Mustangs fourth at Class LL
Throughout the 2018-19 season, the Fairfield Warde wrestling team operated under a simple slogan passed down from coach Jason Shaughnessy: “Do your job.”
At last weekend’s Class LL championships, doing said job proved a little bit tougher than usual for Mustang standout seniors Joe Gjinaj and Noah Zuckerman. Gjinaj competed with bronchitis, while Zuckerman wrestled only a few weeks removed from a concussion that sidelined him during the latter stages of the season.
No matter, Gjinaj powered through his illness to win an overtime decision over Danbury’s Montez Osbey to capture the 195-pound title. Zuckerman followed up his FCIAC crown a week earlier with a win at the Class LL, defeating Tommy Mazur of Westhill 3-1 at 152 pounds.
The pair helped the Mustangs finish fourth out of 26 teams at Trumbull High with 150.5 points.
“It didn’t go as planned, it was close, but I’m glad I won,” said Gjinaj, who also won a Class LL title as a sophomore at 182 pounds. “I kept my mental game up and tried to stay strong in my mind. It was tough because I couldn’t stop coughing.”
Zuckerman missed three weeks late in the season due to a concussion. He was medically cleared in time for only one regular season meet before jumping into postseason.
Winning at the Class LL tournament in his final attempt meant a lot to Zuckerman, but his mind immediately turned toward this weekend’s State Open at the Floyd Little Athletic Center in New Haven.
“It was a short-lived celebration,” he said. “You definitely have to celebrate, but I definitely have to turn my focus onto the next one, which is winning State Opens.”
Although he fell short in the final, Cole Shaughnessy may have been the Mustangs’ most-impressive wrestler in Trumbull. The 145-pounder defeated the No.1 seed, East Hartford’s Timothy Roberts, in the semifinals before losing a 3-2 decision to Southington’s Jacob Cardoza in the final.
“Cole had a great tournament,” Gjinaj said. “Cole wrestled one of the top kids in the state in the semifinals. The kid he wrestled in the finals dominated someone who killed (Shaughnessy) earlier in the season.”
The win over Roberts also gave Shaughnessy 100 varsity wins in only three years.
“It kind of stinks that I didn’t win, but there’s always next year,” Cole Shaughnessy said.
Freshman Will Ebert — third in 126 pounds — and junior Hunter Rasmussen — third in 170 pounds — also qualified for the State Open from Warde. Alec Nardone and Dylan Cruvinel narrowly missed out.
“We have a handful of kids that are not going to Opens that beat multiple people who are going to the Open and that’s because (Class) LLs is a much tougher tournament,” Jason Shaughnessy said. “There’s a lot of depth.”
The five qualified wrestlers give Warde a good opportunity to make some noise at both the State Open and the upcoming New England tournament.
“We all have a shot and I hope we all do,” Gjinaj said.
Also at the Class LL tournament, Fairfield Prep’s Dean Tsiranides finished runner-up in 160 pounds.
Fairfield Ludlowe placed 10th at the Class L tournament, with four wrestlers finishing in the top six: Jacob Pressler (fifth, 113 pounds); Antonio Nicholas (fifth, 126); Thomas Murray (fourth, 170); and Stan Godlewski (third, 182).
Notre Dame’s Mark Delima finished sixth in 152 pounds at the Class S tournament.