By BRIAN JENNINGS
Austin Abacherli went punch for punch in the first period of the 152-pound championship bout. He grabbed Alexander Stavola’s legs. The Newtown grappler latched onto Abacherli’s legs to complete the circle, and the pair rolled across the mat like a human tire.
The two were still deadlocked in a scoreless battle at the end of the first period, but Abacherli was in it for the long haul.
“I didn’t have any doubts in mind that I was going to lose,” said Abacherli. “I wrestled confident. Not for one second of the match did I feel like I was in danger.”
Abacherli won the coin toss to start the second period, and it didn’t take long for him to break the scoreless tie. With 1:11 remaining in the two-minute period, Abacherli took a 1-0 lead with an escape and never looked back.
“When I got the escape, the first thing that went through my mind was to wrestle defensively more than wrestle offensively,” said Abacherli. “There wasn’t a lot of time left in the second period, and I didn’t need to get taken down.”
Abacherli built a three-point lead in the third period with a near fall after securing an arm bar on Stavola with 44 seconds to go. Stavola managed a reversal as time wound down, but Abacherli held on for the 3-2 decision and the Class LL crown.
“He was solid in the scrambles and stayed offensive,” said Southington coach Derek Dion. “That’s key, especially at that level. You have to try to make him defend you, and he did a great job of that.”
Abacherli was Southington’s lone champion on the day, but his win helped propel the Blue Knight wrestling team to a fourth-place finish with 179.5 points out of 24 teams at the Class LL championship, which was held at Trumbull High School from Friday, Feb. 17 to Saturday, Feb. 18. Southington finished the championship with eight medalists.
“It was an up-and-down day,” said Dion. “We had a lot of kids that beat their seeds, which was exactly what we were hoping for. But we had a couple kids fall short of their goals. As a team, I think we fell a little short of our goals.”
Danbury (272.5) won the Class LL title with four individual champions, three runner-ups, and 11 medalists. Xavier (191) finished as runner-up with two champions and seven medalists. Newtown (181) took third with two champions, two runner-ups, and six medalists.
After receiving a first-round bye, Abacherli advanced to the championship bout of his weight class with a quick pin (0:20) of Harris Goodin of Glastonbury and a pair of comfortable victories over his next two opponents. Abacherli defeated Dylan Sousa of Xavier with a 17-1 technical fall and shut out Antonio Masse of Conard with a 15-0 technical fall.
Paul Calo (160) finished as runner-up of his weight class after being pinned (6:39) by Ryan Devivo of Xavier in sudden death.
“He’s just got to wrestle better,” said Dion. “At the end of the day, he just has to wrestle more aggressively and stay offensive. If he was offensive, it would have been a different match quite a bit. If we can get him to stay on his offense and get after it, I think he can do great next week.”
Jacob Cardozo (113, 4th), James Starr (285, 6th), Julian Robles (195, 4th), Richard Rivera (220, 4th), Shaun Wagner (132, 4th), and Tagan Welch (138, 3rd) each medaled as well.
Abacherli, Calo, Cardozo, Starr, Robles, Rivera, Wagner, and Welch are scheduled to travel to Hillhouse High School in New Haven from Friday, Feb. 24 to Saturday, Feb. 25 where they will represent Southington in the state open.
For this week’s box scores, click here: www.southingtonobserver.com/2017/02/21/weekly-scoreboard-for-the-feb-24-edition/. To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.