WOODBURY >> Northwestern coach Andrew Schwartz promised his Highlanders would contend for the Berkshire-Valley wrestling title this year after a third-place finish with just six wrestlers last year.
Wednesday evening at perennial league favorite Nonnewaug, the Highlanders removed any lingering doubt with a 54-24 rout of the Chiefs.
The team has swelled to 14 wrestlers. More importantly, they’re the right size. Northwestern forfeited just two of the 14 weight classes Wednesday – 132 and 220 – and there wasn’t a ringer in sight.
“Sometimes, you’re just blessed,” said Schwartz. “We have the roster from last year, a couple of experienced transfers and two new kids who haven’t wrestled before but have a wrestler’s attitude.”
On the other side, the Chiefs – fifth in Class S last year – lost nine athletes to graduation, with a couple more missing from Wednesday’s match.
Nevertheless, there was no disputing the Highlander dominance .
“They wrestled well,” said Coach Dave Green.
The Chiefs boast 17 wrestlers, but, unlike Northwestern, many of them share the same weight classes.
That started Nonnewaug in a deep hole they never got out of Wednesday. Northwestern’s Aiden Bannerman started the match with a first-period pin at 106
Then the Chiefs forfeited three straight weight classes before Northwestern returned the favor at 132.
The Highlander lead was 24-6 and matches in the middle weights weren’t going to change a thing.
David Dabkowski got the first Nonnewaug pin of the night at 138, but Northwestern’s James Guion and Josh Schwartz followed with Highlander pins plus another forfeit.
When Nonnewaug sophomore Flori Cenkolli won the night’s longest bout with a pin 5:26 into the 170 match, the six points hardly dented the Highlander lead, 42-18.
Northwestern’s Caleb Boucher and Nonnewaug’s Steve Grudzien traded quick pins, followed by one more Nonnewaug forfeit for the final score.
“A lot of things are different this year,” said Coach Schwartz. “We’ve re-branded the team with new uniforms, a banner and posters all over the school after our wins. People are talking about it.”
After Wednesday’s season debut, the rest of the league is likely to join in.
Northwestern 54, Nonnewaug 24
At Nonnewaug High School
106: Aiden Bannerman (NW) pinned Kelvin Cenkoli (N), 1:11. 113: Angelo Folino (NW) by forfeit. 120: Chase Sanden (NW) by forfeit. 126: Lily Scwartz (NW) by forfeit. 132: Karisa Shukaitis (N) by forfeit. 138: David Dabkowski (N) pinned Gavin Duncan (NW), 2:12. 145: James Guion (NW) pinned Justin Noel (N), 1:00. 152: Josh Schwartz (NW) pinned Jack Cronin (N), :24. 160: Liam Smith (NW) by forfeit. 170: Flori Cenkolli (N) pinned Tom Mierzwa (NW), 5:26. 182: Caleb Boucher (NW) pinned Mike Keenan (N), :55. 195: Steve Grudzien (N) pinned Tyler Kreh (NW), :45. 220: Double forfeit. 285: Gabe Schwartz (NW) by forfeit.
Records: Northwestern 1-0; Nonnewaug 0-1.