STAMFORD — Westhill’s Thomas Mazur now finds himself in a small and unique group of Connecticut High School athletes.
The senior wrestler was able to reach a fair conclusion to the 2019-20 winter season and have closure to his prep sports career.
“I consider myself very lucky and very fortunate to be able to finish my senior season,” Mazur said. “I feel badly for our (Westhill-Stamford Co-op) boys hockey team and our Westhill boys basketball team. To have that one last chance at a state championship and your legacy suddenly taken away from you. By a decision that was completely out of your control. A decision made without enough thought for the effect on the athletes it hurts.”
For Mazur, however, it was a dream wrestling campaign.
Competing in the 170-pound weight class this year, Mazur had an undefeated regular season, won his first FCIAC championship title (a 10-0 major decision in final over Danbury’s Jaylen Hawkins), won his first Class LL state crown (pin at 2:20 in final over NFA senior Theran Vanese) and won with his first State Open championship (a 14-4 major decision in final over Ryan Powers of Lyman Memorial).
His only two losses (42-2) all season came by close decision in the quarterfinals and the first consolation bracket match at the 2020 New England Championships last Sunday.
“This year was a pleasant surprise for me. In the preseason I thought there would be some improvement,” Mazur said. “When I began earning win after win after win, I started believing I was getting better and better and could accomplish some major goals.”
The 2020 postseason was a grand exclamation point for Mazur, who wrestled at 126 pounds in 2018 and 152 pounds in 2019.
Mazur was on the precipice of greatness last year. In the 152-pound final at FCIACs, he lost a 6-1 decision to Warde senior Noah Zuckerman.
Zuckerman struck again in the Class LL final, taking a 3-1 decision. Mazur finished fourth at the 2019 State Open, losing 6-3 to Zuckerman in the third-place match. Mazur also took fourth place at the New Englands, losing in the semifinals and the third-place match.
In addition to Zuckerman graduating and Mazur getting stronger while moving up to 170 pounds, there was one other change for this season.
Mike Cigala, a decorated wrestling coach in New York at Stuyvesant High School and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, retired and moved to Stamford.
But Cigala still wanted to coach and Westhill just happened to have a job opening.
“Coach Cigala is crazy about wrestling,” Mazur said. “He brought so many new moves and ideas to the table. And I appreciated his hard conditioning philosophy during the postseason.”
Of course, coach Cigala’s assessment of his wrestler was more expansive.
“I loved Tommy’s coachability, intelligence, work ethic and his toughness,” Cigala said. “From films and practices, it was clear he had a lack of foot speed. I knew that former heavyweight boxing champ Rocky Marciano also lacked foot speed in his career. So for three months, Tommy focused on plyometrics jumping between mat lines, circling around cones in his stance and doing every drill at top speed.
“Tommy had been a strong invincible tank on the mat. Now he’d become an invincible FAST tank,” Cigala continued. “During the LL and State Open tournaments, so many opposing coaches commented that Tommy wasn’t fast on film last year but he was blazing fast this year. I couldn’t be happier that Tom’s hard work translated into fulfilled championship dreams.”
And suddenly, Mazur has become the Vikings’ most famous winter sport athlete.
“People outside of the sport of wrestling don’t understand how hard it is to get to the state tournaments and the New Englands,” said Mazur, who began in the Stamford Junior Wrestling program following in the footsteps of his older brother Krzystof. “But when you have the title of FCIAC champ, Class LL champ and State Open champ along with qualifying for the New Englands, that they understand. Having everybody at school shaking my hand has been so great.”
As it should be for a champion.
“I love the one-on-one competition of wrestling. There is no one else to blame but yourself on the mat,” said Mazur, who is still undecided on a college choice. “It’s just you and the opponent out there. And may the best man win.”