Greenwich wrestling looking strong early on, eye FCIAC, LLs

Greenwich High School junior Bryce Stanback takes to the mat during Saturday’s Shelton Invitational. Big Red claimed top team on the day. — Paul Silverfarb photo

Greenwich High School junior Bryce Stanback takes to the mat during Saturday’s Shelton Invitational. Big Red claimed top team on the day. — Paul Silverfarb photo

While they are still young, as well as dealing with several key injuries, members of the Greenwich High School wrestling team still have their usual high hopes for this season.

Helping the Cardinals enjoy their holiday break a little more was a solid performance at Saturday’s Shelton Invitational.

For the fourth time in five years, Big Red captured the championship, this time netting 262.5 points. The next closest team was Shelton High with 138 points. Norwalk and Masuk tied for third, each posting 127 points.

Greenwich High School sophomore Mike Ceci battles his opponent in the 138-pound weight class during the Shelton Invitational. — Paul Silverfarb photo

Greenwich High School sophomore Mike Ceci battles his opponent in the 138-pound weight class during the Shelton Invitational. — Paul Silverfarb photo

“After the first round, I wasn’t too happy, but a day like that, you have to really look at the entire body of work, as opposed to a match-by-match basis,” Greenwich head coach George Albano said. “The team wrestled really well. They worked really hard and came back strong later in the day.”

In total, Greenwich was the champion in three weight classes. They also scored four grapplers in second place and five took the bronze medal.

“I felt really confident,” senior captain Brandon Aguda said. “I really didn’t pay attention to anybody I was wrestling. I just wanted to go out there and give it my all and hope for the best. We have a lot of depth at each weight class and it showed Saturday.”

Nobody was better on the day than Aguda. He finished the Invitational a perfect 3-0 and had one pin on the day. After a technical fall in the semis, Aguda kept the good times rolling with a 5-1 victory over Will Gamberdella of Platt Tech/West Haven to claim the championship.

“At this point of the year, I think he’s light years ahead of where most of our wrestlers are at this point,” Albano said. “He seems like he’s in midseason form right now. Some of the weight classes in Shelton were weak, but he had a strong one. There were two great kids in the semis and finals. He had two full six-minute matches and still wrestled great. He’s really mentally tough and he goes after his opponents regardless of the score. I am so happy for him.”

In a match that guaranteed Big Red a champion in the 182-pound weight class, Greenwich senior Artem Morozov took on teammate and sophomore Alex Nanai in the finals.

Morozov finished the day 3-0 and included a 12-5 victory over New Haven’s Jason Bryant in the semis. Not to be outdone was Nanai, who led up to the finals by pinning all three of his opponents in the first round.

However in the battle of Greenwich, it was Morozov that won via a pinfall.

Big Red’s other champion was junior Erik Menchaca, as he picked up his first varsity tournament victory by beating Greens Farms Academy’s Jason Bryant 12-5 in double overtime of the 220-pound weight class.

Menchaca also finished a perfect 3-0 on the day.

In addition to the top three finishers for Greenwich High, the team had a plethora of silver medalists.

In their first varsity tournament, sophomore Dylan Ehert (106) and junior Brian Harvey (120) each went 2-1 on the day and both had pinned their competition leading up to their championship matches.

Greenwich High's Wyndsor Doyle takes to the mat during the Shelton Invitational. — Paul Silverfarb photo

Greenwich High’s Wyndsor Doyle takes to the mat during the Shelton Invitational. — Paul Silverfarb photo

At 145, junior Bryce Stanback lost in double overtime during his championship match with GFA’s Ben Holcomb. Stanback finished the Invitational 3-1 and two of the wins were via pinfall.

Helping Greenwich gain some valuable points were sophomore Mike Ceci (138), senior captain Thomas Williams (195), Chris Fischer (285), Ethan Ross (152) and senior Mitchell Nethercott.

“The history of us being successful at Shelton is a big motivation for us,” Albano said. “The kids look forward to it and they know that it really sets the tone for the rest of the season. The kids have been waiting for this Invitational for the past three weeks and this is the first chance for the kids to show what they got. A lot of the kids this year have been at the tournament for a few years now and know what to expect. They know the type of day it is and how tough of a tournament it is.”

Overall, it’s looking like another strong season for Big Red, as they use the dual meet season to prep for a possibility of a deep tournament run.

In addition to Aguda and Williams, fellow seniors Alex Jarombek, Justin Montier and Jack Freheit are this year’s captains.

Jarombek and Montier are not able to wrestle this season, as Jarombek sustained a knee injury last year and hasn’t recovered enough and Montier was sustained a herniated disc in his back this fall with the GHS football team. Freheit is also nursing an injury, but Albano expects him back any day now.”

As a freshman, Jarombek placed fifth at the class LL meet and had 33 wins on the season. However his sophomore campaign was ended early due to an injury. Last year he was wrestling with a knee injury, but still got fifth at both the FCIAC and the class LL meets.

“He’s a great kid,” Albano said. “He came up in the Greenwich youth wrestling program and had won there. Without a doubt I think he would have been one of the top wrestlers on the team and in the state. He is that good.”

While Montier doesn’t need surgery for his back, his career with the wrestling team has concluded.

