Wrestling is a mixed blessing for the small-to-medium-sized schools in Litchfield County.
Like football, it’s dependent on a large turnout, but, in wrestling, the turnout must fit into 14 weight categories.
Nevertheless, the individual dedication required produces athletes who compete on state-wide levels.
This year, for instance, Northwestern Coach Andrew Schwartz expects to have four wrestlers at the State Open, with any of them likely to land in the final four.
The story of Litchfield County wrestling matches the problems and opportunities.
Dedicated coaches and athletes have produced quality teams, then struggled to stay alive as a program for lack of numbers.
Housatonic and Wolcott Tech dropped their programs this year for that reason.
Thomaston, once a strong program, is back as a co-op with Litchfield and Holy Cross to try again.
Nonnewaug and Terryville, the strongest in the five-team remaining group, with a long history of quality and numbers, thrive in the Class S Tournament (fifth and sixth last year).
Gilbert and Northwestern have had great years and individual performances. Now, they’re growing, thanks to a Winsted youth wrestling program bringing five experienced freshmen to Gilbert and four to Northwestern this year.
Both programs expect to challenge two-time defending champion Terryville at the post-season Berkshire-Valley Invitational, combining the Berkshire League’s five wrestling teams with four more in similar situations in the NVL – Derby, Oxford, St. Paul and Seymour.
Coach Schwartz’s assessment of the Highlander chances perfectly represents the grit of the sport in Litchfield County: “We came in third (in the Berkshire-Valley meet) last year with a six-man team. We plan to do better (with a 10-man team) this year.”