When two wrestling teams enter a match with a combined dual-meet record of 41-5, the expectation naturally would call for a tooth-and-nail struggle decided in the last weight class perhaps. That wasn't quite the case in the annual cross-town battle between host Fairfield Ludlowe and visiting Fairfield Warde on Tuesday afternoon.
The Mustangs and Falcons are in different places, although their records certainly are comparable.
Ludlowe, which entered at 22-2, is a good program getting better. Warde, rated No. 7 in the state, is in the hunt for team championships in postseason tournaments. The Mustangs have won nine straight FCIAC East regular-season titles, including this winter's.
Warde also has won all 10 of its matchups against Ludlowe since each school opened for the 2004-05 school year.
The Mustangs improved to 20-3 overall -- and the Falcons dropped to 22-3 -- after Warde earned a 46-25 victory in the first meeting of a three-event day between the rival schools (girls and boys basketball was at Warde at night). Warde wrestlers claimed four of the six matches decided by pins, and they walked away with six points each in two of the three weight classes that were forfeits.
Quality of schedule separates the teams, too. Ludlowe's is challenging; Warde's is full of foes in the top 10, six to be exact. The Mustangs went 3-3 against those teams as well as beating a team that also received points in the Norwich Bulletin newspaper poll.
"That's who we wrestle," said Warde coach Jason Shaughnessy. "We take our losses so that we can get better. (Our schedule) better prepares our kids. We focus on not having an immaculate record but to be prepared for the postseason."
The postseason begins on Friday and Saturday with the FCIAC championships at New Canaan. It continues for the Mustangs with the Class L championships Feb. 21-22 at Bristol Central. Warde was Class L runner-up to New Milford in 2013.
Warde beat Ludlowe on Tuesday without two of its top wrestlers working up a sweat. Colin Ventura won at 170 pounds by forfeit, and undefeated heavyweight Ahmed Hourani, in the 285-pound-plus division, also gained a victory by forfeiture.
Freshman Tim Kane improved to 30-1 with a 6-3 win over Ludlowe's Ben Batulanon at 120 pounds. Senior Anthony Rotz, ordinarily at 152 pounds, moved up to 160 and beat the Falcons' Lee Stenild-Johanson 14-6 to improve to 26-8. Junior Manny Colon, usually a junior varsity competitor, filled in at 138 and won by pin. Senior Alex Mayer pinned his Falcons' opponent at 195 pounds and improved to 20-8. Dylan Bender earned a pin for Warde at 145 pounds, and Mike Sheets pinned his Ludlowe counterpart at 182.
George Wales, a Ludlowe junior, beat Warde's talented Jack Price 9-1 at 106 pounds. Falcons sophomore Chase Lind pinned a Mustang at 152 pounds and teammate Jacob Jessen pinned his Warde counterpart at 220.
Forfeiting two weight classes makes every match a challenge, said Ludlowe coach Nich Garoffolo. "It's amazing we're 22-3 with just 12 (varsity) wrestlers," said Garoffolo, noting that lack of depth gives Falcons' opponents a 12-0 lead before the first wrestlers reach the mat.
"I always think we can wrestle a little bit better," he said. "We were very good today. What we've done over the year, we've overachieved.
"Warde is a little too experienced and too strong for us," Garoffolo said.
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Warde 46, Ludlowe 25 (at Ludlowe): 106: George Wales (L) dec. Jack Price 9-1; 113: Eric Kirchgasser (L) won by forfeit; 120: Tim Kane (W) dec. Ben Batulanon 6-3; 126: Dan Ebert (W) dec. Marcus Sherrod 8-2; 132: Bobby Clark (L) dec. Aaron Beinstein 4-0; 138: Manny Colon (W) pinned Kyle Kubic 3:02; 145: Dylan Bender (W) pinned Constantine Survov 1:36; 152: Chase Lind (L) pinned Sean O'Gara 1:15; 160: Anthony Rotz (W) dec. Lee Stenild-Johanson 14-6; 170: Colin Ventura (W) won by forfeit; 182: Mike Sheets (W) pinned Austin Buongiorno 1:53; 195: Alex Mayer (W) pinned Nate Nelson 1:35; 220: Jacob Jessen (L) pinned Farez Shaham 5:58; 285: Ahmed Hourani (W) won by forfeit. Records: Warde 20-3, Ludlowe 22-3