Mustangs win Warde Invitational
FAIRFIELD - Wrestling in a dual meet in one thing. Wrestling in a tournament is something else entirely.
While dual meets sort out winners and losers, invitational tournaments, like the 10th annual Warde Invitational that took place in the Mustangs gym, allow wrestlers to not only compete in several matches over the course of the event but to also gain experience and build confidence in preparation for the upcoming postseason tournaments.
“The FCIAC’s the states and the open are all tournament format. Dual meets are great because you’re getting matches but tournaments are what you should be wrestling,” Ludlowe coach Nick Garoffolo said. “It gets harder each round (in these tournaments) and you have to be mentally conditioned for that.”
Warde captured the Warde Invitational with 189 points. Ludlowe placed eighth with 86 points, Fairfield Prep was 16th with 26 points and Notre Dame-Fairfield finished 20th with 10 points.
“This tournament … this is more like the state tournament,” Lancers coach Steve Fulco said. “This is a real eye-opener. This tournament will really help up catapult toward conference, states and opens.”
Individually, Warde’s Joe Gjinaj (197 pounds) and Izaake Zuckerman (160 pounds) won their respective weight classes. Alex Steele (132) was second, Cole Shaughnessy (122) was third, Noah Zuckerman (140) was second, Nat Couco (128) was sixth, Anthony Zarlenga (147) and Matt Sullivan (154) finished fifth, Dan Mundle (222) was sixth and Alex Nardone (285) was fourth.
Ludlowe’s Jacob Pressler (108) was fifth, Everett Nash (115) was third, Sebastian Bastos-Neto (154) was sixth, Thomas Murray (162) was fifth, Justin Hathaway (172) was fifth and Stan Godlewski (184) was fourth.
Fairfield Prep’s Dean Tsiranides was second at 147 pounds.
“A lot of guys are first year guys and they’re overmatched in these kinds of tournaments,” Prep coach Ned Dwelle said. “The more matches I can get them into, the more experience they’ll get, that’s all it is. They have to get out there and wrestle.”
Fairfield Prep, despite low numbers (there are just 14 wrestlers on the roster) and injuries, have been battling. Even though the Jesuits stand just 1-4 in SCC competition, overall Prep is 3-5.
“We’re hanging in there considering we have holes in the lineup,” Dwelle said. “I’m just looking to see how many matches we can win and take it from there. It’s going to take losses before they start getting the wins. As I said to them, you’ll remember the losses and that’s what you learn from.”
What wrestlers also learn from are attending and competing at off-season camps, something Dwelle can’t seem to get his athletes to do.
“I want them to go away to camp, but they don’t want to go,” he said. “You look at other schools like Warde and they do it all year round and that’s the difference.”
Something else that’s hindered the Jesuits this season has been injuries. Heavyweight Antonio Baranello is lost with a torn ACL. Both Nick Morris and Mike Rogan are out with shoulder injuries. Will Dougherty missed the Warde meet due to illness.
But there are positives, including sophomore Pat McAleavey winning his first match of the season last Saturday.
First and foremost, however, is getting the numbers up.
“It’s going to take the younger guys to talk to friends to coming out for the team,” Dwelle said. “It’s our job to get them to like it and see what kind of life skills you can get out of wrestling, how it’s just not a sport.”
Notre Dame-Fairfield coach Steve Fulco has been preaching that same message ever since the school started the wrestling program four years ago. But like Prep, the Lancers are also fighting a numbers game, as in lack thereof.
“It’s disappointing. I coached football the last two years, so that helped (in getting numbers),” Fulco said, who has just 12 wrestlers on his roster. “But I didn’t coach this year, so I kind of take some responsibility for that but the school needs to step up too, I’m not in the hallways every day, so I need help from the athletic department to get my guys.”
Still, ND has been competing, thanks to veterans like senior Tavon Simpson (160), senior Dan Geriak (197) and senior Jacob Castillo (120).
“The season has been going fairly well, with a small team, we have five or six freshmen and five seniors, so the seniors are really teaching the younger guys this year,” Fulco said. “They’ve been around the program for three or four years now and they know how we run the program.”
Last year, Geriak wrestled at heavyweight before losing 75 pounds. According to Fulco, he’s still getting used to the competition at the lighter weight class. Freshman Mike Agate (132) has placed in a couple of tournaments already this season and reached the quarterfinals at Warde. “He’s an experienced wrestler, he’s wrestled for the last couple of years (at SouthSide Wrestling) so he knows the way around the mat.”
Jacob Castillo is Fulco’s only four-year wrestler. “He’s had some disappointing seasons the past two years,” Fulco said. “He had some injuries and last year had some school issues, so this year, we’re really looking forward to him placing in states or possibly winning.”
With just five seniors on the roster, Ludlowe’s Garoffolo has been pleasantly surprised with the Falcons performance to date.
“It’s going pretty good, we’re .500 in duals, we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Garoffolo said. “I think we’re better off than we were at this point last year and we’ll continue to improve as the season goes on but I’m pretty happy with what the guys are doing.”
Adam Amaout (132), Sebastian Bastos-Neto (152), Eric Emmendorfer (145), Thomas Murray (160), Everett Nash (115) and Zach Taylor (138) have been the standouts for the Falcons so far.
“All those guys have been solid this season,” Garoffolo said. “Eric and Thomas are juniors, so I’m excited about those guys.”
And wrestling in these elite invitational tournaments?
“They help extremely well,” Garoffolo said. “The tournaments you’re in, the more experience you have wrestling, going through the rounds, wrestling back, to place, in invaluable.”
As usual, Warde is off to a solid start, winning all its dual meet matches - except for Danbury - and finishing 16th overall out of 75 teams at the Lowell (Mass.) Invitational on December 28-29.
“So far, we’ve had a lot of positives,” Mustangs coach Jason Shaughnessy said. “We did well at Guilford, winning that, Xavier, Ledyard, Newtown, so it’s been positive. We’ll see.”
As the season makes it way to the FCIAC, Class LL and State Open events, for the Mustangs, it’s about continuing to get experience.
“It’s really about getting quality, competitive matches to continue to grow and develop and improve toward the end of the season when it counts,” Shaughnessy said.
And the wrestlers that be likely be there “when it counts” for Warde include, Izaake Zuckerman at 160, Alex Steele at 132, Noah Zuckerman at 138, Cole Shaughnessy at 120 and Joe Gjinaj at 197.
“Those are our strongest athletes,” Shaughnessy said. “Our (10)6 pounder, Dylan Cruvinel is doing well to date, he’s a freshman and Nate Cuoco at 126, another freshman, is doing well.
“John Summers at 182 is the third freshman that starts for us., he’s struggling a little bit but he’s wrestling juniors and seniors. I anticipate he’s going to have a good career. Izaake has been dominant, he won Lowell and Joe is our returning LL champ. I’m expecting a lot from those two.”