NEW HAVEN-After winning the State Open finals in the 220-pound bracket, Bristol Eastern senior Trinidad Gonzalez couldn’t help but let out a long sigh of relief.
One year removed from a painful overtime loss in the same tournament, Gonzalez cured a year’s worth of heartache with a 2-1 decision over Shelton’s Ray Weiner on Saturday afternoon.
“Taking second last year wasn’t a good feeling,” Gonzalez said. “My main goal (in the finals) was to go out there and dominate and control the match. I think I did pretty well.”
Gonzalez’s finish helped the Lancers secure fourth place as a group for the event, as Trent Thompson (106) and Tom Nichols (132) each finished in third place. Like Gonzalez, Nichols took a narrow decision, winning 1-0 over Saul Pera of Simsbury, while Thompson won a lopsided 13-4 major decision over Joel Barlow’s Josh Brault.
Despite finishing with multiple place winners and a top-five finish overall, Eastern head coach Bryant Lishness was still hoping for a higher finish, though the team’s final three matches helped boost morale by the time the tournament came to a close.
“I was hoping for a little more, but this is a tough tournament,” Lishness said. “We had a couple losses by one point that were kind of frustrating, but it is what it is.”
Berlin senior Dan Veleas opened the finals matches by taking on Tyler Sung of New Canaan in the 145-pound bracket, and lost a 5-0 decision. Veleas, coming off a third straight Class M championship, was hoping for a State Open title, but still accomplished his preseason goal of advancing to the New England Championships next weekend.
“I was really happy with the way I wrestled in the matches leading up to the finals,” Veleas said. “(Sung) was a really tough opponent. I was trying to get to my attacks and he kept me away and got to his offense. I have to give him credit for that. I wanted to be a State Open champion, but I’m proud of the way I performed this weekend.”
Veleas was the only member of the Redcoats to compete in the medal rounds, as the team lost a pair of seniors to injury during the tournament. Sebastian Malespini suffered an injured elbow, while Max Schlein injured an already hurting shoulder that forced him out of the tournament after wrestling two matches.
“We shut (Max) down for the last few weeks of the regular season, but he hurt it again in the Class M finals,” Berlin head coach Peter Veleas said. “That’s always tough, but that’s the genius of wrestling. You’re fighting yourself first. You have to compete against yourself.”
While the Redcoats’ misfortunes were out of their control, Southington head coach Derek Dion watched his Blue Knights struggle with aspects of the tournament that were in their control, as the team managed only a pair of fifth-place finishers, one by forfeit, en route to an overall finish of eighth place.
“We had a bad day,” Dion said. “We were losing one and two point matches. We had the first takedowns in most matches and were just laying eggs out there. The kids wanted it, but weren’t executing in the third period.”
While Josh Vitti (160) recorded the forfeit win for fifth place, Jacob Cardozo defeated Xavier’s James Lunt in an 8-2 decision to give the Blue Knights a happy ending to an otherwise frustrating weekend.
Bristol Central didn’t have any competitors in the medal rounds, but walked away feeling optimistic. After showing significant improvements at the Class L tournament last weekend, the Rams saw more strides in the right direction thanks to four out of five wrestlers making it to the final day of the tournament, including junior Jason Feto, who came one match short of wrestling for a medal.
“Feto had a phenomenal tournament,” Central head coach Matt Boissonneault said. “He wrestled a kid that beat him 11-1 last year and beat him this time, and then beat a Class L champ who beat him last week (Nichols of Bristol Eastern) in a really good match. I was really pleased with his effort.”
Also pleased with his team’s effort was Plainville head coach Rusty Spence, who watched his inexperienced Blue Devils earn valuable experience at the state level, while some even turned in victories, including senior Travis Boone.
“We won four matches (Friday) night, and Travis pinned two kids really fast,” Spence said. “We weren’t expecting too much, but it was good to see a senior last as long as he did.”
Newington entered the open in a similar situation as Plainville, eager to see how its young group would handle the biggest stage of the season. Head coach Thuong Nguyen was encouraged by the result, despite no Indians placing in the tournament.
“I feel like we wrestled to the best of our ability,” Nguyen said. “The State Open was something they were looking to achieve, and now they’ve been here. Now the expectation is to come back here and win.”
New Britain also didn’t have any wrestlers competing for a spot in the top six, but head coach Jordan Jacquo watched his Hurricanes fight hard, including Isahus Maldonado (106) who lost both matches by two points, while wrestlers Isaiah Medina and Nickolas Richardson made it to the second day of action before being eliminated.
“They all fought hard,” Jacquo said. “I’m very proud of the way they held their own. They left it all on the mat.”