EAST HAVEN – Things are really looking up for the East Haven wrestling team.
The Yellowjackets, who finished 1-19 just two seasons ago, are undergoing a big resurgence. For the first time in a while, they can fill out a full roster in every match and it’s helping.
East Haven is now 12-6 this winter and is getting votes in the weekly state wrestling poll. That would have never been a thought just 14 months ago when former East Haven wrestler Lou Rivellini (Class of 2003) took over the program.
“It’s the best record we’ve had since 2003 and our 12th-place finish in the Class M tournament last year was the best since 2003,” Rivellini said Tuesday night before East Haven defeated Amity, 57-19. “We have a lot of kids who are upperclassmen contributing that got a lot of experience as freshman and sophomores.”
East Haven was missing a 285-pounder, but Rivellini went out and recruited Brandon Duryea to fill that spot. Duryea joined the team after the football season was completed and is 7-2 after losing to Nate Shilling by pinfall Tuesday night.
The rest of East Haven’s wrestlers are noticing that there is a full roster in every match.
“In previous years, we didn’t and it would cost us points,” said junior co-captain Antonio Lieto, who has the top individual record at 19-2 after pinning Amity’s Aiden Hebert in 90 seconds Tuesday night.
“There’s also a big improvement in the chemistry within the team. We know we have starters that are likely to win.”
Another co-captain, senior Joe Milano said he’s seen the roster increase this year.
“A lot of the kids saw how we did past year and could possibly be something,” said Milano, who pinned Andrew Bucci in just 36 seconds Tuesday night. “A lot of freshman came out for the team, stuck with it and they’re playing a big part. Also, the coaches have been pushing us really hard in practice to see what we could be and how to get there.”
Even opposing teams are noticing.
“They’re doing really good things,” Amity coach Ryan Roddy said. “You see what their junior high and youth programs are doing and their buying in. That’s good.”
East Haven recorded its biggest win to date on Dec. 20 when it knocked off Shelton, which is currently ranked 16th in the state.
“They (Shelton) are a top 15 team in the state and it came down to the last match,” Rivellini said. “Sebastian Montoya was losing the match by four points at 160 pounds, but came back to win and that gave us the match.”
The toughest loss his team has suffered came at Guilford on Jan. 4 when the Yellowjackets suffered a 43-30 loss.
“Guilford is always a good team, but we thought if we wrestled our best we could beat them,” Rivellini said. “But everything that could went their way.”
Tuesday night, East Haven trailed after the sixth match of the night at 132 pounds after Amity’s Matthew Rothman pinned Nick DeMorro at 3:46. From that point on, East Haven only lost one match and that was by decision at 145 pounds where Amity’s Sam Keylock decisioned Vincent Franco, 8-3.
“We came out fired up starting at 103 pounds,” Rivellini said. “We had some guys who lost, but didn’t get pinned. They could have had 30 points if our guys didn’t wrestle hard all night.”
East Haven got three pin in a row starting with Danny Jarrin over Andrew Seaton at 152 pounds (2:20), followed by Sebastian Montoya over Christian Castro at 160 pounds (5:13) and then Damien Benway over Nate Morrisey at 170 pounds (1:49).
Benway’s win clinched the match even with Amity forfeiting both the 182 and 195-pound weight classes. Justin Fonacier made it four straight pinfalls in matches that were wrestled for the Yellowjackets with a victory in 1:27 over Lev Ioffe.
“Shelton was a tougher team but this was the best this team has wrestled,” Rivellini said. “They came out on Senior Night and wrestled well. If we can wrestle every night like this, there’s no question we’re one of the top 15 teams in the state.”
Roddy said Amity has been missing wrestlers due to sickness and injuries.
“It’s crippled us this week,” Roddy said. “Hopefully, we can get them healthy before the SCC tournament.”
EAST HAVEN 57, AMITY 19
(at East Haven)
285 pounds: Nate Shilling (A) pinned Brandon Duryea, 1:37; 106: Victor Garcia (E) dec. Christian Chadwick, 9-5; 113: Antonio Lieto (E) pinned Aiden Hebert, 1:30; 120: Joe Milano (E) pinned Andrew Bucci, 0:36; 126: Jared Fucci (A) dec. Alec Divito, 11-2; 132: Matthew Rothman (A) pinned Nick DeMorro, 3:46; 138: Alex Tapia (E) pinned David Ford, 1:04; 145: Sam Keylock (A) dec. Vincent Franco, 8-3; 152: Danny Jarrin (E) pinned Andrew Seaton, 2:20; 160: Sebastian Montoya (E) pinned Christian Castro, 5:13; 170: Damien Benway (E) pinned Nate Morrissey, 1:49; 182: Charles Carrera (E) won by forfeit; 195: Josh Rao (E) won by forfeit; 220: Justin Fonacier (E) pinned Lev Ioffe, 1:27.
Records: East Haven, 12-6; Amity, 7-10.