Warde wrestlers take 3rd at Open
The first night of the 2019 State Open didn’t go as planned for the Fairfield Warde wrestling team. Four of the Mustangs’ five wrestlers lost their quarterfinal matches last Friday, which moved them into the consolation bracket.
Rather than drop their heads, the Warde wrestlers rose to the occasion to turn last Saturday at New Haven’s Floyd Little Athletic Center into a day that coach Jason Shaughnessy summed up as, “amazing.”
The Mustangs went 17-2 on the second day, highlighted by Joe Gjinaj’s win at 195 pounds. As a team, Warde finished third behind Danbury and Xavier, ending with 103 points — its highest total at the Open.
“It was a great weekend for the whole team,” said Gjinaj, who also won an Open title last year. “I honestly don’t think anyone thought we’d place third. I was thinking more like seventh place. Our whole team showed up. With five kids it’s pretty hard to place top three in the State Opens.”
All five Mustangs placed in the top six of their respective weight classes. Will Ebert (126), Cole Shaughnessy (145) and Noah Zuckerman (152) each finished third to qualify for this weekend’s New England tournament in Providence, R.I. Hunter Rasmussen placed sixth in 170 pounds, losing a 4-3 decision to Foran’s Umer Khan and narrowly missed out on a New England spot.
“You shoot for the stars and if you miss, you land on a cloud,” said Zuckerman, who’d finished first at both FCIACs and Class LL. “My goal was to win the Open, but I’m definitely proud of my performance to wrestle back and take third. As my coaches told me, it takes a lot of guts and determination to wrestle back from a tough loss. That says a lot. Cole did the same thing. Having us finish top three in two back-to-back weight classes is special.”
Cole Shaughnessy continued his impressive postseason at the Open, defeating Ben LeBlanc of Danbury 10-7 in the third-place match. He also beat Southington’s Jacob Cardozo along the way to avenge his loss in the Class LL final the previous weekend.
“It’s pretty satisfying,” the junior said. “I didn’t know what was going to happen, but if I wrestled my best I knew I could do really well.”
Ebert’s strong Saturday, culminated with a 1-0 decision over Simbury’s Jon Mairano for third place in 126 pounds. It helped him set a new freshman single-season mark for Warde with 43 wins, besting the previous school-record of 40.
“I’m just hoping to place,” Ebert said of the New England tournament, a theme echoed by his teammates.
Gjinaj placed fifth at New Englands last season and has been determined to improve on that in his final attempt.
Either way, the performance by the Mustangs at the Open is not one Jason Shaughnessy will soon forget.
“It’s hard to lose and wrestle back,” he said. “It shows a lot of character for these guys to wrestle back.”