By JOHN GORALSKI
Kyle Solomon toyed with his South Windsor opponent like a cat with a ball of string. Southington’s 126-pounder matched the Bobcat’s 132-pounder through two rounds as the pair grappled under the heat of the light in the Southington gym.
They were tied at the first whistle. Solomon trailed by one point after two rounds, but he took down his opponent at the start of the third round to score a two-point advantage, and Solomon controlled the bout for the final two minutes. He’d let his opponent free and take him to the mat. He traded one point escapes for two point takedowns to get the win.
“That was a huge game-changer. I had to bump him up, and we needed him to come through for us. It was a big mental change,” said Blue Knight wrestling coach Derek Dion. “It was a huge back and forth battle, but Kyle just stayed patient. He wrestled really well.”
Solomon’s win gave the Knights a double-digit lead and all but ended South Windsor’s chances. Southington cruised to a 51-25 victory, but it was the individual battles that Dion championed more than the win. Solomon’s hard-fought victory was typical of almost every bout up and down the lineup, and Dion was pleased with his team’s opening round victory.
“I thought we wrestled pretty tough all the way throughout the lineup,” said the coach. “Winning and losing doesn’t really matter right now. I thought we wrestled pretty well. There were a couple of kids that just got outmatched by really good kids, but we really battled in the close ones. That’s the kind of effort I’m looking for. It was a good start.”
Dion pointed to a 1:08 pin by Andrew Szymanski (220) that kicked off the battle. Zach Murillo (106) scored his pin in just 20 seconds. Shawn Devin (182) scored a pin at the start of the second frame. Jason Calvi-Rogers scored his pin midway through the second round. Shawn Wagner (113), Zach Bylykbashi (138) and Josh Gravel (160) won by forfeit as South Windsor coaches bumped wrestlers to try to score points against Southington’s lineup.
Sophomore John Vecchio scrambled to a second-period pin, and Dion said that was a great sign of things to come.
“He’s only been here for a couple of days because of football,” said Dion, “but he went out there with a full tank, wrestled in good position, and wrestled strong.”
Even the losses from some of his young wrestlers impressed the coach. Freshman Jimmy Starr (285) didn’t get a victory in his first varsity bout, but he battled off his back three times in a heavyweight bout.
“For any heavyweight, that’s not a common occurrence,” said Dion. “He really wrestled, and you just can’t teach that—especially with the heavyweights. His future’s going to be amazing.”
On Saturday, the Knights kicked off their weekend schedule with a fourth place finish at the annual Lancer Tournament in Waterford. Southington posted two champions and a trio of other medalists against 15 teams from Connecticut and Rhode Island.
Murillo scored two pins before out-lasting Fitch’s Jarod Kosman, 6-3, in the finals to claim the championship in the 106-pound division. Bylykbashi (132) scored a pin and two major decision to capture the 132-pound title.
Three others scored medals in the tournament. Austin Abacherli (120) bounced back from his only loss to score his second and third pin of the day and claim third place overall. Calvi-Rogers (195) bounced back from an opening round loss with three pins and a decision to finished tied for third place as a result of the five-match limit.
Wagner bounced back from a loss to the eventual champion in his second bout to score a fourth place finish in the 113-pound class.
With a bomb scare at the high school on Monday, Southington’s dual meet against Bristol Central was canceled There is no rescheduled date at this time.
Southington’s next contest will open the conference schedule with a home dual meet against Hall on Tuesday, Dec. 30.