Their dominance stretches farther than the borders that make up this state.
The Danbury wrestling team rolled to a second New England championship in three years with an impressive performance at Providence Career & Technical Academy over the weekend. The Hatters placed four in the top six — the only school to do so — to earn the title with 88.5 points, 17 ahead of second-placed Bishop Hendricken of Rhode Island. Coventry (R.I.) was third, Salem (N.H.) was fourth and Springfield Central (Mass.) finished fifth.
“That I didn’t expect,” said Hatters coach Ricky Shook by phone Saturday night. “I knew we would be in hunt, that’s what I thought. But we wrestled really well, we had four placers and didn’t expect that either. Once we were in the lead my guys started wrestling really well. Even our guys who didn’t place won matches and wrestled well.”
It was the fitting end to a near-perfect season for the Hatters, who dropped one dual meet before sweeping the FCIAC, Class LL and State Open titles. Ryan Jack won the lone title for Danbury — which won its third New England title in program history — at 126.
“We hadn’t seen the top two finishers from Rhode Island and we only saw the Mass. Champs at Eastern States,” said Shook. “I was worried about them; I knew Bishop Hendricken had guys run through the tournaments. But we just got on a roll about three weeks ago. … It was crazy stuff, it was a great effort by the whole team. They just surprised me all year with how far they came.”
Kyle Fields finished second at 132 by falling to Timberlane’s (N.H.) Connor McGonagle — who is ranked fifth in the country — by a 1-0 decision. Fields pinned each opponent en route to the high-profile matchup.
“Neither one wanted to make a mistake and Kyle turned it on the last 20 seconds,” Shook said. “He almost took (McGonagle down) and almost won the match, it was crazy. He wrestled well the whole tournament and pinned his way to the final.”
The Hatters qualified seven for the tournament including Kai O’Dell (106) and Tyler Johnson, who finished finished fifth and sixth respectively. Jack scored another win over Northwestern’s Angelo Folino (pin) to win his second straight New England championship.
Danbury wasn’t the lone Nutmeg State team to enjoy success in Providence, as 11 wrestlers from the state reached the finals, which featured two State Open rematches. Joel Barlow’s Caron LiCastri completed a perfect 52-0 season with a championship at 182.
Suffield/Windsor Locks’ Hunter Adams completed a 48-1 season by earning a 3-2 decision over Noah Strout of Oyster River (N.H.).
New Canaan (seventh) placed its dynamic duo of Tyler Sung and Justin Mastroianni in the finals; Sung won the 145 title while Mastroianni was second at 138. Sung scored a 3-2 win over Coventry’s (R.I.) Sean Caltagirone while Mastroianni fell to Ellis Tech’s Sean Johnson by a 7-4 decision.
Fairfield Warde’s Joe Gjinaj reached the 195 finals where he fell to Salem’s (N.H.) Beau Dillon by a 9-1 decision. The Mustangs were the next highest-scoring team from Connecticut, placing sixth with 53.5 points as Will Ebert finished third and Cole Shaughnessy took sixth.
Shelton’s Ray Weiner lost 5-4 in the 220 finals in overtime against Shawsheen’s (Mass.) Omar Eldaly. Elijah Cyr of Middletown also made it to the finals at 113 before dropping a 5-2 decision to Hunter Adrian of Melrose (Mass.)
Others finished their New England season with runs through the consolation round. Michael Angers of Tolland finished third at 160 as did Jacob Commander (New London) at 182, Xavier’s Michael Rapuano at 106, Hall’s Drew Courier and Trinidad Gonzalez (Bristol Eastern) at 220. Westhill’s Tommy Mazur finished fourth at 152.
“Connecticut over the past five or six years has dominated New Englands,” Shook said. “I think we did pretty well again; Connecticut is the hardest state to come out of.”