SOUTHBURY — An enduring tradition is the best compliment that can be paid to a high school sports program.
New Milford earned its 14th South-West Conference wrestling championship since 2004 Saturday night as the Green Wave bested a field of 12 schools at the SWC Tournament at Pomperaug High School.
“It is a fantastic night for the New Milford wrestling family,” said coach Chris Piel, now in his 21st year with the program. “What we see tonight is the product of year after years of hard work from our parents and our youth wrestling program. It all came to fruition tonight.”
New Milford finished the proceedings with 162 points to outdistance 2018-19 champ Newtown (146.5).
Brookfield (124) was a surprising third followed by Pomperaug (118), New Fairfield (100) and Joel Barlow (99.5).
New Milford crowned champions in three divisions Saturday night thanks to Max Piel (132), Khalil Bourjelli (145) and Richie Morrell (170). The Green Wave posted a pair of second-place finishes.
“We’re always competing because there are great wrestling schools in the SWC,” New Milford coach Piel said. “We are very fortunate. When Newtown beat us last year, we tipped our hats and went back to work. This has been so rewarding for me to coach all these kids since youth days. It’s a phenomenal experience to see them reach their goals.”
But this is the first step on the postseason journey for New Milford.
“Winning SWC titles is important,, but we have other goals ahead,” Bourjelli said. “We’re focused on the Class L and the State Open wrestling.”
Newtown actually scored more points Saturday (146.5) than they did in winning the 2018-19 crown.
Newtown had eight wrestlers finish in the top four in the 14 weight classes. Steve Vournacos was crowned champion at 182 pounds.
“We prepared as well as we could. It wasn’t what we wanted. Second place was not our goal,” Newtown coach Mike Long said. “We had some surprises along the way, but New Milford had a great tournament.”
Arguably the happiest contingent Saturday night was Brookfield. It brought eight wrestlers to the one-day tournament and saw seven finish in the top four and five wrestlers reach the finals.
Matty Carrozza (113) and Zahir McLean-Felix (160) took home gold medals for the Bobcats.
“We had a great performance,” said Brookfield coach Mike McKeever of the program that returned from hiatus four years ago. “I’m so happy for the kids. The program’s best-ever finish here was fifth place. What the kids have done with limited numbers is phenomenal.”
It was a special evening for host Pomperaug as well.
Sophomore Mike Carpenter, who was runnerup last year at 113, took home gold with a major decision at 126. David Jutcawitz was crowned champion via decision at 120 for the Panthers.