To even the most competitive wrestling teams, perennial power Fairfield Warde poses a serious challenge. The Mustangs have won back-to-back Class L state titles and they snapped Danbury's unprecedented string of 23 straight FCIAC championships last season.

For Norwalk, which is hampered with injuries and the loss of several contributing seniors from a year ago, the Mustangs also serve as a model for learning.

"It's always my belief that you can improve from wrestling better wrestlers and certainly better teams," Norwalk head coach Job Fernandez said. "You can observe what they do on and off the mat and how they prepare for a match, and how they execute during. It's unfortunate that we're on the receiving end of it, but I think it's good for inexperienced wrestlers to see what an experienced team looks like."

Facing the Bears on Monday, Warde delivered a commanding lesson as it won 12 individual matches, including six by forfeit, in a 72-7 victory.

Brandon Riggins, who's undefeated in his first season for Norwalk after transferring from Oklahoma, earned an 18-5 decision over Warde's James Heinzman in the 189-pound match to open the competition. And Kadeem Brown, wrestling in the 215-pound match, built on the Bears' strong start as he outlasted Joey Marx in a back-and-forth duel, 10-5.

"Those were winnable matches, but it's wrestling. Every time you get on the mat it's experience and hopefully the kids learn from it and get better," Warde head coach Jason Shaughnessy said.

With Norwalk leading 7-0, Mike Money, wrestling in the 285-pound match, pinned the Bears' Zack Stack in just 58 seconds to jump-start the Mustangs in the one-sided affair. The Mustangs' Chris Pecora, of the 103-pound class, Dylan Bender (112-pound) and Danny Almeida (119-pound) were all then credited with forfeit wins, as the two-time defending state champions were victorious in the final 12 weight classes.

"Job's a good coach and I believe that in time, he's going to pull together a good program," Shaughnessy said. "He tells the kids the right things to do and you can only do the best with the manpower you have."

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After Warde's Pharoah Eaton gave his team a 30-7 lead by pinning Evan Reisch (125-pound match) in 3:51, Evan Fraser, an all-FCIAC second-team selection last year, earned a forfeit victory in the 130-pound match. The Mustangs' James Neamunitis, wrestling in the 135-pound match, then followed with a pin of Carlos Teyserrie in 1:19.