Wasting no time: Wrestling opens the season with a powerhouse battle

Dawson Welch (132) scrambles to take down his opponent during Southington’s season opener against Bristol Eastern. The Lancers won the battle between teams that finished in the top 5 last winter. (Janelle Morelli)



Usually it takes a few weeks to get a good measure about a team’s abilities, but Southington wrestling opened the season with a regional rivalry between a pair of contenders.

On Dec. 13, the Blue Knights squared off against Bristol Eastern in one of the state’s biggest early season dual meets. Both teams finished in the top 5 in last winter’s final poll, and both are expected to be in the mix this winter.

Southington lost that match, 39-34, but came back to win the Lancer Invitational in Waterford on Dec. 15. Here’s what happened in Southington’s first week of the season:


Tough loss to Lancers

DEC. 13—After trailing by 17 points, the Blue Knights recorded three straight pins at 170, 182 and 195 pounds to take a 34-33 lead over the Lancers inside a boisterous Walt Lozoski Gymnasium.

Southington’s first dual meet of the season came down to the 220-pound bout, and Bristol Eastern’s Trinidad Gonzalez recorded a pin against Caleb Chesanow. The visiting Lancers claimed victory over the Blue Knights in a measuring stick battle between two state powers.

Paul Calo bumped up to 195 pounds on opening day, but he still scored a pin. Calo picked up where he left off in his bid for an unprecedented third New England title for the Knights. (Photo by Janelle Morelli)

“I’m pleased with the effort,” Southington coach Derek Dion said. “We have to work on fighting off of our backs a little bit better, but it was the first time out for a lot of these kids, and [the Lancers] have a nice little team. We always have things to work on. It was an exciting, fun match right until the end.”

Dion said that he was happy with how Chesanow wrestled, given that Gonzalez had a major weight advantage. Southington did have chances to turn the match in its favor before the 220-pound bout. The Knights were winning in more than one bout, only to see the Lancers find a way to win.

“We were winning a couple matches, and we got caught,” Dion said. “We just need a little bit more mat time, a little more savvy there.”

Dion added: “There were a couple times where their kids stepped up big in matches that we were winning.”

It was the first time in the varsity starting lineup for Ben Gorr (113), Darius Mangiafico (126) and Matt Jacobson (182). Gorr battled in his bout before losing with 34 seconds left via fall to another first-time varsity starter, Mason Lishness.

“He wrestled great,” Dion said. “He  got caught at the end, but he wrestled super well.”

Mangiafico fell behind 8-0 against Carson Sassu, but started working his way back into the match in the second period. With 1:08 to go in that second period, Mangiafico pinned Sassu, and Dion said that he wrestled great, too.

Jacobson took on another first-time varsity starter, Tyler Gleifert, and he picked up a pin with 10 seconds left in the first period. Jacobson’s pin was the second of three straight for Southington on its way to a 34-33 lead.

“A lot of the kids that were first time in their varsity role did a great job,” Dion said. “We had a couple injuries, kids got in there and they wrestled really tough. A lot of positives, and we just got a lot of work to do.”

Billy Carr won via fall at 170 to start the run, then Paul Calo took a pin at 195 to put the Blue Knights ahead. Southington started the dual meet with Jacob Vecchio’s 2-1 decision at 285. Vecchio moved up to 285 to fill the spot. Caleb Brick (pin at 120) and Jacob Cardozo (major decision at 145) also won matches for the Blue Knights.

“This could be the best team we see in a dual meet all year,” Dion said of Bristol Eastern. “We’ll just try to develop and get better.”

The Blue Knights won the Lancer Invitational last Friday. (Submitted)

Knights win Lancer Invite

DEC. 15—Southington won Waterford’s tournament for the second straight season and scored 229 points. The Blue Knights finished 77 points ahead of second place Killingly (152) and 82 ahead of third place Waterford (147).

Southington picked up individual first place finishes from Caleb Brick (120), Welch (132) and Vecchio (220). Brick won all three of his bouts by fall. Welch had two pins among his four victories and picked up an 8-1 decision in the championship bout. Vecchio picked up his first two wins via fall, then claimed a 4-1 decision in the championship bout.

Jacob Cardozo (138), Carr (170), Jacobson (182) and Chesanow (195) all finished in second place for Southington. Gorr (113), Mangiafico (126), Conner Hamlin (145), Josh Vitti (160) and Colby Johnson (195) each finished in third place for the Blue Knights. Anthony Del Debbio (106), Emmett Vitti (126) and Jackson Cardozo (132) all placed fourth for Southington. The only weight class not to have a Blue Knight place winner was 285.

Mangiafico won a 7-2 decision over Emmett Vitti in the third place match at 126. Jared Guida and Jackson Cardozo each reached the third place final at 132, but the bout wasn’t contested because Guida had reached the five-bout maximum with his consolation semifinal win.

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com