By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – The city series battles between the Bristol Central and Bristol Eastern wrestling squads is always a special treat that commences every February.
And despite the lopsided 49-15 score from the latest clash on Wednesday, Feb. 12, the meet was a battle from start to finish.
It’s especially exciting to see the grapplers from both programs hit the mats as most of the athletes have gone through the Gladiators Wrestling program, summer invitationals and the like. They know each other’s moves and tendencies on the mats.
And that familiarity makes for some fun and competitive match-ups within the Mum City.
“A lot of these kids on each of these teams have grown up together,” said Eastern coach Bryant Lishness. “[Central’s] Jake [Aldi] and [Eastern’s] Mason [Lishness] have grown up wrestling with each other. [Central’s] Will Hamilton and [Eastern’s] Tommy Nichols, Trent Thompson, Aaron Morocho, they all grew up wrestling with each other so there’s a little competition. They hang out in the offseason and they’re friends but this match, this is the bragging rights one. Sometimes in the offseason, one kid’s winning in the offseason consistently but [the other one] ends up winning this match and that’s the one they end up holding onto.”
This historic rivalry has been close as close can be and the all-time record between the two schools is exactly .500 at 28-28-2.
Eastern has won the last 10 showings against Central but before that stretch, the Rams went 5-0 against the Lancers from 2006-2010.
In terms of total points scored over the 58 meets between Central and Eastern, the Lancers have collected 1,778 points for an average of 30.7 points-per-meet versus the Rams.
Central’s tally is 1,504, good for 25.9 points scored per BC/BE meet.
The deficit, which is only 4.8 points in Eastern’s favor, shows just how close these city series encounters have been over the history of the matches.
In fact, 11 city series matches over the years were decided by just two points or less.
Before the Lancers went on that 10-match winning streak, Central was in control of the series, outscoring Eastern by an average of one point.
Some of those contests have come down to some of the final matches like the time Central’s Timmy Chambers, a freshman at the time, snared a huge come-from-behind decision to propel the Rams to an amazing 29-27 victory in 2006 – starting a streak of five straight Rams’ victories over the Lancers.
And its special when grapplers like Eastern’s Trent Thompson earns his 100th win in program history like he did last Wednesday night.
Those aren’t everyday occurrences on the mats on the scholastic level.
Both teams have been in the spotlight during these city series wrestling wars but this decade, the battles have belonged to the three-time defending Class L champions.
The 10 match winning streak by Eastern is the longest in city series battles but soon enough, Central will get its turn to seize the meet and the cycle will repeat itself.
Despite the final score this year, there’s truly nothing like the Central-Eastern showdowns which sees plenty of aspiring grapplers, alumni from both programs, and fans of the sport come together for an exciting three or four hours of some of the best scholastic wrestling the state of Connecticut has to offer.
“Obviously the rivalry match means a lot to the kids. It really does,” said Lishness. “It means a lot to the schools. And it goes back and forth all the time with all the different sports. You see the big crowd, you see the alumni coming out. All of a sudden, it’s not just mom and dad here but the older brother away from college comes home and the alumni who wrestled with him comes home.”
“No matter what, even if you try to downplay it, it’s still a big deal.”