There was no shortage of standout talent on the wrestling mat among area schools, especially with the second-ranked team in the state in Bristol Eastern.
The Lancers dominated area wrestling and repeated as Class L state champions. They finished the dual meet season undefeated. Bristol Eastern’s depth throughout the light, middle and heavyweight classes was the main reason why the Lancers were ranked right behind State Open champion and annual wrestling powerhouse Danbury, which Bristol Eastern didn’t get to face in a dual meet this year.
With another outstanding season in the books, the Lancers have 10 athletes taking their place on our 2017-18 All-Press Wrestling Team - Bryce Beebe (106 pounds), Jordon Champagne (113), Tom Nichols (120), Carson Sassu (126), Gabe Soucy (132), Diego Fernandez (145), Justin Marshall (152), Mike Barrett (160), Trinidad Gonzalez (195) and Hidekal Mangual (220).
Fernandez, Marshall, Barrett and Gonzalez were all Class L individual champions in their weight class.
For Gonzalez and Barrett, it was back-to-back individual state championships.
Barrett, a senior, finishes his career as the city record-holder in wins, with 156. To go with the back-to-back Class L titles, Barrett placed at the New England Championship as a junior and placed at the State Open in both his junior and senior seasons.
Gonzalez is 90-22 in his career so far with the Lancers and will have another year to grow his legacy at the school. One of the better wrestlers at preventing opponents from tallying points, Gonzalez’s offensive style and putting up points of his own on the scoreboard stood out this season.
Beebe, Champagne and Mangual round out the seniors from the Lancers program selected to our 10th annual team.
In two years at the varsity level, Beebe racked up 75 wins, as one of the most consistent wrestlers for Bristol Eastern. He went back-to-back with Champagne in dual meets, as the two were cogs for the lower weight classes. Champagne finished with more than 100 career wins as a four-year starter.
“Champagne anchored the lower weights,” Bristol Eastern coach Bryant Lishness said. “They all got better this year, led by Jordon.”
Mangual wrestled at 220 for Eastern and finished 31-12 in his senior year.
Fernandez, Gonzalez, Marshall, Sassu and Soucy led a strong junior class for Bristol Eastern.
With the three individual state champions to go with Sassu (fourth in Class L) and Soucy, the juniors have the Lancers set for another strong year next season.
Another big reason behind continued success will be Nichols, the only freshmen named to our All-Press team. Nichols finished his first season 39-12 and placed third in Class L at 120 pounds.
Bristol Eastern’s cross-town rival, Bristol Central, featured one of the most impressive wrestlers in his 120-pound weight class throughout New England, senior Chris Trelli, who also earns All-Press recognition.
Coming into the season Trelli set high goals for himself, including winning the Class L individual title, seeking a rematch with Danbury’s Ryan Jack in the State Open final, and placing at both the New England Championship and the Virginia Beach Nationals.
Trelli finished first in Class L, but didn’t get the rematch with Jack at the State Open, as he placed fifth. Trelli, however, went on to place third at the New England Championship, even more rewarding.
“To be able to bounce back after losing a match like that in the semifinals and come back all the way to take third place with a last-second takedown just shows pure grit,” Bristol Central coach Matt Boissonneault said. “That’s who he has always been. He came in as an 88-pound kid wrestling 108-pound kids. He has always embraced the challenge.”
Trelli finished as the Rams’ all-time leader in wins with 149.
Rounding out the Bristol Central wrestlers selected to our All-Press team are two more seniors, Mike Guzman and Damian Mahaffy.
The senior class led the Rams this season, as there were plenty of inexperienced wrestlers below them.
Both Guzman and Mahaffy can relate to the inexperience. The two began their wrestling careers at the high school level and it took them a couple years before they started to find success.
Guzman placed twice in Class L. He came in third place as a junior and fourth this year.
“It’s a testament to all the hard work that he has put in on the mat and in the weight room,” Boissonneault said.
Mahaffy went from being a JV wrestler halfway through his junior season to placing fifth in Class L this past season.
“The amount of progress that he’s made from that point until now is not due to chance,” Boissonneault said. “It has been hard work. He has taken advantage of every opportunity he’s had to get on the mat and get better.”
For the Terryville wrestling team, it was another strong year for Cayleb Leclerc, the final member of our All-Press team. After wrestling at 106 pounds last season as a freshman, Leclerc moved up to the 120-pound weight class this year, which features more juniors and seniors.
After winning the Class S state championship at his weight class as a freshman, Leclerc finished in fourth place this season. Overall on the year he was 17-7 after starting out 14-3. Leclerc won the Rodney Smith tournament at East Windsor, lost to Trelli in the Bristol Central Invitational final and was a Berkshire League champion in the 126-pound weight class.
“He made a big jump from last year going from 106 to 126 against juniors and seniors at that weight class,” Terryville coach Pete Veleas said. “He handled it very well. He still has a lot of work to do but he wrestled better competition this year.”