Brunswick School has already won two wrestling tournaments it has competed in this season and Saturday it hopes to achieve a trifecta before its home crowd.
The Bruins were an especially determined team during their practice session on Thursday, as they prepared to test their skills in their own tournament on Saturday.
The 45th annual Brunswick Invitational Tournament begins Saturday at 9 a.m., with the championship matches commencing approximately 4 p.m. Thirteen teams will take part in the Brunswick Invitational, which will include Greenwich High School for the second straight season.
Brunswick won the tournament last year, after placing second in the event in 2018. The Bruins totaled 209 team points, followed by Northfield Mount Hermon, Ridgefield and Trinity-Pawling School. Greenwich placed fifth in the team standings at last winter’s tourney.
The Bruins enter Saturday’s tourney with a record of 10-1 and victories at The Rumble of the Hill Tournament at Hopkins School and the Battle of the Bay Tournament, which took place at Tabor Academy. They have won their own tournament 20 times.
“Our kids are doing a good job,” Brunswick assistant coach Bob Benjamin said. “We have strong returning kids and some kids who are stepping up.”
Senior tri-captain Luca Errico has produced a sensational season in his 145-pound division. Errico has earned Most Outstanding Wrestler honors in each tournament he’s competed in so far this season and is undefeated. Junior Chris Perry, who wrestles at 138 pounds, also won his bracket the Battle of the Bay and Rumble on the Hill tournaments.
“Luca and Chris have shown their consistency and have been able to dominate most of their opponents,” Benjamin said. “Also, our senior captains have all stepped up and done a good job.”
Perry won the 132-pound title at the 2019 Brunswick Invitational and Errico place first in the 138-pound class last year.
Kyle Pagnani (106-pound division) finished second in the 101-pound class in last winter’s tournament, while Nick Bell was the victor of the 145-pound class for the Bruins. Bell, a junior, is wrestling at 160 pounds this season.
“Nick is having a good season, he’s in a very tough weight class,” Benjamin said. “He has faced some outstanding wrestlers.”
Nadji Ngbokoli, a senior tri-captain, placed second at the Battle of the Bay tournament for Bruins in the 170-pound bracket and has won the majority of his matches thus far, as has senior tri-captain Clayton Ostrover (195).
“All three captains are having good seasons,” Benjamin said. “They have demonstrated good leadership and are setting a good example for our younger wrestlers.”
Junior George Hill (220) and sophomore Cliff Belknap (heavyweight) have been stellar on the mat as well, along with William MacGillivray (126, advanced to semifinals of 106-pound bracket of last year’s Brunswick Invitational).
“Greenwich High School will be here, along with Northfield Mount Hermon, so I think there will be some really good competition, among those schools,” Benjamin said. “It’s always fun to compete against wrestlers, we don’t normally see.”
Episcopal Academy, Hopkins School, Hotchkiss School, Hamden Hall and Marvelwood are some of the other schools slated to compete in Saturday’s tournament.
“It’s a fun tournament,” Greenwich coach Jere Petersen said. “It’s all prep schools, so it includes a lot of teams we don’t see. It’s an interesting tournament, because there are an interesting range of abilities.”
Greenwich has participated in a tournament nearly every Saturday so far this season, besides competing in their dual meets against FCIAC opponents. Their latest tournament was the Greater Hartford Open.
“We will be competitive in a lot of weight classes on Saturday,” Petersen said. “We are going to have 26, 27 guys in the tournament, so some of our kids are going to experience first-time varsity exposure, which will be good for them.”
Junior Carlos DeWinter won the 113-pound title at last year’s Brunswick Invitational. He is wrestling in the 120-pound division this year. DeWinter goes into the Brunswick tourney with a record of 16-2 in the 120-pound class.
“When I won the tournament last year, it was the first tournament I ever won in high school,” DeWinter said. “That was at 113, I have moved up to 120, so I should get a good seed in the tournament.”
DeWinter is looking forward to the challenge of possibly facing Brunswick wrestlers and opponents he hasn’t met.
“It’s always fun to see those Brunswick guys and the rest of the prep schools. It’s a different feel, since we don’t wrestle against them often.”
Indeed, DeWinter has adjusted well to his new weight class.
“Everything is a challenge for me this season, because I moved up a weight class,” said DeWinter, one of the Cardinals’ captains. “Since I moved up, there are different styles of wrestling.”
Senior captain Emanuel Lai (132) has posted a record of 14-4. He won his weight class title at the Guilford Tournament.
“I’ve had a couple of tough matches so far this year, it’s been a test of character,” Lai said. “Since last year, I feel that I have really improved. Dropping a weight class, while maintaining my strength has been key. This weight is the best option for me right now. I am excited to see what Brunswick has at this weight.”
Sophomore Garrett O’Dell (126) is 13-5, while sophomore Javier Serra (113) and sophomore Louis Ceci (152) have won most of their matches for the Cardinals. Serra placed third in the 101-pound bracket at the 2019 Brunswick Invitational and senior Glen Rivas (285) was third.
“For our guys, especially our new guys, I want to see them put out a good effort and if they make mistakes, make them going 100 percent,” Petersen said. “Nothing good comes out of half-speed mistakes.”
Said Benjamin: “In order for us to win the tournament, we have to pin and not get pinned. We have to earn bonus points when we get the opportunity. In the tournaments we’ve won this year, we’ve won them because of our pinning.”