BRANFORD — Because of an injury and illness, Guilford was forced to send a very young team to the mat Thursday night.
After wrestling 11 freshmen or sophomores in 14 matches at the Whippet Duals in Windham over the weekend, the youthful Indians needed a quick pinfall in the final individual bout of the night to hold off a furious Branford comeback and record a 42-34 victory Thursday night in a Southern Connecticut Conference interdivision wrestling match.
“I’m happy with the way we’re wrestling,” said Guilford coach Craig Vedrani, whose team is 8-3. “It’s a very young team, but we’re waiting for a couple guys to come back.”
It took 106-pound freshman Drew Koval just 16 seconds to make quick work of fellow freshman Aidan Shamas in the final bout of the night to give Guilford the win.
“They are perennially a good SCC school,” Branford coach Jesse Hurlburt said.
After splitting the first two individual bouts of the night, Guilford took control of the match and never relinquished the lead. The Indians won four straight matches, all by pinfall, before Branford was able to stop the bleeding.
After Guilford’s Edward Barlage got things going with a pin at 113 pounds, Jace Korab came up with a pin at 120 pounds for the Hornets.
Guilford, which is very strong from 126 to 145 pounds, used pins from Anthony Bombgardner, Keldon LaRose (2nd in Class M last year), George Sanderlin and Vincent Mascola to take a 30-6 edge.
Branford’s A.J. Robinson ended the stretch with a 13-5 major decision at 152 pounds, but then Guilford took a 36-13 edge when Aiden Ghiroli won by pin at 160 pounds to give the Indians their largest lead of the night, 36-10.
It was at that point that Branford got back into the match in a hurry with its strength coming in the upper weight classes. The Hornets also changed their original lineup by bumping wrestlers around and it worked perfectly.
“A lot of our lower weights are freshmen and sophomores, so we’re stronger up top,” Hurlburt said. “We had to bump to keep us in the match and it worked. We knew before the match we would do some bumping. I would have liked to do more, but with some kids out, our options were limited.”
Nate Mathis took a 6-4 win at 170 pounds and then Branford collected two consecutive big wins. Spencer Lyon was a forfeit benefactor of Guilford missing its 182-pounder sophomore Ryan Serpis due to illness. Justin Osler followed that up with a pin at 195 pounds.
Colin McHenry came back from being down, 5-1, in the first period of the best match of the night at 220 pounds to pull out a 10-7 victory, it closed Branford to within just 8 points, 36-28. The Hornets knew they had to win both matches remaining to take the match. Minsok Lee pinned Vincent Massotti at 285 pounds to make it 36-34 before Koval ended the match in a flurry.
“I knew we were a little stronger in the lighter weights,” Vedrani said. “I was confident we’d win it at 106 pounds.”
Branford fell to 6-5 with the loss.
“We’ve wrestled well all year,” Hurlburt said. “Three quarters of our team is either a freshman or sophomore, so we’re happy with the way we’ve wrestled so far.”