Competing for two days at Trumbull High School, the Greenwich High School wrestling team finished the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference class LL tournament 20th overall.
Big Red finished with 53 points overall, nearly doubling the point total of New Haven, which finished in 21st place. Greenwich was also one point shy of Brien McMahon and Ridgefield high schools, which finished tied for 19th on the day.
“I thought we had a good state tournament,” Greenwich High head coach George Albano said. “I am really proud of them and I thought a bunch of our wrestlers had some tough matches, but they looked really good and were determined to do well.”
Danbury High won the event with 215.5 points, while the host team Eagles took the silver with 172 points. South Windsor grabbed the bronze with 160 points. Simsbury finished fourth on the day with 159 points and Xavier rounded out the top five with 147 points.
The Cardinals had several athletes fare well in the event.
Mark Chien reached the podium by finishing the tournament fifth in the 106-pound weight class.
After beating Southington’s Zachary Murrillo with a 5-3 decision to start the tourney, he fell to No. 2 seed Matt Conte of Westhill. Competing in wrestlebacks, Chien took care of McMahon’s George Gallaher (13-0) and Norwich Free Academy’s Jacob Martin (5-3) before falling to Danbury’s Paulo Freitas (3-0). In the battle for fifth place, Chien once again saw Murrillo and once again came away with the win, 5-3.
“He took a different path than we thought he would,” Albano said. “We knew every match for him would be tough. He lost the tough one to Westhill Saturday morning, but he was able to stay strong through wrestlebacks. I knew how to bounce back and wrestle strong. You could see that the experience of wrestling in this tournament before paid off this year. To wrestle back and beat the NFA kid and end up finishing fifth was great to see.”
Big Red got another fifth-place finish in the 170-pound weight class, as Mike Gestal was able to pin Ridgefield’s Matthew Sesto 36 seconds into the fifth-place match.
“For a kid that’s never wrestled in day two of the state tournament, I thought he did a great job,” Albano said. “He had a losing record last year, so to show up for the class LL tournament as a No. 4 seed this year s quite the accomplishment. He won some really tough matches this year and made it to the state opens. That’s all due to all the hard work he put in last year during the offseason and during practices this year.”
Starting as the No. 4 seed, Gestal made quick work of his first two opponents, pinning Manchester’s Jake Oquendo at the 1:12 mark, and a match later, Gestal pinned Westhill’s Monir Koummal at the 3:21 mark of the match. Although he was pinned in his next two matches, against top-seeded Elliot Antler of Xavier (2:30) and Trumbull’s Tim Douhit (2:01), Gestal rebounded and got the quick pinfall on Sesto.
Other Greenwich wrestlers fared well in the championship meet. Jack Benenson started as the No. 12 seed in the 120-pound weight class and opened with a pin of South Windsor’s Austin Mongeon at the 5:28 mark. Although he lost in his next match to No. 5 seed Zachary Bylykbashi of Danbury, Benenson came back in wrestlebacks and beat McMahon’s Robbie Perschino with a pinfall at the 1:34 mark and took care of No. 6 seed Jared Lynch of Glastonbury with a pin at the 4:31 mark.
Grant Cucchissi also had a stellar tournament in the 182-pound weight class. The No. 8 seed started with a hard-fought 9-8 decision victory over No. 9 seed Mackenzie Thompson of Shelton. After falling to Southington’s top-seeded wrestler, Austin Sullivan, Cucchissi came back in wrestlebacks and beat Xavier’s Noah Cruz with a pin at the 3:49 mark of the match.
“Grant had a great tournament for us and it’s a shame that he didn’t medal,” Albano said. “He was bunched in with a lot of tough wrestlers. During the first night of LLs, he was losing a match 7-0 and came back to win 8-7, so that was great to see his determination. He lost his first match Saturday morning, but still wrestled back tough.”
At 113, Alex Margetoes had a thrilling finish in his match against Norwich Free Academy’s Cody Poirier, scoring two points in the final second and winning 9-8.
Greenwich will be back in action tomorrow and Saturday, as it travels to New Haven’s Floyd Little Athletic Center and competes in the CIAC open wrestling championships.
Chien will represent Greenwich in the 106-pound weight class, netting the 20th seed. Also seeded 20th will be Gestal at 170.
“We are still going to practice hard, but we want to make sure that everybody stays healthy,” Albano said. “We want their weight to be under control and mentally we want them as confident and as prepared as they can be. Every match at Opens is going to be a tough one. Every win they get will be earned. I think that our tough regular season schedule has prepared them for Opens.”