BRISTOL - Coming in as the defending Class L state champions, the Bristol Eastern wrestling team got out to an early 12-0 start then struggled in the middle of the meet before pulling away for the 43-22 victory over Southington on Wednesday.
While the middle of the match may have been closer than the Lancers would have liked, going against the Blue Knights, a team that is one of the top programs in the state as well, only helps Bristol Eastern get rolling in the New Year.
“You don’t often start with that tough of a dual meet right of the gate,” Bristol Eastern coach Bryant Lishness said. “It’s usually something a little less pressure packed. To be exposed right away to this I think is good for us because it shows a lot of stuff we need to work on.”
While a win is a win, the Lancers believe they still have plenty to improve upon moving forward.
“Especially since last year we went undefeated and were state champs,” Bristol Eastern’s Hidekel Mangual said. “I think that we just fundamentally have the potential to do better and maybe even go to state opens.”
Out of the six returning wrestlers that placed in Class L last season - Bryce Beebe, Jordon Champagne, Carson Sassu, Justin Marshall, Mike Barrett, Trinidad Gonzalez and Mangual - all but one won their first match.
Marshall was the only one of the bunch to lose as he struggled to figure out how to beat Southington’s Tagan Welch, a Class LL place winner a season ago, who won by a decision.
After finishing fourth in Class L last season, the team is expecting a big year out of Marshall.
“I thought that was one of the key matchups [Wednesday],” Lishness said. “I’ll still pick my guy. He didn’t have his match [against Southington]. Welch wrestled really well, got to give him credit and wore Justin out. But Justin will get on the right path. He’s going to be there in the end and be a kid who I think is going to challenge for a championship in Class L and he’s going to compete really well at the Opens and hopefully get to New Englands for us so we’ll get through it.”
Throughout the meet, the Lancers also didn’t have the conditioning that they expect out of each other, which led to some of the matches being closer than desired for Bristol Eastern.
In defending Class L state champion Trinidad Gonzalez’s match, he was controlling throughout but couldn’t get the pin against Southington’s Nick Truncali.
“I think I need to get in more shape,” Gonzalez said. “If I was in more shape I would have finished the match up with a pin. So I think we’re going to do a lot more running during practice because I think it was too close in the middle.”
With the win, Bristol Eastern put others on notice that it is still the team to beat this year.
“I think that beating a top team like Southington is us sending a message not just to other schools but to ourselves that we’re here and we’re going for rings again,” Mangual said.
Dan Orencole can be reached at 860-973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org