By BRIAN JENNINGS
After falling to Ryan Devivo of Xavier in the championship bouts of the Class LL meet and state open, Paul Calo avenged his losses on the biggest stage of the season. In the third meeting of the two, Southington’s sophomore sensation broke through, defeating Devivo in the championship bout of 160-pound weight class at the New England championship with a 5-1 decision.
“He’s put in the time during the offseason,” said Southington coach Derek Dion. “He’s just got a real natural ability. The sky’s the limit for him. As he and his body mature, he’s just going to get better and better.”
Calo became just the second New England champion Southington has ever had. Zach Murillo was Southington’s first New England champ after pinning (1:31) Massachusetts state champion Kevin Morris in 2015.
After a scoreless first period, Devivo took a 1-0 lead with an escape with 53 seconds to go in the second period.
“We wanted the match on the mat,” the coach said. “When Devivo got an escape, I wasn’t really excited about it, obviously, but I figured that we were going to get to choose down in the third period. We just had to make it happen.”
Calo took a one-point advantage with two points on a reversal with 16 seconds left in the match. Three points from a near fall before time expired secured the victory for Calo.
“We neutralized Devivo’s offensive attack and created more movement on the mat,” said Dion. “When Pauly’s creating movement on the mat, nine times out of 10 he’s going to end up with you on your back, and that’s what happened.”
Dion said that he wanted Calo to turn it around and be on his offense the whole time coming into the match. But instead of changing Calo’s approach, which would have been a hard task to complete in just a week, Dion and his staff changed what Calo was doing poorly defensively.
“We worked on his positioning in neutral,” the coach said. “With better positioning, we could control Devivo’s shots a little better and stump him. We stayed a little bit more in a solid position defensively and were able to stop everything the kid wanted to do on his feet.”
Calo wasn’t alone at the 53rd annual New England championship, held from Friday, Mar. 3 to Saturday, Mar. 4 at the Providence Career and Technical Center in Providence, R.I. Austin Abacherli and Richard Rivera were there as well after finishing third and fifth at the state open.
Abacherli made it as far as the round of 16 in the championship bracket and the second round of eight in the consolation bracket. Rivera fell in the round of 32 and made it as far as the second round of 16 in the consolation bracket.
The Knights tied for 11th with 43 points out of 145 teams. Danbury was the best team in the region with 114 points, finishing with one champion, one runner-up, and five medalists. Newtown (67) finished as runner-up with one champion, one runner-up, and three medalists, followed by Mount Anthony, Vt. (62.5), Timberlane, N.H. (57), Bishop Hendricken, R.I. (56), and Foran (52).
Calo will compete against some of the top wrestlers in the country when he travels to the 28th Annual NHSCA National Wrestling Championships at the Virginia Beach Convention Center in Virginia Beach, Va., held from Friday, Mar. 24 to Sunday, Mar. 26. Calo currently holds a personal record of 39-4.
For this week’s box scores, click here: (http://southingtonobserver.com/2017/03/07/weekly-scoreboard-for-the-march-10-edition/). To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.