Undefeated Warde wrestlers off to solid start
The goals are lofty ones, as well they should be, especially when you've captured nine straight FCIAC East Division crowns, three consecutive FCIAC runner-up titles and back-to-back Class L second place finishes.
Warde wrestling has been a powerhouse for the past decade and continues to be, after a week where the Mustangs knocked off No. 1 ranked Newtown in a dual match and then won its own Warde Invitational over 17 other squads, including No. 6 ranked Simsbury and teams from New York, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
"It was a team effort. We have a lot of good depth and we also have a lot of coverage across the lineup, a really good kid out at every weight and that's important to have a good balanced team," Mustangs coach Jason Shaughnessy said. "It's been a great week."
As always, the mission for Warde is to win the Class L and the FCIAC championships but the Mustangs are looking to showcase their balance across the board by placing a wrestler in each weight class in the postseason tournaments. They came close at the Warde Invitational, placing a wrestler in 13 of the 15 weight classes, missing out in only the 106- and 172-pound divisions.
"That's our goal," Shaughnessy said. "At the end of the year is to have 14 class place winners. That's what we work all season toward."
Warde had four class winners, Alex Steele (115), Tim Kane (128), Charlie Kane (142) and Dan Ebert (147). In addition, Aaron Beinstein (134) and John Ocana (222) placed second and Jordi Proskinitoupolos (197) and Tyler Mazut (heavyweight) captured third.
Mustangs junior Charlie Kane was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler at the Warde Invitational after he defeated Jean-Luc Leemiux of Londonderry (N.H.), who is the reigning New England champion, 2-1 to complete a perfect 4-0 day.
"Charlie wrestled as a freshman and won the Class L tournament and last season he was out with a back issue so he didn't wrestle for us last year," Shaughnessy said. "He's back this season and against Newtown he beat the returning LL champion, (James) Leuci and (at the Invitational) he beat (Keith) Penney from Simsbury in the semifinals, who was the (120) LL runner-up and then in the finals he upset the returning New England champ. You can't have a better week than that."
Before the Invitational, Warde defeated Newtown, the No. 1 team in the state wrestling poll, 35-34 after Tim Kane and Jack Price (120) both won their matches by major decision.
"We went into Newtown as the underdog but we performed at or above our ability," Shaughnessy said. "We had some key matches where we were underdogs and we won the match and then we had matches where we didn't give up bonus points. That was huge."
Like Alex Steele at 115 pounds, who lost 9-0 to the No. 1 113-pound wrestler in the state but did not get pinned, giving Newtown four points instead of six (Warde won by one).
"And Alex Lobsenz (195) said that he had wrestled Newtown's guy before in the youth program and he said he did pretty well against him," Shaughnessy said. "So I put him in and he's losing 4-0 but he gets a cradle, locks him up and pins him. If you want to beat the no. 1 team in the state everything's got to go right and it did that day."
As the season approaches the halfway point, Ludlowe is also having a lot of things go right as they stand 4-1 in the FCIAC and 7-3 overall and are coming off a fifth place finish as the Warde Invitational.
"I think we did well," Falcons coach Nick Garroffolo said. "Chase (Lind) won the tournament (154 pounds) and he wrestled really, really well. I mean, he was dominant. He had a pin and then a 12-0 win ... he won 5-0 in the finals. he's our only undefeated wrestler."
Ludlowe placed six other wrestlers in the top six, along with Lind as Austin Sherman (115) finished second, George Wales (122), Bobby Clark (142) and Marcus Sherrod (147) took third, Nate Nelson (197) finished fourth and Lee Johanssen (172) took fifth.
"Nate ... that was a really good effort on his part and the same thing with Lee Johanssen at 172, he did a nice job in a very tough weight class," Garroffolo said. "He went up against a lot of good wrestlers with a lot of good returning records and he placed fifth. Those are big points that you need. I had my five kids that I knew were going to place and getting placements from those two kids was extra."
Considering that the Falcons have just four seniors on the roster and one of them, Kyle Kubic, is currently injured, Garroffolo is looking forward to his squad's continued improvement this season and next season as well.
`We'll return almost our entire team next year," Garroffolo said. "And this year we have several leaders, guys that are really, really good. We return four wrestlers that went to the Open last year, George, Chase, Marcus and Bobby. They all went to the Open, George placed and the other three were really close to placing and then we have Austin wrestling behind George, so he's another talented wrestler. We're just going to keep working hard."
Like Ludlowe, Fairfield Prep is also experiencing a youth movement with just five seniors on the roster for head coach Corey Dennis.
"A lot of these kids that have been wrestling for me these last three or four years, were just starting to wrestle when they came to high school as freshmen," Dennis said. "They didn't have any previous experience."
And while competing in dual matches is good, competing in a more individual-focused tournament was something that Dennis wanted his wrestler to experience.
"At the Warde tournament, I wanted to give my athletes more of a challenge. They've been improving and the Warde tournament has a particular kind of caliber that I wanted them to experience," Dennis said. "They see the high level of competition in dual matches against Hand and Xavier but this tournament is more individual and I wanted them to into it without the pressure of having to get a pin here so the team could get a win or get a major decision here so we can get an extra point, I just wanted them to go out there and test their abilities against a higher level of competition."
Prep placed ninth overall out of the 18-team field as the Jesuits had wrestlers place in four classes Kevin Zenter took sixth at 115, Jack Bosken finished third at 162, Andre Talaverz placed sixth at 184 and Joshua Goncalves was fifth at 222.
"These guys (Joshua, Andre) originally came to me with no wrestling experience," Dennis said. "Josh didn't start wrestling until he was a sophomore, Andre was a freshmen, so for them to improve as much as they have over the years it's a real testament to their work ethic and their character. They take to heart all the advice we give them and they put it into practice. They're improving steadily."
And for Bosken, the invitational was a chance to wash away some disappointment that had been building over recent meets.
"Jack was at a point where I wanted him to get over the hump," Dennis said. "He's been in a lot of close matches, a lot of overtime finishes that didn't go his way, so I put that challenge to him, I told him to go back to the basics, work on his fundamentals and do you best and that's exactly what he did. I was very proud of the way he finished."