After winning the CIAC Class L championship on Feb. 22, Warde senior heavyweight Ahmed Hourani -- a Mustangs' football lineman -- said he had two goals left for the 2013-14 season. First was to dominate the State Open the following week (Feb. 28-March 1), then to follow that up by winning the New England Championships a week later over this upcoming weekend.
So approaching the season's end this Friday and Saturday at the New Englands in Providence, Hourani is one-for-one with a legitimate shot at bringing home the regional title to complete his ambitious but attainable goal quest. Hourani, who was third at the State Open in 2013, won this year's State Open last Friday and Saturday in New Haven by pinning four opponents. He delivered, as he had hoped. He was dominant. For the second straight week, Hourani pinned Bristol Eastern senior Kyle Porter to win a state championship.
Fairfield Prep senior Nick Crowle, who improved to 21-2 on the season, lost the consolation final and placed fourth by going 4-2 in the tournament.
Hourani's victory at 285 pounds, plus freshman Tim Kane's second-place finish at 113 pounds and junior Dan Ebert's third place at 126, helped lead the Mustangs to their highest-ever team placing at the State Open when they finished third behind winner Danbury and runner-up New Milford. Each medal-winning wrestler for Warde qualified for the New England Championships. Warde was fifth at last year's State Open and sixth each in 2010 and 2005.
On the season, Hourani improved to 42-0, Kane to 39-3 and Ebert 41-3. Ebert won Class L and Kane took second.
But five other Mustangs had qualified for the State Open by placing in the top six Feb. 21-22 at the Class L championships, though they did not reach the New Englands. The State Open field attracted the top six placers in each of the four class championships (LL, L, M, S) in the 14 weight class divisions.
Mustangs' sophomore Jack Price went 3-2 at the State Open at 106 pounds; senior Dylan Bender went 2-2 at 138 pounds, as did 12th-grader Colin Ventura at 160 pounds; senior Anthony Rotz won one of three matches at 152 pounds; and junior Aaron Beinstein lost both of his matches at 132 pounds. Their records for the season: Price 37-12, Bender 38-7, Ventura 33-12, Rotz 34-14 and Beinstein 32-17.
Warde coach Jason Shaughnessy stopped short of branding this winter's team as the best in school history. But he did say without hesitation that this year's core group of eight is as strong as any primary group that he's coached since Warde was created from the splitting of Fairfield High School for the 2004-05 school year.
"We've had successful runs at the Open before," Shaughnessy said. "A big part of it (this year) has been the supporting cast (Bender, Ventura, Rotz, Beinstein, Price) and them getting wins and points for the team. That helped quite a bit."
Shaughnessy said the 2008-09 and 2009-10 teams that won back-to-back Class L championships possibly were better than the 2013-14 Mustangs on the balance of the relative strength of all 14 varsity wrestlers. Warde's team in 2008-09 was 15th at the State Open.
Earlier this week, Warde finished fifth in the statewide poll, sponsored by the Norwich Bulletin newspaper. Shaughnessy was not too disappointed with that because there is no established criteria for voting, he said. Thus, each voter might weigh differently regular-season records in comparison with regular-season invitationals, class championships and State Open.
Danbury, which won the State Open, and New Milford, which was second and the only team to defeat the Mustangs at the Class L championships, were voted ahead of the Mustangs. Newtown, which was third in the voting, won Class LL on Feb. 22, and No. 4 Xavier beat Warde head to head. Newtown was ninth at the open, Xavier fourth.
But Warde was not the only Fairfield public high school with its best-ever finish at the State Open.
Fairfield Ludlowe, with six wrestlers at the State Open, placed 15th as a team. Its previous high finish was 26th a year ago.
Two Falcons placed in the top six. Junior George Wales, who lost in the semifinals, was awarded sixth place at 106 pounds by forfeiting his bout to determine fifth place after losing his first match in the consolation rounds. An injury there in the consolations forced Wales, the Class L champion, to withdraw and to finish 2-3 in the tournament. Senior Ben Batulanon, who was runner-up in Class L, placed fifth at 120 pounds by going 4-2.
Falcons senior Eric Kirchgasser, who missed 2012-13 with an injury, at 113 pounds and sophomore Bobby Clark at 132 pounds each missed placing in the top six by one match. Kirchgasser, who was third in Class L, went 3-2 and Clark, fifth in Class L, compiled a 4-2 record at the State Open.
Two Ludlowe sophomores went 2-2 -- Marcus Sherrod at 126 pounds and Chase Lind at 145 pounds.
"I'm very happy for the boys, and for the Ludlowe wrestling program in general," Falcons' coach Nick Garoffolo said. "For the past three years, we have been getting better and better each year. It's great to see our hard work pay off. The whole season was a success."
Garoffolo pointed to Ludlowe's best winning percentage in dual meets by going 22-3. The Falcons were fourth at the FCIACs, and sixth in Class L, tied with 2008 for their highest ever finish. Six wrestlers reaching the State Open was a first. The previous high total was four.
