NEW CANAAN — It took the New Canaan and Norwalk wrestling teams approximately 50 minutes to battle through 14 weight classes on Wednesday night at NCHS.
After the last bout ended, it took an extra five minutes to determine a winner.
When the calculations were finally complete, the New Canaan Rams had edged the Bears, 40-39 on criteria, with the seventh tiebreaker ending the drama. New Canaan won by scoring the first point in seven of the 10 matches which weren’t decided by forfeit.
“Sometimes it’s most matches if it’s really competitive,” New Canaan head coach Paul Gallo said. “Or the other team pins more, but that goes early (in the tiebreaking rules). This time it was most first points and we were able to get the win.”
“When they’re giving up a few weight classes and they still come away with the W, it’s a painful one,” Norwalk head coach Job Fernandez said. “I feel that there are a few lessons to be learned for our guys, putting themselves in compromising situations that they weren’t able to get out of.”
The match was as even as it could get beyond the final score. Each team won seven bouts — New Canaan (2-1) had six pins and one decision, and Norwalk (3-3) had two pins, one decision and four forfeits.
The first tiebreaker was unsportsmanlike conduct penalties — there were none — and then moved to combined pins and forfeits, with each team having six. Given that all the results were even — each team had one decision — the tiebreakers went quickly with first points being the deciding factor.
New Canaan, which gave up 24 points on four forfeits, still came through with the victory thanks to its strength in the middle weights, and key pins from sophomore Matt Benevento (170 pounds), senior Sergiy Babenkov (195) and Ben Clay (285) in the upper weights.
One of the bigger results for the Rams, however, may have come in a loss at 106 pounds, where Norwalk freshman Jack Cahill defeated New Canaan sophomore Jack Goetz, 7-0. Goetz was nearly pinned, but managed to stay off his back and lost by decision, giving the Bears three points instead of six.
“Sergiy and Matt came through with pins, and the big match was Goetz not getting turned to his back,” Gallo said. “He was almost over, and his loss was really a win for us because if he gives up one more point, we lose.”
Norwalk won four of the first five bouts to gain a 27-3 lead.
Senior Michael Campos (113) and freshman Michael Roselle (120) won by forfeit, and senior Sam White (126) pinned New Canaan sophomore Joey Bucci in 43 seconds to make it 21-0.
“My 106 pounder had a tough time getting down to weight, but he made the weight and he got a W on top of that,” Fernandez said. “So that was big for us. And clearly, Sam White is very dominant. Those two embodied the way I want this program to compete.”
After Ram sophomore Dylan Kortman (132) defeated senior Chase Larkin 9-2, Norwalk senior Cesar Rivera (138) answered by pinning junior Dean Hannah in 48 seconds to give the Bears a 24-point advantage.
New Canaan came roaring back with four straight pinfalls, starting with the imposing trio of junior Tyler Sung and senior brothers nate and Christian Sibbett.
Sung (145) pinned senior Lensendro Laguerre in 59 seconds; Nate Sibbett (152) pinned junior Connor Gilchrist in 1:05; and senior Christian Sibbett (160) pinned senior Mykol Reyes in 1:24.
“It’s three wins almost every time,” Gallo said of Sung and the Sibbetts. “When you look at those three guys and they’re pinning every time, it makes it a lot easier. We’ll get Justin (Mastroianni) back (at 138) next week and he’ll give us that fourth guy who’s going to pin, so it’ll be a 12-point swing for us. That’s going to make a big difference.”
The 170-pound match was a thriller, as Benevento led 2-1 after one period, and added an escape and a takedown before winning via pinfall in 2:30.
“Benevento is strong, he’s athletic and he wrestles hard,” Gallo said. “If you do those three things, you’re going to win a lot of matches. He was doing a nice job against him, he just needed to do a little more and then he caught him and pinned him.”
The last four weight classes were a split, with Norwalk winning by forfeit at 182 and 220 pounds, and New Canaan countering with pinfalls.
Babenkov (195) defeated David Lamb in 4:44, and Clay (285) defeated Tom Jakaj in 2:32.
That tied the match with the Rams winning by tiebreaker.
For Norwalk, it was a frustrating loss, coming up one point short against a New Canaan team which finished third in the FCIAC last season.
“It was a mixed bag,” Fernandez said. “I knew coming in that it would be a toss-up even though they were giving up a few weight classes, but it feels like it was an opportunity that slipped away for us. Sometimes you need matches like this so that when the opportunity presents itself once again, you can seize that opportunity and get the W.”
“My team is geared for the tournaments. I knew I was going to be short people and we’re a much better tournament team. This weekend, I’ll have seven guys going to Eastern (States) and the other ones are going to the Greater Hartford Tournament. I’ll do well in tournaments and we’ll be better the harder the tournament gets. I should have two guys winning State Open and two more who should place.” — New Canaan head coach Paul Gallo
NEW CANAAN 40, NORWALK 39
106: Jack Cahill (N) dec. Jack Goetz, 7-0; 113: Michael Campos (N) won by forfeit; 120: Michael Roselle (N) won by forfeit; 126: Sam White (N) pinned Joey Bucci, 0:43; 132: Dylan Kortman (NC) dec. Chase Larkin, 9-2; 138: Cesar Rivera (N) pinned Dean Hannah, 0:48; 145: Tyler Sung (NC) pinned Lensendro Laguerre, 0:59; 152: Nate Sibbett (NC) pinned Connor Gilchrist, 1:05; 160: Christian Sibbett (NC) pinned Mykol Reyes, 1:24; 170: Matt Benevento (NC) pinned Christopher Murralles, 2:30; 182: Joey Lusardo (N) won by forfeit; 195: Sergiy Babenkov (NC) pinned David Lamb, 4:44; 220: Dante Solano (N) won by forfeit; 285: Ben Clay (NC) pinned Tom Jakaj, 2:32
New Canaan won on criteria: Most 1st points scored
New Canaan (2-1); Norwalk (3-3)