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Saturday, November 22, 2014

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Heavyweight division at State Open loaded with regional talent

Updated 12:29 am, Friday, February 28, 2014
  • Fairfield Warde's Ahmed Hourani pinning Joseph Fraccaroli, of Wilton, in the 287-pound final on Saturday, Jan. 4 at the Warde Invitational. Photo: Reid L. Walmark / Fairfield Citizen

    Fairfield Warde's Ahmed Hourani pinning Joseph Fraccaroli, of Wilton, in the 287-pound final on Saturday, Jan. 4 at the Warde Invitational.

    Photo: Reid L. Walmark

 

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Fairfield Warde wrestler Ahmed Hourani considered quitting the sport two years ago. It's such a distant thought that it doesn't even seem possible now for the soft-spoken senior.

"I'm pretty sure I would have regretted it a lot," said Hourani, who was also a two-way linemen on the Mustangs' football team. "It's paid off a lot for me and I love it."

Hourani's decision to stick with wrestling has been a very wise one when you look at what he has accomplished on the mat.

The undefeated Hourani will be the No. 1 seed going into the heavyweight division of the State Open Friday at the Floyd Little Athletic Center in New Haven. The two-day tournament concludes Saturday evening with the championship finals beginning at 5:30.

"Believe it or not his sophomore year he was the backup to Mike Money, who placed third at the Open," Fairfield Warde coach Jason Shaughnessy said. "It was frustrating for Ahmed because he was dominant and not even starting. We had two of the best heavyweights on our team. He wasn't sure if he wanted to put all that work into it, but thankfully he stuck with it."

Hourani (35-0) successfully defended his Class L title last weekend and is hoping to build on a third-place finish at the Open last year. He topped off his run at the Class L tournament by pinning Bristol Eastern's Kyle Porter in only 30 seconds.

"He's a monster," said Danbury coach Ricky Shook, describing Hourani. "I don't see anybody beating him."

Hourani, however, is not alone when it comes to talented heavyweights in the region this season. The chase for the 285-pound crown will also include No. 2 seed Dan Carbonaro of Oxford, No. 3 Nick Crowle of Fairfield Prep and No. 4 Luke Edmonson of Foran.

"These heavyweights don't wrestle like big guys," Fairfield Prep coach Corey Dennis said. "They can shoot singles and are good on their feet. They're not the typical brawlers like in the past. It makes for exciting matches. Everybody likes to see that kind of speed and power from the heavyweights."

Crowle, a star fullback and linebacker for Fairfield Prep, has been exceptional during his senior year. He came right off leading the Jesuits to their first state football final in 25 years to hitting the mats after only one day of rest.

"He is one of the hardest workings kids I have ever met," said Dennis of his four-year wrestler. "He's either studying or in the gym. He has a level of maturity I don't see in other kids. He's focused on helping himself and his teammates in every sense."

Crowle won one match at last year's Open after receiving a bye in the first round. He also holds a victory over Hourani during a regular-season match last season, according to Dennis.

A senior, Carbonaro dominated the SWC this past season and capped an impressive run in the Class S tournament with a pin over Plainville's Dylan Fusco in 2:47 during the final. Carbonaro won two matches at least year's Open, but didn't place.

Only a sophomore, Edmonson won the Class M title by earning a 6-3 decision over Berlin's Mike Burek in the final. Edmonson goes into the Open with less pressure knowing he will get more chances in the arena.

"He has a lot of heart," said Dennis of Edmonson. "These kids are very athletic and fast."

Even though Hourani appears to be the clear favorite, he knows wrestling has a way of humbling the best competitors.

"Everyone has a chance to win," said Hourani, who is considering wrestling at the collegiate level. "This has been my goal all season and what I've been working hard for in practice. It comes down to who is prepared more."

Hourani has come a long way since his sophomore year when his only move was a headlock and he battled the boredom of countless practices and the lack of stamina to last six minutes in a match.

"He hasn't been challenged this year," Shaughnessy said. "He's come full circle. It's his tournament to lose. He just has to wrestle to his capabilities. If he's on his game there's no one in the state that will beat him."

The only thing that might slow down Hourani is if he happens to forget his wrestling shoes, but that might not even be enough. At last year's New England championship in Providence, R.I., Hourani forgot his size 15 shoes in Connecticut and had to scramble to find a pair to borrow from another wrestler at the tournament.

"It was a stupid mistake," said Hourani, who can now laugh about it after taking second. "I double check every time that I have my singlet, headgear and shoes packed."

It's just another good decision made by Hourani.