WINSTED — Gilbert defended its Bekshire-Valley Postseason Invitational Championship with a 203-153.5 advantage over second-place Northwestern on a great day for area wrestling Saturday at The Gilbert School.
The unofficial league tournament combined 14 Berkshire League and NVL schools represented by some with one, two or three-athlete teams who personified the dedication filling Gilbert’s gym.
In a sport in which experience is a huge factor, schools with the best feeder programs and traditions reaped the biggest rewards, along with some of the disappointments.
“We’re wrestling okay right now, but not our best,” said Gilbert coach Darek Schibi before the championship round. “We’ve got eight kids in the finals; maybe one other should have been there.”
“We’re doing great,” said Northwestern coach Dan Langer, disappointed that a ploy to move premiere wrestler Josh Schwartz from the 160 division to 170 didn’t pan out in an effort to close on Gilbert.
“We don’t have the depth,” Langer said. “We have just four or five solid guys.”
Nevertheless, the Highlanders, with just three seniors on a young team, sent six wrestlers to the finals.
“One-man teams make a difference in a tournament like this,” said Dave Green, coach of third-place Nonnewaug, long the gold standard of Berkshire League and Class S wrestling. “This tournament is about wrestling and preparing for states.”
The Chiefs sent five wrestlers to the finals.
Six of Gilbert’s eight finalists turned into champions: Devin Matthews at 132; Nick Barber, 138; Kyle Matthews, 152; Evan Jackson, 160; Alex Smith, 170; Bajrum Gutic, 220.
“It was a good day,” said Coach Schibi. “It takes a while for us to come out of the gates sometimes, but it’s the culmination of all our hard work this year.”
Northwestern had four champions: Graham Sullivan, 106; Angelo Folino, 126; Jamikael Lytle, 195; and Nole Snieckus, 285.
“I’m happy,” said Coach Langer. “We gave (Gilbert) a run; it was not a blowout. And, we have a four-time champion (Folino) and a freshman champion (Lytle).”
Two of Nonnewaug’s five finalists won: Tom Verdiglione, 120; and Jack Cronin, 182.
“We learned a lot,” said Coach Green. “We know we have work to do this week if we’re going to arrive at the point (in states) we want to reach..”
Maybe the best news for area wrestling came from the smallest teams, in which Elias Sturdevant took a 113-pound championship home to Woodland and Xavier Powell ruled 145 for Watertown. Mark Zavatkay was third for Torrington at 132.
Individual lessons and inspiration packed the finals.
“It was an honor to go into the finals against one of our rivals,” said Gilbert’s Nick Barber, after winning a close decision against Northwestern’s Marco Folino.
Nobody topped Yellowjacket Evan Jackson for inspiration. The 160-pounder trailed Oxford’s Sam Martino’s points for two-and-a-half periods, then pinned him with just 33 seconds left in the match.
“I’m a senior and I’ve never won a championship before,” said Jackson. “(Martino) had me beat in strength, but I could tell he was getting tired. I had him beat in endurance. My mindset was, ‘I’m not coming off the mat without giving it 110 percent.’”
Jackson won the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler Award for his efforts.
Berkshire-Valley Postseason Invitational
At The Gilbert School
Team Scores: 1. Gilbert 203; 2. Northwestern 153.5; 3. Nonnewaug 128; 4. Terryville 70.5; 5. Oxford 65.5; 6. St. Paul Catholic 65; 7. Thomaston 53; 8. Derby 32; 9. Woodland 22; 10. Watertown 20; 11. Torrington 17; 12. Shepaug 15; 13. Seymour 13; 14. Naugatuck 11.
Finals: 106: Graham Sullivan (Northwestern) Maj. Dec. Daniel Kelly (St. Paul), 23-11. 113: Elias Sturdevant (Woodland) pinned Evan Kowalski (St. Paul), 3:03. 120: Tom Verdiglione (Nonnewaug) pinned Tom Chappa (Oxford), 4:43. 126: Angelo Folino (Northwestern) Tech Fall Colden Williamson (Nonnewaug). 18-3. 132: Devin Matthews (Gilbert) pinned Kelvin Cenkolli (Nonnewaug), 5:14. 138: Nick Barber (Gilbert) Dec. Marco Folino (Northwestern), 8-4. 145: Xavier Powell (Watertown) Dec. Caleb Leclerc (Terryville), 13-7. 152: Kyle Matthews (Gilbert) Maj. Dec. Erik Atkinson (St. Paul), 15-3. 160: Evan Jackson (Gilbert) pinned Sam Martino (Oxford), 5:27. 170: Alex Smith (Gilbert) Dec. Flori Cenkolli (Nonnewaug), 3-1. 182: Jack Cronin (Nonnewaug) pinned Jacob Twombly (Northwestern), 2:11. 195: Jamikael Lytle (Northwestern) pinned Kevin Sullivan (Gilbert), 1:22. 220: Bajrum Gutic (Gilbert) pinned Jason Madden (Oxford), 2:23. 285: Nole Snieckus (Northwestern) pinned Dylan Keith (Gilbert), 5:14.