MIDDLETOWN — Old hat conveys the notion that something is predictable to the point of being boring. It also can be wrongly cited when it comes to the Xavier wrestling team that something familiar is out of fashion.
— Bill Bloxsom (@blox354) February 16, 2020
Xavier sent eight athletes to the finals, with five winning the first-place medals, and the Falcons took home their fourth consecutive Southern Connecticut Conference championship on Saturday at Mercy High.
Xavier took control in the semifinals and consolation quarterfinals on its way to posting a score of 210.5 for a healthy margin of victory.
East Haven, Branford and Foran battled for runner-up, with the Easties (146.5) second, Hornets (140) third and Lions (137) fourth.
Xavier had won leagues eight out of nine years, with Foran taking the title in 2016 (the 2013 meet was cancelled due to weather).
Could there be a letdown?
“I could tell how they were thinking (about SCCs) with how testy they were at practice this week,” Cunningham said. “It was a good testy. They feed off each other, they push each other and they care about each other.”
“It isn’t generally known, but 10 of our starters are homegrown kids,” Cunningham said. “We have nine seniors and all but one (170-pounder Ryan Minor) has been with us from the beginning. (Senior) Will Cullen is usually at 220, but for the good of the team he moved to heavyweight today to get us any team points he could (heavyweight Malcolm-Wilson Toliver is out with the flu).”
The Falcons’ James Lunt, who repeated as 145-pound champion, knows how much it took for his team to win the league all four of his seasons.
“It is crazy to think about, but it feels amazing,” said Lunt, who will wrestle next season at Division I Campbell University in North Carolina next year. “We have a great group of guys. We love to have fun together, but we know when it is time to go to work.”
This was Lunt’s third title. He was runner-up as a freshman.
— Bill Bloxsom (@blox354) February 15, 2020
East Haven’s Dominic Miliano, with the 106-final tied at 3-3, pinned Foran’s Antonio Madero in 5:28.
“Excited to take second place in the SCC against all these powerhouse teams in the SCC,” Miliano said. “It this feels pretty good (to win). I kept my head in and ended up pinning.”
Xavier’s Michael Rapuano pinned John Fernandes from Guilford in 1:03 to win at 113. Unbeaten in in-state matches, Rapuano was the 106 champ as a sophomore.
At 120 pounds, North Haven’s freshman Joe Iamunno won by 15-0 technical fall over Xavier sophomore Colin Loria, who was third at 113 a year ago.
Defending champion Tommy Manganiello from Xavier, down 5-3, pinned East Haven’s Mathew DiVito with 18 seconds left at 126 pounds. DiVito was the 120 champ as a sophomore.
At 132 pounds, Foran’s Kyle Pokornowski pinned East Haven’s Alec DiVito in 1:52. DiVito was fourth at 132 and Pokornowski was third at 120 a year ago.
Louis Bradley from Morgan won the 138-pound title by 50-second fall over East Haven’s Tanner DiVito. A junior, Bradley (38-1) was SCC champ at 132. DiVito (38-3) was second at 138 last season.
At 145 pounds, Xavier’s James Lunt defeated Fairfield Prep’s Henry Bosken by 21-5 technical fall. Bosken was second at 126 in 2019.
At 152 pounds, Xavier’s Quinn Moynihan escaped in the closing seconds to secure a 6-5 victory over Foran’s Ethan Edmondson.
— Bill Bloxsom (@blox354) February 16, 2020
Prep’s Dean Tsiranides pinned Xavier’s Luke Tischio at 160 pounds.
Ryan Miner from Xavier posted a 7-1 victory at 170 over Guilford’s Christopher Murphy.
At 182, Justin Osler (26-0) from Branford repeated as SCC champion with an 11-7 win against Amity’s Simon Flaherty (35-1).
Branford’s Colin McHenry (39-0) pinned Xavier’s Marcelious Ruiz (18-2) in 1:56 of their 195-pound final. McHenry placed second a year ago at 195.
McHenry said: “It’s been a fantastic season. To set the school record for wins (134) here at the SCCs was great. We established a solid team this year.”
At 220, Notre Dame-West Haven’s Jackson Paulishen defeated East Haven’s Gunner Horton, 8-0.
Shelton heavyweight Matt Weiner defeated Branford’s Minsik Lee, 8-3. Weiner (34-1) was second at 220 a year ago.
Most Outstanding Wrestler Joe Iamunno from North Haven won the 120-pound title as a freshman and a team of one.
“It was unexpected,” said Iamunno, who wrestles with Notre Dame-Fairfield. “I’m grateful to be here, I just need to thank my teammates and partners in the room. I’ve been wrestling since I was four. I love it. I’ll be training later to go to Fargo (for Nationals).”
Five wrestlers returned looking to win another title. Michael Rapuano (Xavier), Tommy Manganiello (Xavier), Louis Bradley (Morgan), James Lunt (Xavier) and Justin Osler (Branford).They all triumphed.
“My kids wrestled amazingly well,” East Haven coach Mark Tolla said. “We brought 11 kids, and left the younger ones home. Xavier was propable out of reach, but to go for second is all because of how hard the kids worked.”
Alec DiVito and Mat DiVito each entered the finals with 94 career wins. Called an over achiever by twin bother Alec, Tanner had 95 victories.
Branford sent two to the finals — defending champion Justin Osler at 182 and Cody McHenry at 195.
“Cody had 134 wins going in, one off the school record,” Hornets’ coach Jesse Hurlburt said. “Justin is the defending champion.”
Branford went 26-1 in the dual meet season. It was 19-10 in duals a year earlier.
“For a long time we’ve been the Little Brother,” Hurlburt said. “We’ve had a champ here and there, but this is the second year we’ve been able to put a full lineup on the mat. I’m so proud of these kids. It is nice to be engaged with them every day and know they learn in the practice room and take it to the mat with them.”
Foran had three finalists Antonio Madero (22-3) at 106, Kyle Pokornowski (38-4) at 132 and Ethan Edmondson (39-3) at 152.
“We knew we would be in the mix,” Lions’ coach Dave Esposito said. “Antonio has done great as a freshman. Kyle is a sophomore and had placed third as a freshman. Ethan was third at 152 as a sophomore.”
Final Team Results
1. Xavier, 210.5; 2. East Haven, 146.5; 3. Branford, 140; 4. Foran, 137; 5. Guilford, 101; 6. Daniel Hand, 65.5; 7. Fairfield Prep, 61.5; 8. Amity Regional, 46.5; 9. Shelton, 43; 9. New Haven, 43; 11. Notre Dame, 39; 12. Morgan, 33; 13. North Haven, 23.5; 14. Jonathan Law, 11; 15. Cheshire, 10