There are two things you can almost always count on at this time of year: a snowstorm and a Danbury High victory at the FCIAC wrestling championships.
Saturday featured both, with the mighty Hatters winning their 27th conference crown in the last 28 years in a tournament that was shortened from two days to one because of one snowstorm, then abbreviated further because of another.
Danbury put wrestlers in the finals in 10 of the 15 weight classes at the tournament in New Canaan, won five individual titles and scored 260ï»¿1/2 team points. Fairfield Warde took second with six finalists, four champs and 214 points, and Trumbull finished third with seven finalists, five champions and 184 team points.
Chris Sam (99 pounds), Paulo Freitas (106), Chris Bryant (120), Kevin Jack (132) and Johnny Garcia (170) all won titles for Danbury, which won its fourth straight FCIAC crown since seeing its string of consecutive titles -- which started in 1987 -- snapped in 2010 by Fairfield Warde.
And that winning tradition is something each new generation of Hatter wrestlers aspires to preserve and continue.
"It's in our tradition to win it," said Freitas, who won a 6-0 decision in his championship match. "We have a standard to live up to."
Also for Danbury, Jeremy Fields (113), Steven Beckham (138), Matt Fields (145), Marcus Joyner (195) and Tristan Jakobson (220) all took second, Jason Gomez (99) and Justin Peterson (126) both placed third and Shaun Williams (99) and Jarek Laplante (160) both finished fourth.
"It's my senior year and it feels good to get another tema win in this tournament," said Jack, who has committed to wrestle at North Carolina State. "Great job all around with all the guys."
The FCIAC championship meet is the start of a month-long championship schedule. Still to come are the Class LLs and the State Open -- both of which Danbury won last year -- followed by the New Englands, in which Danbury placed sixth last year.
"The guys love this tournament," said Danbury coach Ricky Shook, a two-time FCIAC champion for the Hatters himself. "I like next week better. And the week after. And the week after that."
Ventura's win in the finals was particularly dramatic, as he scored a two-point reversal with 28 seconds remaining to edge Trumbull's Joey Ryan, 2-1.
"I'm terrible on bottom. Usually, I can never get up," Ventura admitted. "Going through my head, I was like `I have to do something. I have to win this match.'"
Ventura's name may ring a bell with Danbury folks, as his older brother, Marcio, won the 215-pound final in 2010 -- which sealed Warde's championship and ended Danbury's streak. As soon as Colin stepped off the mat Saturday, the first person he called was his older brother.
"It was in my head that I couldn't let him have one more thing against me, so I had to win," Ventura said with a smile.
"I did what I had to do and wrestled smart. That's all there is to it," said Raverta, a junior and a first-year varsity wrestler.
The only FCIAC champion not from Danbury, Warde or Trumbull was Fairfield Ludlowe 145-pound sophomore Chase Lind, who won a 6-4 decision over Danbury's Matt Fields. Lind led 6-1 in the second period before Fields began to rally.
"I just wanted to play it safe and make sure I held the title," Lind said of his strategy once he took the lead. "But I didn't want to let up. I didn't want to put myself at risk, so I just played it safe."
Also for fourth-place Ludlowe, George Wales (106) and Ben Batulanon (120) both placed second, Eric Kirchgasser (113) took third and Marcus Sheerod (126), Bobby Clark (132) and Jacob Jessen (220) all finished fourth.
Other second-place finishers included Wilton's Andrew Sakamoto (152) and Joseph Fraccaroli (285), Westhill's Martin Chobanyan (170) and McMahon's Vasili Nikiforides (182).
Other third-place wrestlers included Ridgefield's Colin Storm (120) and Kevin Side (132), Westhill's Jeff Glover (138), Chris Mazur (145) and Isaac Chevron (182), Greenwich's Jack Freiheit (152), Justin Montier (170) and Chris Fischer (285), Wilton's Kenneth Pokora (160), and McMahon's Justis Lewis (220).
Ridgefield is a relatively young and up-and-coming team with a young coaching staff. Longtime head coach Gary Tiger is still part of the staff, which is now led by first-year head coach Kyle Palmer, who won received All-America honors in 2007 and 2008 at the Trinity-Pawling School before wrestling for Drexel University. Also on the coaching staff is former Danbury High star and 2009 State Open champion Tucker Schaefer and former Trinity-Pawling and Trinity College star Liam Fay.