Rich Gregory contributed to this report
State Open wrestling
at Floyd Little Athletic Center, New Haven
1. Danbury 141; 2. New Milford 114.5; 3. Fairfield Warde 92; 4. Xavier 89; 5. Trumbull 88; 6. Southington 85; 7. Simsbury 80; 8. Windham 72; 9. Newtown 71.5; 10. Montville 71; 11. Nonnewaug 60; 12. Bristol Eastern 56.5; 13. South Windsor 49; 14. Farmington 48; 15. Fairfield Ludlowe 44.5; 16. Hand 40.5; 17. Middletown 40; 18. Ledyard 39; 19. Foran 36; 20. Bacon Academy 35; 20. Oxford 35; 22. Bristol Central 33; 23. Canton 32; 24. Haddam-Killingworth 30; 25. Immaculate/Barlow 28; 25. Suffield/Windsor Locks/East Granby 28; 27. Maloney 26; 27. Newington 26; 29. Somers 25; 30. Glastonbury 23; 30. St. Bernard/Norwich 23.
106: championship--Paulo Freitas (Danbury) dec. Matthew Dowler (St. Bernard/Norwich Tech) 7-1; third--Ryan Pantalena (Maloney) dec. Zachary Murillo (Southington) 6-4; fifth--Halim Bourjeli (New Milford) won by forfeit over George Wales (Fairfield Ludlowe); 113: championship--Kyle Lindner (New Milford) pinned Timmy Kane (Fairfield Warde) 4:49; third--Jeremy Fields (Danbury) won by forfeit over Jacob Pouliot (Foran); fifth--Jacob Martin (Windham) dec. Joel Morth (Montville) 5-3; 120: championship--Chris Bryant (Danbury) dec. Zachary Bylykbashi (Southington) 1-0; third--Sebastian Ruffinio (Windham) dec. Keith Penney (Simsbury) 2-1; fifth--Benjamin Batulanon (Ludlowe) dec. Marlos Argueta (Platt) 4-2; 126: championship--Kevin Jack (Danbury) maj. dec. Cross Cannone (Trumbull) 11-2; third--Daniel Ebert (Warde) won by forfeit over Thomas Wynosky (Montville); fifth--Niko Stefanatos (New Milford) dec. Mason Rambarose (Portland) 4-3; 132: championship--Conor Caffrey (South Windsor) dec. Kieran Duggan (Nonnewaug) 6-4; third--Emmett LiCastri (Immaculate/Barlow) pinned James Leuci (Newtown) 3:30; fifth--Kevin Cecio (Trumbull) dec. Kevin Side (Ridgefield) 6-5; 138: championship--Will Chowanec (Xavier) dec. Jacob Caskey (Montville) 3-2; third--David Colvin (Westbrook/Old Saybrook) dec. Ashton Gyenizs (Hand) 10-3; fifth--Zachary Arnold (New Milford) dec. Joseph Martone (Branford) 6-5; 145: championship--Howard Kilpatrick (Bacon Academy) dec. Favion Williams (Weaver/Hartford Public) 10-7; third--Ryan Henderson (Haddam-Killingworth) dec. Brett Leonard (New Miflord) 4-3; fifth--Graysen Deluca (Woodstock Academy) dec. Ryan Rigney (Farmington) 1-0; 152: championship--Anthony Falbo (Newtown) dec. Max Odell (South Windsor) 7-3; third--Bryan Burnette (Holy Cross) Dec. Christian Zotti (Newington) 4-3; fifth--Steven Briganti (Trumbull) dec. Jonah Swett (Lyman Memorial/Windham Tech) 3-0; 160: championship--Dakota Fleming (Windham) dec. Benjamin Onofrio (Hand) 3-1; third--Steve Persson (Oxford) dec. Alexander Martin (Southington) 6-2; fifth--Andrew D'Amico (New Fairfield) dec. Brandon Dufor (Bacon Academy) 4-3; 170: championship--Juan Garcia (Danbury) dec. Devon MarcAurele (Leydyard) 5-1; third--Ian Gonzalez (Bristol Central) dec. Dovydas Simanskis (Farmington) 4-2; fifth--Seve Burgos (Xavier) won by forfeit over Gabe Vega (Cheshire): 182: championship--Khamri Thomas (Suffield/Windsor Locks/East Granby) dec. John D'Agostino (Nonnewaug) 7-2; third--Cody Carrillo (Middletown) Dec. Colin Cunningham (Xavier) 4-0; fifth--Jordan Kenyon (Fitch) dec. Brendan MacIntyre (Bethel) 3-2; 195: championship--Zachary Maxwell (Southington) dec. Jacob Feldman (Simsbury) 7-3; third--Adam Patsun (Somers) dec. Fjoralb Cekici (Nonnewaug) 2-0; fifth--Zachary Hubler (Foran) maj. dec. Justin Provonost (Terryville) 14-5; 220: championship--Andrew Marino (Trumbull) dec. Andrew Cavanna (Glastonbury) 4-3; third--Skylar Lang (Canton) pinned Chidiebere Broderick (Xavier) 2:00; fifth--Jamar Jones (Middletown) dec. Justin Lewis (McMahon) 7-2; 285: championship--Ahmed Hourani (Warde) pinned Kyle Porter (Bristol Eastern) 2:29; third--Bradley Helmkamp (Simsbury) dec. Nicholas Crowle (Fairfield Prep) 3-1; fifth--Daniel Carbonaro (Oxford) pinned Vincent Stevens (Farmington).