While the lead was lost at the end, Southington and Middletown battled for first place all day at the Lancer Invitational at Waterford high school on Dec. 21. The Blue Knights faced some tough competition in the upper weight classes, and Middletown eventually pulled away with 213 points to finish just in front of Southington with 198 points.
“It was a long day, to say the least,” coach Derek Dion said. “We were in first place really all the way up to the end. We lost about six very close matches. In a couple of them, we were winning and then lost it at the end. It is still early, and some of our kids aren’t in peak wrestling shape yet. I think if it were a month later, the results would have been different.”
Despite not being at their best, the Blue Knights still scored 32.5 more points than the next best team, Staples. Their three third-place finishes tied with Killingly for second-most only behind Middletown.
Darius Mangiafico was the first Knight to place first, defeating the No. 1 seed, David Charron of Killingly, by decision, 6-4. After receiving a first round bye, Magiafico dominated on his way to the final in the 132 weight class bracket, beating his quarterfinal and semifinal opponent each by pin.
“Darius Mangiafico has done a lot of work during the offseason and has really turned into a great wrestler,” Dion said.
Jared Guida worked his way to the final as the No. 1 seed in the 145 weight class bracket, where he became the second Knight to place first after defeating all three opponents faced by pin. He defeated Noah Fraas of Staples by pin in 1:48 of the final.
Billy Carr also placed first for Southington as the No. 1 seed in the 182 weight class bracket, also defeating each opponent by pin. Carr defeated Ethan Grous of EO Smith by pin in 2:25 to finish first after coming up short in last year’s Lancer Invitational.
Josh Vitti and Ben Gore each advanced to the final of their respective weight class but each came up just short. Gorr was leading over his opponent, Jack Richardson of Killingly, but was defeated by pin in 4:53.
Despite coming up short, Dion said he has been impressed with the progress Gore has made.
“Ben is relatively new to wrestling, but he has worked his way to becoming one of the best wrestlers in the state in his weight class,” Dion said of the sophomore.
The No. 1 seed in the 170 weight class bracket, Vitti fought an epic battle in the championship round with Ryan Powers of Lyman Memorial high school in Lebanon. Powers won by the slimmest of margins in a 6-5 decision.
Southington was battle-tested early in a competitive tournament. Dion said that competing in these events early on is what they want as it prepares them for postseason play in February.
“Competing in these challenging tournaments has been our mantra,” Dion said. “In the Lancer tournament, we went up against some teams who have been wrestling for over a month. While our league schedule is basically dictated, we decide where we go for these weekend tournaments. We host one of the toughest tournaments each year in the Connecticut Challenge. Lowell, Mass. has one of the toughest tournaments in New England. We try to battle-test the kids as much as possible.”
The Knights competed in the George Bassi Holiday Tournament in Lowell last Friday. They returned to their dual meet schedule on Thursday at Wethersfield.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Spencer Dreher, email him at SDreher@SouthingtonObserver.com.