"Today was a little rough, but looking toward the future, we have 20 underclassmen for next year who will look to take on leadership positions," Palmer said.
JOE SIKORSKI FCIAC WRESTLING TOURNAMENT
Saturday, New Canaan High
Team scores: 1. Danbury 260ï»¿1/2; 2. Fairfield Warde 214; 3. Trumbull 184; 4. Fairfield Ludlowe 139ï»¿1/2; 5. Greenwich 129ï»¿1/2; 6. Westhill 95ï»¿1/2; 7. McMahon 86; 8. Ridgefield 84; 9. Wilton 75; 10. Harding 36ï»¿1/2; 11. Norwalk 27; 12. Stamford 20; 13. Darien 17; 14. Bridgeport Central 16; 15. New Canaan 15; 16. Staples 4.
99 -- Championship: Chris Sam, Danbury, pinned Utsav Shretha, Fairfield Warde, 5:22. Consolation: Jason Gomez, Danbury, pinned Shaun Williams, Danbury, 2:41.
106 -- Championship: Paulo Freitas, Danbury, dec. George Wales, Fairfield Ludlowe, 6-0. Consolation: Jack Price, Fairfield Warde, dec. Brandon Aguda, Greenwich, 5-4.
113 -- Championship: Tim Kane, Fairfield Warde, major dec. Jeremy Fields, Danbury, 8-0. Consolation: Eric Kirchgasser, Fairfield Ludlowe, dec. Alex Margeotes, Greenwich, 7-3.
120 -- Championship: Chris Bryant, Danbury, pinned Ben Batulanon, Fairfield Ludlowe, 5:54. Consolation: Colin Storm, Ridgefield, pinned Hector Reyes, Harding, 2:00.
126 -- Championship: Cross Cannone, Trumbull, dec. Dan Ebert, Fairfield Warde, 2-1. Consolation: Justin Peterson, Danbury, dec. Marcus Sheerod, Fairfield Ludlowe, 6-1.
132 -- Championship: Kevin Jack, Danbury, pinned Kevin Cecio, Trumbull, 2:39. Consolation: Kevin Side, Ridgefield, dec. Bobby Clark, Fairfield Ludlowe, 3-2.
138 -- Championship: Dylan Bender, Fairfield Warde, dec. Steven Beckham, Danbury, 5-2. Consolation: Jeff Glover, Westhill, pinned Sawyer Machette, McMahon, 1:56.
145 -- Championship: Chase Lind, Fairfield Ludlowe, dec. Matt Fields, Danbury, 6-4. Consolation: Chris Mazur, Westhill, def. Tiago Dias, Bridgeport Central, by default.
152 -- Championship: Steve Briganti, Trumbull, dec. Andrew Sakamoto, Wilton, 7-0. Consolation: Jack Freiheit, Greenwich, dec. Anthony Rotz, Fairfield Warde, 3-0.
170 -- Championship: Johnny Garcia, Danbury, dec. Martin Chobanyan, Westhill, 5-0. Consolation: Justin Montier, Greenwich, dec. Mike Sheets, Fairfield Warde, 6-5.
182 -- Championship: Joey Raverta, Trumbull, dec. Vasili Nikiforides, McMahon, 15-11. Consolation: Isaac Chevron, Westhill, dec. Daniel Holland, Wilton, 3-2.
195 -- Championship: Connor Sollenberger, Trumbull, pinned Marcus Joyner, Danbury, 5:15. Consolation: Alex Mayer, Fairfield Warde, pinned Mark Nielsen, Greenwich, 1:19.
220 -- Championship: Andrew Marino, Trumbull, dec. Tristan Jakobson, Danbury, 3-0. Consolation: Justis Lewis, McMahon, pinned Jacob Jessen, Fairfield Ludlowe, 1:00.
285 -- Championship: Ahmed Hourani, Fairfield Warde, pinned Joseph Fraccaroli, Wilton, 1:40. Consolation: Chris Fischer, Greenwich, dec. Doug Knowles, Norwalk, 2-1.