By BRIAN JENNINGS
The Blue Knights (8-2) welcomed some of the best talent in the state to the Walt Lozoski Gymnasium when they hosted the seventh annual Connecticut Challenge on Saturday, Jan. 30.
Trumbull captured the CT Challenge title for the first time with six finalists and three individual champions. Cumberland (R.I.) finished 18 points behind Trumbull as the runner-ups with three finalists and two individual champions. Simsbury followed in third with four finalists and one individual champion.
Southington placed fourth out of 14 schools, with five finalists and four consolation finalists, but did not come out of the tournament with any individual champions from either side.
Tagan Welch (106), Shaun Wagner (120), Paul Calo (126), Austin Abacherli (132), and Richard Rivera (220) advanced to the finals of their respective weight classes. Wagner suffered the closest loss out of the five finalists, falling short in his bout to an 8-7 decision against No.2-ranked Jeremy Batista of Cumberland, R.I.. Wagner was ranked third in his bracket. Rivera was the only Southington wrestler to advance to the finals as a member of the Knights B team.
“You’re going to get better kids in those matches, obviously, because they were able to get there, too,” said Southington coach Derek Dion. “Part of it is that you’re wrestling a better kid, but also a lot of times you have to be calm in those situations and really be able to think your way through those to perform. I don’t think we did a great job of that today.”
Besides the five finalists, Southington advanced six semifinalists and 12 quarterfinalists. With no seniors in any of the Southington finals, Dion said that the underclassmen just have some learning to do.
“We just have to get more into situational wrestling and tactics,” the coach said. “The kids are a little bit better at that. It was a good learning day for us with how to deal with those situations and pressure. Hopefully, we can move forward and that will help us towards the LL’s and the open.”
The Knights were without Logan LaRosa (192) and Julian Robles (195) for the tournament, due to illness, and said that their presence might have made a big difference in the team’s total points.
“I think they both could have gotten pretty far through the tournament,” the Knights coach said. “That might have been 20 or more points for the team. That could have been the difference between first and fourth place, but it was unfortunate that they were both sick.”
Dion went on to say that he tries to schedule the toughest competition on the team’s schedule every year, in order to expose what the team has to work on, so that those weaknesses won’t be exposed in the postseason. The CT Challenge is just another example of that tough competition.
Knights crush Indians
On Wednesday, the Knights hosted Newington in their third home dual meet (6th dual meet) on the season. The Knights finished the meet with a comfortable 74-6 victory.
Calo, Josh Gravel (152), Jimmy Starr (285), and Jacob Cardozo (106) won their bouts with pins. Wagner and Abacherli won their bouts with major decisions, and Kyle Solomon (138) won his with a technical fall.
The Indians forfeited six bouts in the match.
The Knights will be back in action this week with a dual meet on the road at Conard in West Hartford on Wednesday, Feb. 3. Following the dual meet, the Knights are scheduled to compete in the Ledyard Duals at Ledyard High School on Saturday, Feb. 6.
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