BRISTOL - Coming out of the locker room, the Bristol Eastern wrestling team had a swagger, and it was evident the defending Class L state champions, ranked No. 8 in the Norwich Bulletin’s preseason state coaches’ poll, weren’t lacking confidence.
Against Southington, which is 13th in the preseason rankings, the Lancers went back and forth. With the score tied at 22, the Lancers’ Ethan Mathieu won a big match by decision to give Bristol Eastern a 25-22 advantage and a big momentum change in the Lancers 43-22 win on Wednesday night.
“The big match that deserves a ton of credit was Ethan Mathieu,” Bristol Eastern head coach Bryant Lishness said.
“He’s our backup 220 and he went out there, and it’s not easy for a kid like that sometimes, and to manage the match and do what he did was really the key to turn the momentum.”
Following Mathieu’s match, the three wrestlers following pinned their opponents.
Heavyweight Hidekel Mangual pinned Jake Manson at 2:26 in the second round.
“I was all around just angry and upset with how some of our guys weren’t able to step up,” Mangual said. “I knew that if we were going to win, I needed to step up my game and get the six points.”
Bryce Beebe followed it up against Southington’s Emmet Vitti in the 106-pound match with another pin in the first round at 1:09 to extend the Lancers’ lead to 37-22.
The final match between Bristol Eastern’s Jordan Champagne and the Blue Knights’ Caleb Brick ended in the first round as well, with Champagne pinning Brick at 1:01.
“You saw Bryce and Jordan just go out there and get it done,” Lishness said. “They were all business. They’re going to be huge point scorers for us this year.”
Before Mathieu’s match, it was an even affair between the two squads.
Bristol Eastern’s Tom Nichols started out the evening strong in the 120-pound match, pinning Southington’s Devin Lord in the second round at 1:40.
Carson Sassu followed his teammate with another Bristol Eastern win, as he pinned the Blue Knights’ Dawsen Welch in the first round at 1:07.
Both Nichols and Sassu controlled the tempo of their matches, not letting their opponent into it.
Following the first two matches, Bristol Eastern lost four straight decisions.
Gabe Soucy, Tyler King, Noah Piazza and Justin Marshall all lost for the Lancers, giving Southington the 13-12 edge.
The Lancers’ Michael Barrett took the lead back for the Lancers, pinning Southington’s Tim Budnik in the 160-pound match at 2:13.
The Blue Knights took the lead back as Paul Calo pinned Bristol Eastern’s Dylan Leueque at 1:01 in the 170-pound match, giving Southington the 19-18 lead.
Following that was Caleb Cheranow beating the Lancers’ Keegan Bartis by decision, giving Southington a 22-18 lead, the last lead it would hold as Trinidad Gonzalez beat Cole Brock by way of a decision and then Mathieu and the others followed.
While confidence is important, Bristol Eastern has high expectations for the season and the Lancers know not to take any opponent lightly.
“I think we were a little too overconfident coming in,” Gonzalez said. “There were some matches where we should’ve won. We can’t really sleep on any team.”
The Lancers start the year 1-0 with the win, while Southington drops to 0-1.
Bristol Eastern will take part in a tournament Saturday in Berlin.