Mustangs win Warde Invitational
For Noah Zuckerman wrestling is always an emotional endeavor. That was certainly the case when the Fairfield Warde senior edged Westhill’s Thomas Mazur in the closing seconds of their 152-pound match in the finals of the 2019 Warde Invitational on January 5.
Zuckerman lifted his arms and saluted the crowd as he walked off the mat. The victory helped push aside three previous years of frustration.
“It felt incredible,” said Zuckerman, who’d lost in the finals of the previous two Invitationals. “There’s not a feeling like it out there.”
Although this year’s Invitational represented the final chance for Zuckerman to win at the event, he wasn’t worried about finishing his high school career without success at the Mustangs’ own home tournament.
“In the mind of a champion you can’t think of what if I lose,” he said. “You have to believe in your mind you’re going to win and that’s the only way you can become a champion. You have to believe in yourself.”
Zuckerman was among five Warde wrestlers to win their weight class at the Invitational. As a team the Mustangs won the 19-team event with 230 points. Montville placed second with 156 while Staples finished third with 151. Fairfield Ludlowe finished seventh with 99 points. Fairfield Prep and Notre Dame-Fairfield were 13th and 18th respectively.
“This is a big deal for us,” Zuckerman said. “This is where we show our dominance. We’re one of the top programs in the state year in, year out. We really showed it at this tournament and this is just the start.”
Warde freshman Will Ebert defeated Northwestern’s Angelo Folino in the 126-pound finals, making him the first Mustang to win at the Invitational and earn a red commemorative t-shirt with his weight class printed across the back.
“It’s very important to win in front of the home crowd and put on a show for whomever showed up,” Ebert said.
Cole Shaughnessy gave Warde its second winner when the junior bested Masuk’s Curtis Fedorko in 145 pounds.
“There are good teams here,” the junior said. “For me it’s my first year winning and it’s really nice.”
In 170-pounds, Hunter Rasmussen — the No. 3 seed — beat Staples’ Jacob Qui. The victory proved especially sweet for the Warde junior who watched from the sidelines last year after breaking his arm in his first varsity match as a sophomore against McMahon.
Senior Joe Gjinaj pinned Daniel Hand’s Alec Dube in 3:16 to give Warde it’s fifth winner. Gjinaj said he was happy the tournament brought back shirts for the winners.
“I told (Coach Jason) Shaughnessy this year we have to give out the shirts,” Gjinaj said. “It’s really motivating.”
In the 160-pound final, Fairfield Prep’s Dean Tsiranides defeated Fairfield Ludlowe’s Justin Hathaway.
Placing first at the Invitational kept the Mustangs pointed in the right direction, with an eye on postseason tournaments in the future.
“To have five champions is very rewarding,” coach Jason Shaughnessy said.