“That takes months and months to rehab,” Albano said. “Thankfully there’s no surgery needed, which at his age is great news, but I feel bad for him. Everything in this program builds up to your senior year and this is such a demanding sport. He’s a great kid and very talented when it comes to wrestling. He really will be missed this season.”

Greenwich head coach George Albano watches his grappler during the Shelton Invitational. — Paul SIlverfarb photo

Greenwich head coach George Albano watches his grappler during the Shelton Invitational. — Paul SIlverfarb photo

All five captains being a wealth of knowledge to the team and Albano said that he couldn’t be happier with the way his captains are performing, both on and off the mat.

“Jarombek, Montier, Williams and Freheit have wrestled with me for me since sophomore year,” Albano said. “Aguda has been with me for two years, but also wrestles all the time. Wrestling is a sport of experience and my captains know what it’s like to wrestle varsity. They struggled, fought through tough losses and adversity and are now succeeding. They are showing the team that you can struggle and push past it to be successful. All five are great kids and are extremely hard workers.”

In addition to the captains, Albano expects a lot from his team.

At 106 is Ehret, who started wrestling last year as a freshman. Albano believes Ehret will have a standout season because either teams don’t field a wrestler at the 106-pound weight class or because the kids are young and Ehret’s toughness and work ethic will shine through.

Veteran Aguda will be at the 113-pound division and going by his performance early this season, a deep tournament run might be in order. Last year he finished third at FCIACs and fifth the class LL meet.

“He’s made it very clear that his goal is to win the state open and he has the skills and tools to do just that,” Albano said. “He has the mind set and if he can stay healthy, I think he’s on the way to his goals. He burst onto the scene last year because he’s a quick learner, appreciates the sport and knows how much it takes to be good. He’s willing to put the time in.”

Junior Brian Harvey and senior Mickey Russell will share time at the 120-pound weight class. Albano said that Harvey brings toughness to the lineup, but Russell is more of a technical grappler.

James Duffy, a senior, will be competing at the 126-pound weight class. At 132 will be Wyndsor Doyle, who filled in for Jack Beninson when he was injured last year and finished .500. He wrestled at 120 last year and Albano said Doyle is doing a good job adjusting to the weight difference.

Joining the 138-pound weight class is sophomore Mike Ceci. As a freshman year, Ceci took fifth at FCIACs and was a few matches away from class LL glory.

Stanback has been making quite a bit of noise at the 145-pound weight class. While a concussion ended his sophomore campaign last season, Stanback in on track to reach the podium several times this year.

“From the work ethic point of view, I think he’s been the best kid on the team,” Albano said. “He’s a tireless worker on the mat, works hard in the weight room, works on his condition and when we drill he is going the hardest. It’s nice to see that because it’s so contagious at this sport. While he’s not as experienced as some of the kids on the team, he can make up with that by the way he practices. He doesn’t waste a minute.”

Junior Ethan Ross will be at the 152-pound division. After a solid regular season last year, an injury sidelined him from tournament action. During the offseason, Ross has been wrestling, lifting weights and getting stronger and that is why he’s grappling at 152.

Although Freheit, who finished fifth at the class LL meet last year, was injured for the Shelton Invitational, he had a great first meet against a Stamford by pinning his opponent 1:12 into the match. Despite the bumps and bruises, Albano still has expectations fro Freheit come tournament time in mid-February.

Senior Mitchell Nethercott at 170 started wrestling for GHS as a sophomore and had some experience due to his wrestling abilities in middle school.

“He’s been great,” Albano said. “He started at 145 and still wrestles like he’s at 145. That’s great because any time you have that type of technique against the big boys, you usually have success. He can match their strength, is in much better shape than those kids and can outwrestle kids.”

Fighting for a spot at 182 will be Morozov and Williams. During the class LL tournament last year, Williams pinned the FCIAC champion, as well as the FCIAC runner-up, and was a match away from placing.

Junior Erik Menchaca at the 220-pound weight class is a great success story. As a freshman he finished 5-26, with five forfeits. He didn’t win a match. Working hard, through his sophomore season, Menchaca placed at FCIACs and was a match away from placing at the class LL meet. He was voted the team’s most improved player.

“Last year he proved that he could be successful at the sport and not just wait to catch up,” Albano said. “In his small, compact body he is a great athlete and great wrestle. He wrestles these giants and gives them a good match and now usually wins those.”

Rounding out the starting roster is senior Chris Fischer at heavyweight.

“We are not experienced enough or talented enough at this point to outwrestle anybody,” Albano said. “We are not going to outwrestle Danbury, Trumbull, Warde. With that said, I think we are tougher than those teams. We have experienced kids at heavyweight and the lower weight classes. I think our entire lineup can get the job done this year.”

Despite the injuries and youth that’s on the mat this year, the goals haven’t chanced for Albano and the rest of the Cardinals.

“I still think we can get top two at FCIACs,” Albano said. “Any time you put yourself in that conversation, you’re talking Warde, Trumbull, Ludlowe and a ton of good programs. If we say this as a goal, we still have work to do. If we wrestle any of those teams now, I don’t know if we would win. If we wrestle them in February, I like our chances. We have a history of peaking at the right time.”

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