By BRIAN JENNINGS
Tagan Welch (113) threw his opponent down to the mat to score the takedown and crawled up his back to position himself for a pin. Welch strangled his opponent’s arms towards his body and shifted forward.
On Wednesday, Jan. 13, Welch couldn’t quite score the pin, but the referee signaled three points for a near fall. His 16-4 major decision over Mikey Rojas of Platt (11-3) capped Southington’s 36-30 victory as the Blue Knight wrestling team improved to 6-2.
Welch said that he had a lot of confidence heading into his bout with his team up by two points, 32-30.
“I was talking to Zacca’ [Asst. Coach Brian Zaccagnino] before the match,” said Welch. “Jacob Cardozo won his match, and he told me that there was no pressure…so I just went out there and wrestled like I usually wrestle.”
Welch said that Cardozo’s (106) 11-3 major decision over Jeremy Polanco-Castro was a pretty big booster.
“It took a lot of pressure off my shoulders,” said Welch. “I didn’t have to go in there and do anything crazy or pin him. I just had to go in there and win.”
Welch said that he worked as safe as he could to win his bout. He admitted that he found himself in danger a couple of times, but he stuck to a safe plan to secure the team victory.
Shaun Wagner (120), Paul Calo (126), and Kyle Solomon (132) shot the Knights out in front to an 18-0 start, followed by an 11-3 major decision from Abacherli that made it 22-0. The score seemed to point towards an easy win for the Knights, but the Panthers weren’t done just yet.
Two pins and a 14-4 major decision brought the Panthers back to life and within six points of the Knights, 22-16. A pin from Jason Calvi-Rogers (170) stopped the bleeding, and a point deducted for unsportsmanlike conduct during Calvi-Rogers’ bout set the Panthers even further back, 28-15. But the Panthers still didn’t quit.
Decisions of 7-3 and 6-3, as well as an overtime pin brought Platt back again, this time within a point, 28-27. And then a 3-1 decision put them up by two, 30-28.
Then came Cardozo. The 106-pounder scored two takedowns, two near falls, and a reversal to put the Knights back on top, 32-30, leading to Welch’s hometown heroics in the last bout of the night.
“We needed every single kid that stayed off his back to stay off his back,” said Southington coach Derek Dion. “We needed every kid that got bonus points to get bonus points. We knew that it was going to be that close of a match.”
Eastern States Classic
Over the weekend, Dion took Wagner, Abacherli, Calo, and Logan LaRosa up to Loch Sheldrake, NY to compete in the Eastern States Classic. Southington finished 67th out of 150 teams. Wyoming Seminary (PA) placed first, followed by Hilton (NY), and Penfield (NY).
Calo made a sweet 16 appearance, advancing on a pin (1:38) in the round of 64 and a 4-3 decision in the round of 32 before falling in the round of 16 with a 10-2 major decision.
Abacherli also made a sweet 16 appearance, advancing with a pin (1:51) in the first round and an 8-7 decision in the round of 32. Abacherli fell in the round of 16 to a 13-3 major decision.
The Knights will be back in action this week when they travel to West Hartford for a dual meet against Hall (2-5) on Wednesday, Jan. 20. The Knights will also compete in the Timberlane Invitational at Timberlane Regional High School in Plaistow, NH on Saturday, Jan. 23.
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.