Devin scored the first points for the Knights.
Dion said that he hopes its another learning experience for his younger wrestlers.
“It’s back to the drawing board a little bit. We’ve got a lot of freshman and sophomores in our lineup, and we just have to get better,” he said. “We can’t accept these kinds of losses. We have to learn from them and get better.”
Now, the Knights will have a week to regroup as they make their final push. On Jan. 14 they’ll travel to Newington to kick off a road trip that will continue until the final days of January.
Can the Knights get back into the conference race?
“I hope so,” said Dion. “That’s why we’re here. I hope we can get better every day and start to compete against these sort of teams. I think we can do it.”
Zack Murillo didn’t get a chance to leave his mark on the Simsbury match, since the Trojans forfeited the point, but the Southington senior got his chance to show his mettle at the annual Eastern States Invitational on Friday, Jan. 9 in Loch Sheldrake, N.Y.
Just under 150 teams from six different states squared off at Sullivan County CC, and Murillo was one of a handful to come away with a medal.
The elite tournament welcomed 19 of the top 32 teams in New York, along with 25 defending state champions, 14 runners up, and 55 placewinners.
The Southington senior rallied into the semifinals before suffering his first loss but came away with a fourth place finish.
Murillo ousted Anthony Sparacio (North Babylon), 7-5 in overtime in the quarterfinals to face Kelan McKenna (New Hartford) in the semifinals.
Murillo scored an escape midway through the second period to break a scoreless tie, but fell in overtime, 3-1.
Jake Silverstein (Hauppauge) won the consolation finals, 3-2.