WINSTED – Gilbert beat Nonnewaug 42-27 at The Gilbert School Wednesday night in a much closer match than the final score in a battle between two of the top teams in the Berkshire/Valley (Berkshire League/NVL) informal wrestling league.
“I said all along this was the team to beat,” said Gilbert coach Darek Schibi. “They’re still a little young, but they’re a lot better than they were at the beginning of the year (when Northwestern, another top league team, beat the Chiefs).”
“Gilbert’s the best team,” said Nonnewaug coach Dave Green before the match. “They know what it is to work hard. We want the competition and they’re going to give it to us.”
Sheer numbers can win some dual matches, but only quality wrestlers score in state and league tournaments. Gilbert (15-2) is the defending Berkshire/Valley league champion, finishing second in last year’s Class S tournament. Five of its returning wrestlers placed sixth or better in Class S.
Nonnewaug (4-4) was 11th in Class S and returns three Class S place winners.
Nonnewaug has 17 varsity wrestlers, Gilbert, 18 – fewer than either coach would like.
A clash between the two schools’ youth programs (kindergarten through eighth grade), 25 strong for Nonnewaug and 30 for the Gilbert/Northwestern Hurricanes, before the main event, portends many more experienced wrestlers on their way.
But, for the two varsity programs, Wednesday was all about getting ready for states.
“When most of the matches are competitive, you have what you need,” said Green. “To have that opportunity this early in the season is great. It answers the question, ‘How do we improve to the end of the year?’”
After a double forfeit at 106 pounds, Nonnewaug took an early 15-0 lead with a forfeit, a pin by Tom Verdiglione (Class S fifth in 113 as a freshman) and a decision by Colden Williamson.
Then Gilbert – and invaluable experience – took over. Devin Matthews (Class S runner-up at 120) scored a pin at 132; Gilbert senior Nick Barber won a decision.
Nonnewaug senior Ben Niez-Charest interrupted with a surprise pin on last year’s fourth-place 138-pound Zach McLellan but the Yellowjackets pulled even, 21-21, on a pair of forfeits before the premier match of the night.
Gilbert’s Alex Smith and Nonnewaug’s Flori Cenkolli were second and third in Class S 170 last year. Here they were again.
“That’s probably a preview of the state championship match,” said Coach Schibi after Smith crafted a careful 5-4 decision.
“Me and (Cenkolli) have been going at it for a while,” said Smith. “In three matches, there’s never been more than a one-point difference. We’re improving together. I hope we can make an appearance at the State Open and even New England’s together.”
Nonnewaug’s Jack Cronin (Class S third, 160, as a sophomore) carried the Chiefs to one more lead, 27-24, with a pin, but pins by Gilbert’s Kevin Sullivan (Class S sixth, 182) and Bajram Gutic and a Nonnewaug forfeit pulled Gilbert into the final score.
Gilbert 42, Nonnewaug 27
At The Gilbert School
113: Kevin DeCesare (N) by forfeit. 120: Tom Verdiglione (N) pinned Ageel Hadash (G), 1:38. 126: Colden Williamson (N) dec. Neicko Clapper (G), 12-5. 132: Devin Matthews (G) pinned Kelvin Cenkolli (N), 2:36. 138: Nick Barber (G) dec. Justin Noel (N), 15-9. 145: Zach McLellan (G) pinned Ben Niez-Charest, 3:59. 152: Kyle Matthews (G) by forfeit. 160: Evan Jackson (G) by forfeit. 170: Alex Smith (G) dec. Flori Cenkolli (N), 5-4. 182: Jack Cronin (N) pinned Eli Pasternack (G), :55. 195: Kevin Sullivan (G) pinned Chris Velleca (N), 1:58. 220: Barjram Gutic (G) pinned Jordon Carney (N), :59. 285: Dylan Keith (G) by forfeit.
Attached Wrestlers: 113: Kevin Decesare (N) pinned Alexis Zavatkay (Torrington), 3:14. 120: Lane Faison (Shepaug) pinned Ageel Hadash (G), 2:48. 126: Colden Williamson (N) pinned James Covill (T), 2:55. Mark Zavatkay (T) tech. fall Angelo Russo (N), 16-1.
Records: Nonnewaug 4-4; Gilbert 15-2.