NORWALK — Victories in high school are nice.
Victories that make history are enduring moments that keep on giving.
The Norwalk wrestling team put an indelible stamp in Bears history Wednesday night as they rallied to defeat intracity rival McMahon, 39-34 at Norwalk’s Tom Scarso gym.
The triumph gave Norwalk the city wrestling championship for the first time in coach Job Fernandez’s 13-year tenure.
“To be able to give Coach Fernandez his first Norwalk city wrestling championship is special,” said senior Sam White, one of the Bears’ captains. “It was a goal for Coach. And it was a goal that all of us wanted to give him. To actually celebrate this victory is surreal. It’s an amazing feeling to be the team that broke the streak against McMahon. And take the monkey off our backs.”
It was a determined rally by Norwalk (7-3) that brought joy to the home crowd.
Starting the match by draw with the 152-pound division, McMahon was able to jump out to a 23-9 edge after seven matches.
There was concern but not panic on the Norwalk side.
“We knew McMahon had the edge in the higher weight classes. What was important was not to give up a lot of pins (two),” Fernandez said. “We felt our lower weight classes could make up points.”
Pins by freshman Jack Cahill (106) and senior Michael Campos (113) along with White’s forfeit win at 120 gave Norwalk a 27-23 lead with four matches left.
A pin with 15 seconds left by Norwalk senior Chase Larkin (132) was offset by McMahon junior Mike SantaLucia’s five-point tech fall victory at 138.
That left McMahon ahead 34-33 with one match remaining.
Norwalk senior Lensendro Laguerre (145 pounds) was feeling the weight of history.
“It’s my second year wrestling. But I’ve never been so nervous,” Laguerre said. “If I lose, I let the team down. If I win, everybody in the gym jumps on you in joy.”
Laguerre decided to be the hero as he won by pin in 1:30, touching off an incredible green and white celebration.
“Coach Fernandez yells at me a lot. I just took his advice,” Laguerre laughed. “Last year, we lost the match at McMahon’s gym. It was such a quiet bus ride back here. You could hear a pin drop. That’s how disappointed we were. To win today is a proud, proud moment.”
And Fernandez couldn’t have been prouder of his Bears.
“Lucky No. 13. I’m also getting married on the 13th. So 13 is a great number,” Fernandez said. “This victory is the culmination of a lot of hard work. We encouraged the kids to get mat time in the offseason. There’s no substitute for experience. Lots of kids heeded that advice.
“We had a match (on Dec. 22) against Ridgefield, Darien, Stamford and John Jay (N.Y.). We won a lot that day,” Fernandez continued. “It showed our potential. I came away feeling this team could be a little different.”
McMahon coach Joe SantaLucia was gracious in defeat.
“We’ve pulled out a lot of close matches over Norwalk over the years. It’s always a great competition when we get together,” SantaLucia said. “I’m happy for Job. He’s worked just as hard with his program as so many of us have.”
NORWALK 39, MCMAHON 34
152: Victor Espinosa (N) pinned Luis Ledesma, 1:57; 160: Arthur Cocchia (M) major dec. Simon Galeano, 13-3; 170: Jonathan Davilla (M) pinned Chris Muralles, 2:16; 182: Ben Van Steen (M) dec. Anthony Marini, 13-7; 195: Malik Goethe (M) major dec. David Lamb, 13-1; 220: Dante Solano (N) dec. Connor Barton, 4-0; 285: Jeff Cocchia (M) pinned Tom Jakal, :18; 106: Jack Cahill (N) pinned Matt Greco, 2:51; 113: Michael Campos (N) pinned Solomon Wycliff, 3:59; 120: Sam White (N) winner by forfeit; 126: Hugo Romero (M) pinned Aiden Donohue, 1:14; 132: Chase Larkin (N) pinned Adrian Coella, 5:45; 138: Mike SantaLucia (M) tech fall Cesar Rivera, 20-4; 145: Lensendro Laguerre (N) pinned Ryan Hernandez, 1:30. Records: Norwalk 7-3, McMahon 1-7.