Survive and advance: Calo reaches state open finals, 3 advance to NE championship

Paul Calo grapples with his opponent on the championship mat during the 160 pound finals at the CT State Open championship. Calo is one of three Knights to earn a spot at the New England meet this weekend.



Paul Calo found himself in familiar territory at the state open. Same opponent; same scenario. Just like the 160-pound championship bout at the Class LL meet, the Southington middleweight came out dominating Ryan Devivo of Xavier from the opening whistle.

Calo scored a takedown with just over a minute left in the fist period to jump out to a 2-0 lead and never let go. The Class LL runner-up began to squeeze like a boa constrictor, holding Devivo down until the final seconds of the period.

“The kid got the reversal literally with one second left in the first period,” said Southington coach Derek Dion. “Otherwise, it would have been a completely different match.”

Calo lost the lead on a technical violation to start the second period and never regained it. He managed to control much of the match until both wrestlers turned defensive in the third period. Calo forced overtime, but a takedown with 25 seconds to go in overtime cost him the title.

“Pauly is really super dangerous if he stays offensive,” said Dion. “He allowed Devivo to get on his offense. If you look at the match from last week and this one, it was an absolute, 100-percent carbon copy.”

Calo was the only Southington wrestler to advance into the state open championship round at Hillhouse High School in New Haven. Still, the Knights were able to battle for 85.5 points and a fourth place finish out of 94 teams. Eight Knights entered the competition, and three came away with medals. Southington opened the tournament by winning eight first-round matches, five second-round matches, and three third-round matches. The Knights maintained second place after Friday and for most of the final day.

“Bringing back all eight on Saturday was quite an accomplishment,” said Dion. “We also had bonus points in a lot of those matches. That was one of our better days that we’ve had. All the kids we brought out here contributed and wrestled great.”

Although Southington fell out of second to place fourth at the open, the Knights still finished ahead of the Class L champion (Bristol Eastern), Class M champion (Ellis Tech), and Class S champion (Ledyard).

“I really feel like our team was more like a dual-meet team,” the coach said. “Performing that well as the top four in the state in an individual tournament was pretty good for us.”

Danbury (212.5) won the open title with six champions, one runner-up, and eight medalists. Newtown (90) took second with one champion, one runner-up, and three medalists. Fairfield Warde (86.5) finished in third with one champion and three medalists.

Austin Abacherli (152) finished third in his weight class after falling to Michael Ross of Foran in a 5-1 decision. Abacherli defeated Tom Gatti of Middletown, 6-1 decision, in the third-place bout. Ross went on to defeat Michael Angers of Tolland, 15-0 technical fall at 3:40, in the championship bout.

Richard Rivera (220) took fifth with a 3-1 decision over Renelson Michel of New London in the fifth-place bout. Rivera fell, 6-4 decision, to Andrew Marquis of Danbury in sudden death in the semifinals after Marquis earned two points from a takedown with 34 seconds remaining in the extra period. Marquis went on to defeat Thomas Long of Newtown, 6-5 decision, in the championship bout.

Tagan Welch (138) and Jimmy Starr (285) advanced as far as the quarterfinals. Jacob Cardozo (113), Shaun Wagner (132), and Julian Robles (195) advanced as far as the round of 16. Wagner made it to the round of four in the consolation bracket.

Calo, Abacherli, and Rivera will represent Southington at the 53rd annual New England championship, scheduled for Friday, Mar. 3 to Saturday, Mar. 4 at the Providence Career and TechnicalCenter in Providence, R.I.

“We just have to get on our offense and wrestle better,” the coach said. “That’s what we said last week, and that’s what I’m saying this week. Hopefully they’re going to see each other again this weekend in the finals. I really think that’s going to be the case. I feel strongly that those are the two best kids in New England.”

Dion said that Calo could very well make another finals appearance. Of course, that could mean Devivo, again. Could the third time be the charm?

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