By BRIAN JENNINGS
They held onto second place entering the medal matches, but the Blue Knights eventually slipped into fifth by half of a point. On Saturday, Feb. 24, Southington scored 94.5 points to finish in the top five at the state open at Hillhouse High School in New Haven.
No one had a shot at catching Danbury in the latter half of the tournament, but Southington had a shot for second after advancing one wrestler to the finals and three to battles for third place. According to Southington coach Derek Dion, you can’t go 0-4 in medal matches and expect to be on top of the podium in the team competition.
“Things that I thought were going to be fine in other matches went the wrong way,” said Dion. “I was a little disappointed, but fifth place out of about 90 teams in the state is not too bad I guess.”
After Paul Calo defeated Ryan Devivo of Xavier in last year’s 160-pound final at the New England Championship, Devivo avenged his loss by downing Calo with a 6-4 decision in the 170-pound final at this year’s state open.
“He (Calo) needed to get on his offense and wrestle with a sense of a little more urgency,” said Dion. “He wrestled a little too reactively instead of proactively. Hopefully, next week we’ll get out there, wrestle a little harder, and are a little bit more cautious with the points.”
Calo jumped out on Devivo and established position early in the first period, picking up two points on a takedown. The match quickly overturned in Devivo’s favor though, as he knotted the score late in the period with a reversal. Devivo dominated most of the second period and took a four-point lead from a reversal and near fall, but was slapped with a stall warning just before the period ended.
Devivo eventually gave Calo a pair of points from stalling and a technical violation late in the third period, as Calo began grabbing momentum of the match with Devivo’s head locked between his legs following both penalties, but time ran out on Calo.
“I got the first takedown, and then I got sloppy on top and gave up two points,” said Calo. “He got a reversal and some backs in the second period, and then I couldn’t catch up. I just made a few mistakes.”
Before he met up with Devivo, Calo advanced to the final with a bye, pin, 5-1 decision, and forfeit in the semifinals. Calo said that his game plan heading into his championship bout with Devivo was to be more aggressive than Devivo.
“I didn’t want to get lazy in the positions,” said Calo. “I just need to work harder in practice and work on some moves that I need to work on.”
Jacob Cardozo (126), Shaun Wagner (138), and Tagan Welch (152) each finished fourth in their respective weight classes. Cardozo fell to Justin Mastroianni of New Canaan on a 14-5 major decision, but Dion said that he thought Cardozo gave Mastroianni as good of a match as they could’ve gotten.
“That kid (Mastroianni) was a very skilled and accomplished wrestler,” said Dion. “There was a set of back points in the match that we thought we had, but Cardozo wasn’t awarded them. That would have been the difference in the match.”
Wagner fell to Shamar Schand of Manchester on a 10-3 decision in his third-place bout.
“I really thought Shaun was going to beat that kid in the finals, but he didn’t wrestle his best match and didn’t wrestle like he’s been wrestling all year,” said Dion. “He tightened up a little bit maybe.”
Welch was forced to forfeit his third-place bout after suffering a head injury. Dion said that Welch took a hit to his head in his semifinal match, and his neck was bothering him a little bit.
“He sat out as a cautionary thing for his medal match,” said Dion. “If he wrestled his medal match, he would have beaten that kid, and we would have taken second.”
Danbury (149.5) fended off the next closest competitors by 54.5 points to win their second-straight (14th overall) CIAC state open title. Bristol Eastern, Killingly, and Fairfield Warde tied for second with 95 points.
Calo, Cardozo, Wagner, and Welch will represent Southington at the New England Championship, scheduled to be held from Friday, Mar. 2 to Saturday, Mar. 3 at the Providence Career and Technical Academy in Providence, R.I. It is likely that Calo will meet up with Devivo in the finals for the second-straight year.
Calo said that he probably will see Devivo in the finals again.
“I don’t want to get sloppy,” said Calo. “I want to come out on top on all the positions.”
Dion said that he thinks it’s going to be a rematch of Calo and Devio in the finals as well, and in order to make school history, Calo has to wrestle his match. Every movement has to be to score a point, and Dion said that there was a lot of wasted movement in that Calo’s state open match against Devivo.
“He was wrestling to roll, not wrestling to score points,” said Dion. “When you’re not chasing points, you find yourself at a loss at the end of the match where, all of a sudden, you’re wondering what happened.”
For more in depth coverage, see our weekly print edition. To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.