ND’s Auba, Warde’s Gjinaj win state titles
Fairfield Warde wrestler Tim Kane won his third straight State Open championship in the 138-pound division on February 25 at the Floyd Little Athletic Center in New Haven. Kane held off Danbury’s A.J. Kovacs by a close 6-5 decision to win. Overall, the Mustangs placed third as a team, scoring 86.5 points, finishing behind champion Danbury (212.5) and Newtown (90). The third-place finish ties Warde’s all-time best State Open placement, the other coming in 2014.
Kane defeated Newtown’s Owen Walsh by technical fall (19-3) in his opening match, then powered past New Milford’s Charles Schultz by a major decision (19-7) before pinning Suffield’s Hunter Adams in 2:10 in the semifinals. Kane then took on Kovacs - who Kane defeated in the Class LL finals, 1-0 - and once again, held on to post a one-point decision.
“This is the third time I’ve won it, I’m very excited because not many people get to do that,” Kane said after the final match. “A.J. Kovacs is a fantastic competitor. I hope to see him again next week (at the New England tournament).”
Notre Dame-Fairfield finished 48th in the field with 12 points while Fairfield Prep finished 56th with eight points. Ludlowe was 67th with four points.
Warde’s Alex Steele finished sixth at 132 pounds, falling to Maloney’s Demerte Carnot in the fifth-place match. Warde’s Matheus Ribeiro finished fifth at 170 pounds, pinning Lyman Memorial’s Mason Laflam in 1:54.
In other State Open results: at 113 pounds, Warde’s Cole Shaughnessy went 2-2, at 120 pounds, Warde’s Noah Zuckerman went 3-2, at 126 pounds, Fairfield Prep’s Kevin Zentner went 2-2, at 132 pounds, Warde’s Steele (battling a shoulder injury) went 3-3 to take sixth place at 138 pounds, Notre Dame-Fairfield’s Tavon Simpson went 0-2 at 152 pounds, ND-Fairfield’s Jakari Walker went 1-2 at 160 pounds, Ludlowe’s Tad Godlewski went 1-2 at 170 pounds, Warde’s Matheus Ribeiro went 6-2, winning four matches in the wrestle-backs before finally falling in the fifth-place match. He pinned all six of his opponents. Also at 170, Fairfield Prep’s Evan Titus went 1-2. At 182 pounds, Warde’s Joe Gjinaj went 2-2 at 195 pounds, Warde, Matt Cuoco went 2-2 at 220 pounds, Notre Dame-Fairfield Clyde Auba went 1-2 and at 285 pounds, ND-Fairfield’s Dan Geriak went 1-2.
Earlier, In the Class S championship at Windham High School on February 18, despite having just five wrestlers compete, Notre Dame-Fairfield placed 10th in the team standings with 82 points, with individuals placing first, second, fifth and sixth overall.
"My brother and assistant coach, Brandon (Fulco) runs our practices and his attitude and determination really rubs off on our guys,” head coach Steve Fulco said. “If you ask Brandon what he thinks about a wrestler in the beginning of the season he will tell you that kid is going to be a state champ. He makes the kids believe they are something special and they buy into it.”
Clyde Auba certainly did. He captured the 220-pound title.
“Clyde set a goal at the end of last year’s wrestling season to be the best he could possibly be. He did everything we asked of him,” Fulco said. “Clyde has freakish strength and the best gas tank we have ever seen. He was determined to win Class S and I think he is even more determined to win State Open. He saw what Hakim (Fleming) did last year and is just following the blueprint we give to all of our wrestlers.”
Auba went 3-0 on the day, defeating Ledyard’s Dan Contino 2-0 in the 220-pound finals.
“Contino from Ledyard is a real tough kid. He was ranked number one in the state at 220 but that didn’t shake Clyde,” Fulco said. “He went out there and wrestled his match and used his speed and strength to take Contino down in overtime.”
In the 138-pound class, Tavon Simpson lost by major decision (9-1) to Haddam-Killingworth’s Jake Frith in the championship match, earning a second-place finish, winning three of four matches on the day. In the 152-pound class, Jakari Walker (2-2) placed sixth after falling to Oxford’s Daniel Herold in the fifth-place bout by a 7-3 decision. And in the 285-pound class, Dan Geriak (2-1) defeated Ledyard’s Richard Mullaney by a 3-1 decision to take fifth place.
Simpson is another kid that’s been buying into the Lancers program.
“We recruited him from football last fall and he hasn't stopped wrestling since,” Fulco said. “His lengthy 6-foot-3 frame and long arms are such an advantage at 138 pounds. He is one of the hardest workers we have. He won two matches in the state tournament last year and it really propelled him to do better going into this year.
“He entered Class S as the number 10 and he pinned the top seed (Ledyard’s Theran Vanase) in the quarterfinals with a wild leg cradle and whole place went nuts,” Fulco said. “It was awesome. He dominated (Rockville’s Jonathan Alvarez) in the semifinals (winning 6-0) but ran into a road block in the finals. He didn't trust his offense which hurt him. He is a great kid and he is really peaking at the right time.”
In the Class L championships at Bristol Central High School. Fairfield Ludlowe placed 18th in the team standings with 59 points, with individuals placing fourth and fifth. In the 160-pound class Tad Godlewski (4-2) placed fifth, defeating Hand’s Adam Hendrick by a 6-5 decision while in the 182-pound class, Dominic Mastro (3-2) finished fourth after losing to Hall’s Hugh Wells by pin in 1:27 in the third-place match.
In the Class LL championships at Trumbull High School, Warde finished sixth in the team standings with 166 points with Fairfield Prep taking 14th place with 53 points. The Mustangs placed seven wrestlers in the top six, including two individual championships, while the Jesuits had a second and a fifth-place finisher.
In the 120-pound class, Warde’s Noah Zuckerman (3-2) finished fourth, losing by pin in 2:35 to Xavier’s James Hunt in the third-place match while in the 126-pound class, Prep’s Kevin Zentner (3-2) finished fifth, defeating Xavier’s Matthew Leroux by a 4-0 decision. In the 132-pound class, Warde’s Alex Steele (3-1) lost a 5-1 decision to Xavier’s Patrick Moynihan. In the 138-pound class, Warde’s Tim Kane (4-0) won his third straight Class LL crown, defeating Danbury’s AJ Kovacs in a tight 1-0 decision.
In the 170-pound class, Prep’s Evan Titus (3-1) finished second, losing to Newtown’s Joe Accousti by a technical fall (16-0, 5:42) with Warde’s Matheus Ribeiro (3-2) placing fourth in the 170-pound class, losing to Staples’ Kirean Clarke by a 3-1 decision.
In the 182-pound class, Warde’s Joe Gjinaj (4-0) won the championship, defeating East Hartford’s Francisco Jiminian by a 14-6 decision and in the 195-pound class, Warde’s Matt Cuoco (3-1) took second place after losing to Shelton’s Ray Weiner in the championship match by a 7-3 decision.