TRUMBULL - Southingtonâ€™s Austin Abacherli can call himself a champion.
The 150-pound wrestler won his title on a 3-2 decision over Newtownâ€™s Alexander Stavola on the final day of the Class LL wrestling championship on Saturday, and even as the senior took a minute to reflect, it still seemed like a foreign concept.
â€śIt hasnâ€™t really registered with me yet that I am a state champion,â€ť Abacherli said. â€śTonight Iâ€™ll go home and let it sink in.
â€śIâ€™ve been coming to these tournaments since I was in fifth grade and itâ€™s good to have all my hard work finally pay off. I have finished a place better every year so this feels good.â€ťÂ
Joining the Blue Knights at the tournament was New Britain and while Southington had a better day overall, as it had more wrestlers compete and an individual winner, it was the Hurricanes that came away the happier of the two.Â
The fifth-ranked Blue Knights came into the tournament as one of the favorites to win, but finished fourth overall with head coach Derek Dion said it wasnâ€™t their day.Â
Southington finished the day with one winner, Abacherli, four fourth place finishers, and one finisher in second, third and sixth place for a total of 179.5 points.Â
â€śI came in thinking that we could take second,â€ť Dion said. â€śWe figured Danbury would take first, but we thought we had a good chance to finish a little higher than we did.
â€śThe consolation round was a nightmare. We had six guys going for either third or fifth and only one of our guys won their match. So we had chances, we were just a little bit off.â€ť
While the day didnâ€™t go exactly as the Blue Knights would have hoped it, did have eight wrestlers place, and therefore qualify for the state open next week. Two Southington wrestlers grappled in championship matches. Abacherli was one and Paul Calo the other.Â
Calo was winning his match late, but Ryan Devivo of Xavier tied it up to bring it to overtime. Devivo then got a take down in the overtime period to win the 160-pound state championship.Â
â€śPaul wrestled well he just made a couple of minor mistakes that cost him in the end,â€ť Dion said. â€śAustin has been working his butt off though, and has really been wrestling well lately so itâ€™s great for him and he really deserves to be a state champion.â€ť
For New Britain, it only had one wrestler place in the meet and that was junior Jordyn Rowe. The 120-pounder was seeded eighth in his weight class but was able to finish fifth with a dominant performance in the fifth-place match, where he beat Dylan Ehret of Greenwich by a 6-0 decision.Â
â€śCoach and I talked about it right before the match,â€ť Rowe said. â€śI wasnâ€™t going to take anything less than fifth place.â€ť
As a team the Hurricanes finished 16th overall which was above what they expected coming into the weekend.
â€śConsidering what we had coming in, I was expecting to finish somewhere around 20th,â€ť New Britain head coach Charles Ferguson said. â€śBut I think we did better than that so I think it was a successful weekend.â€ť
â€śThis weekend I saw a different team than I have seen all season,â€ť Rowe said. â€śAll of these guys really wanted to work for it in this tournament and thatâ€™s awesome to see.â€ť
The team may have had a renewed energy this weekend, but it was Rowe who stood out like he has all season and now he is headed to the state open.
â€śIt means a lot man,â€ť Rowe said. â€śI almost cried. I have put in a lot of work to get to this point so itâ€™s really great to have it all pay off.â€ť
Michael Woolfson can be reached at 860-801-5203 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter @Bigwoolf5