DANBURY — The Danbury wrestling team won eight of 14 matches against Fairfield Warde on Wednesday night, leaving the Mustangs with a respectable six triumphs over the defending FCIAC, Class LL and State Open champions.
The score didn’t reflect the close gap, though.
The Hatters scored a host of pins early in the meet to claim a 45-24 victory over Warde in a battle between the top programs in the conference. Danbury’s lighter grapplers built an insurmountable advantage before Warde claimed several late victories by pin.
“We’re a little green with guys starting for the first time, and his upper (weight) guys are a little better than our upper guys,” Danbury coach Ricky Shook said. “My lower-weight guys carried us today. It was a good win.”
Mustangs junior Alec Nardone scored a pin to start the matchup before the Hatters cruised. Kai Odell (106), Liam Knight (113) and Tyler Johnson (120) scored first-round pins to get the Hatters rolling. Ryan Jack and Logan Kovacs won decisions at 126 and 138, and Ben LeBlanc earned a pin at 145.
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Noah Zuckerman (152), Matt Sullivan (160), Hunter Rasmussen (170) and Griffin Gallati (182) claimed wins in the middle of the lineup for Warde, which was coming off an impressive performance at the Guilford Invitational on Saturday.
“They’re a very good team and wrestle very well,” Warde coach Jason Shaughnessy said. “What Danbury brings is 14 solid kids across 14 weights. Where we struggled today was we didn’t bring 14 across 14 weights. They took advantage of our gaps; we won six out of 14 matches but when we lost we got pinned.”
The meet ended with a potential FCIAC, Class LL and State Open preview as Warde’s Joe Gjinaj held off Montez Obsey 1-0 after escaping in the second round. Gjinaj won the State Open in the class last year while Osbey finished second at 220 in Class LL.
“Joe didn’t wrestle a great match and (Osbey) wrestled him very tough,” Shaughnessy said. “He’ll be where he needs to be at the end of the year.”
With the 1-0 edge heading into the final round, Gjinaj stayed on top of Osbey for the majority of the final two minutes. The postseason preview was a warmup matchup for both.
“We’ll make a couple of little adjustments,” Shook said. “It’s one of three more times we’ll see him so it’ll be fun. He wanted to wrestle (Gjinaj) and see where he was. We’ve got some work to do but that’s a winnable one-point match.”
Gjinaj is coming off a strong football season for the Mustangs. Shaughnessy said it will take time for his standout to hit top gear.
“It was a good test and it identified what Joe needs to do to finish strong and meet his goals again,” Shaughnessy said.
The Hatters will travel to Delaware for the Beast of the East tournament, set to take place Saturday and Sunday. The premier competition will provide plenty of opposition for the Hatters’ top guns.
“All the matches we lost were winnable matches,” Shook said. “We won eight matches and they won six; we’re just a lot better at certain weights. I had it 37-24 with a toss so I was pretty close.”
DANBURY 45, WARDE 24
106: Kai Odell (D) pin Connor Breheny 1:20; 113: Liam Knight (D) pin Dylan Cruvinel 1:24; 120: Tyler Johnson (D) pin Keenan Yu 1:35; 126: Ryan Jack (D) dec. Will Ebert; 132: Kyle Fields (D) pin Jeremy Brault 1:36; 138: Logan Kovacs (D) dec. Jonathan Benoit; 145: Ben LeBlanc (D) pin Nour Youssef 1:06; 152: Noah Zuckerman (W) pin Jaylen Hawkins 0:55; 160: Matt Sullivan (W) dec. Tyrell Jones; 170: Hunter Rasmussen (W) dec. Jesse Patton; 182: Griffin Gallati (W) dec. Billy Rojas; 195: Joe Gjinaj (W) dec. Montez Osbey; 220: Alec Nardone pin DJ Donovan 1:17; 285: Jordan Agosto (D) forfeit.
Records: Warde 1-1, Danbury 2-0.