By KEVIN ROBERTS
For the first time since 2013, Southington wrestling claimed two individual state championships at the Class LL meet. Senior Jacob Cardozo won at 145 pounds while junior Billy Carr took the top spot at 170 this past Saturday at Trumbull High School.
It was the first double winner for the Blue Knights since Nate Solomon (126) and Zach Maxwell (195) won their individual championships in 2013. As a team, Southington placed third with 175 points. Danbury won the meet for the 19th time in 23 years with 250 points. The host school Trumbull was second with 210.5 points.
In the 145 final, Cardozo took on Fairfield Warde’s Cole Shaughnessy, the son of standout coach Jason Shaughnessy. Cardozo won a 3-2 decision over Shaughnessy to take the championship.
“I just stuck to what I’ve done all season, stayed on my offense as best I could, listened to my coaches,” Cardozo said. “Wrestled my match, didn’t let him dictate anything, wrestled as hard as I could staying within my offense and not letting him get to his.”
Shaughnessy scored the first points with a two-point takedown at the 1:22 mark of the first period. Cardozo’s reversal with 46 seconds left in the period knotted the bout, 2-2. Cardozo was on the bottom to start the second period, and his escape turned out to be the winning point.
“He beat a two-time state champion [Danbury’s Ben LeBlanc] in the semifinals, then went out there in the finals against a really good kid, the coach’s kid from Warde, and he just wrestled well,” coach Derek Dion said. “He wrestled like he’s been wrestling all year.”
After the bout, Cardozo slapped five with assistant coach Brian Zaccagnino, then shared a big hug with Dion.
“The weekend in general was great. Not only me, but Billy winning too,” Cardozo said. “The team did amazing. We had a bunch of guys, like freshman Ben Gorr, come out and place. Guys like [Matt] Jacobson, who grinded all offseason come out here and place too. Personally, I got my title, which I’ve working my [butt] off for the past four years. It’s a great feeling right now.”
At 170, Carr found himself against a familiar foe in Amity’s Andrew Seaton. Carr had wrestled Seaton at the SHS Duals this past December, and the two met again, this time for the state championship. Carr held on for a 5-4 decision.
“I don’t think he wrestled his best match there, I don’t think he thinks he did either, but he did enough to win,” Dion said. “A lot of times you tighten up in the finals and he didn’t let it fly like he usually does, but you know what, he still got it done. He had a motor when he needed it, and got it done.”
“I was a little tired,” Carr said. “Long weekend, my hotel didn’t do me too great last night, so I just got it over with, let him get a two at the end, stuck it out for the win. It was a great match, I wrestled him earlier in the season, he was a good match before, too. I love wrestling that kid.”
Carr picked up the bout’s first points with eight seconds left in the first period on a two-point takedown. Seaton scored an escape in the second period, and the score remained 2-1 entering the final two-minute period. Carr started on the bottom and escaped with 1:11 to go for a 3-1 advantage. Carr was called for stalling with 53 seconds left and lost a point, but picked up two points on a takedown with 17 seconds remaining. From there, Carr held on for the win.
“I always could have wrestled a little bit better, but I’m going to take it,” Carr said of his weekend in general. “A Class LL state title sounds good to me. I love it, and I wouldn’t have gotten here without my guys like Cubby. A great captain, he’s a great leader, he’s a great friend, I love that kid, and I’m so happy for him. I couldn’t be happier.”
Carr also noted the efforts of others like the senior Jacobson, who wound up fourth at 182, along with junior Josh Vitti, who took third at 160.
“Guys like Jacobson, the dude wouldn’t have even been in the lineup this year if Paul [Calo] didn’t get hurt,” Carr said. “He came out here and placed and beat half of the best 182-pounders in the state. We got [Josh] Vitti, he was one match off of the finals, he was amazing. I practice with him every day.”
Dion said he was pleased with the effort of his wrestlers.
“All the kids came in, gave a good effort and wrestled tough,” Dion said.
Eight Southington wrestlers placed and will take part in the state open, which begins Friday at the Floyd Little Athletic Center in New Haven. Senior captain Jason Brault (138) joined Vitti for a third place finish. Gorr, a freshman, finished fourth in his first scholastic state tournament (113), as did senior Caleb Chesanow (195). Junior Jacob Vecchio (220) battled an injury and finished sixth.
“We did well with what we brought. It was pretty good, the kids wrestled tough,” Dion said.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com