WINSTED — Gilbert’s wrestling team showed Terryville the value of experience in a 56-24 dual meet season-opening win at The Gilbert School Wednesday night.
“We’re very, very green,” Terryville coach Peter Veleas said.
Veleas and assistant coach Dave Baldyga guided an experience Kangaroo team to a Class S fifth place — highest in the Berkshire League — last year. But graduation turned the team on its head.
“We’re starting eight freshmen with no experience and several first-year upperclassmen (of 18 team members),” Veleas said.
Meanwhile, the Yellowjackets are reaping the benefits of the Northwest Corner’s Hurricane Wrestling youth program.
“Our sophomores are our first class from the Hurricanes and they’re animals,” Gilbert coach Darek Schibi said.
With a year of varsity experience to go with their Hurricane lessons, the Yellowjackets, with just six seniors on their 25-man team, showed their coming-of-age with a second-place finish at last Saturday’s 10-team Derby Invitational.
Three of Gilbert’s four gold-medal winners at Derby — Connor Blay, Devin Matthews and Kyle Matthews — come from that sophomore class, joining junior Alex Smith on the winner’s stand, along with second-place junior Kevin Sullivan.
Wednesday, they were more than ready to pass on the painful lesson of experience to the Kangaroos.
Starting at 152 pounds, the meat of the Gilbert lineup, Blay, Kyle Matthews and Sullivan, sliced through the Kangaroos. Following a pair of forfeits, Kangaroo sophomore Jon Mailhot broke through with a pin of his own.
Mailhot’s pin was Terryville’s only win on the mat, to go along with three Gilbert forfeits.
Yellowjackets Cameron Merritt, Devin Matthews Nick Barber and Will Hubbard joined the opening Gilbert trio with pins. Just three of them took longer than a minute. None of them went past the first period.
“I started with the Hurricanes in seventh grade,” said Blay, whose pin in the 152-pound division was the quickest of the night — 15 seconds. “I just shot, scrolled and head-locked him.”
The Hurricane program feeds both Gilbert and Northwestern. Armed with more experience in their sophomores than many teams have with their seniors, Gilbert Coach Schibi expects Northwestern to be the Berkshire League team to beat along with his Yellowjackets.
Meanwhile, Veleas, whose team has often dominated the league along with Nonnewaug, looks forward to developing his own youth.
“We’ll be different in a month or so,” he said. “Our problem is we can only match our young kids with other young kids in practice.”
Wednesday, Gilbert’s Hurricane graduates, proved “young” is a relative term in wrestling.
GILBERT 56, TERRYVILLE 24
At The Gilbert School
152: Connor Blay (G) pinned Bailey Schuster (T), :15. 160: Kyle Matthews (G) pinned Mike Zalewski (T), 1:24. 170: Ben Mow (G) by forfeit. 182: Kevin Sullivan (G) pinned Jamison Kulesa (T), :31. 195: Alex Smith (G) by forfeit. 220: Jon Mailhot (T) pinned Benjamin Gutic (G), 1:22. 295: Richie Larson (T) by forfeit. 106: Cameron Merritt (G) pinned Nick Zappone (T), 1:39. 113: Levi Avolt (T) by forfeit. 120: Devin Matthews (G) dec. Cayleb Leclerc (T), 2-0. 126: Eli Benson (T) by forfeit. 132: Nick Barber (G) pinned Sam Ridgeway (T), 1:36. 138: Will Hubbard (G) pinned Owen Mantoni (T), :32. 145: Zach Gaylord (G) maj. dec. Jake Cotton, 13-1.
Dual meet records: Terryville 0-1; Gilbert 1-0.