MERIDEN — The loss of the area’s most checkered wrestler to a season-ending injury midway through the year certainly took some starch out of the 2018-19 wrestling season.
We’ll never know if Southington senior Paul Calo would have won a third straight New England championship.
Yet we do know that his Southington teammates, senior Jacob Cardozo and junior Billy Carr, went over the top at the Class LL state tournament, ensuring that the Record-Journal coverage area would not be without a state title this winter.
We also know that Platt junior James Rondini, in a span of three heady weeks in February, jazzed things up with career win No. 100, followed by runner-up performances in Class M and at the State Open.
Maloney senior Nik DeBaise also took a silver medal, his at the Class L tournament.
In all, 14 area wrestlers placed in the divisional tournaments to qualfiy for the State Open. Of that 14, three went on to the New England Championships in Providence, R.I.
There were three 40-win guys this season. Ten others reached the 30-win plateau.
No question, losing Paul Calo to injury was terribly unfortunate. All, however, was not lost on area mats in 2018-19. The following 10 were selected to the third annual All-Record-Journal Wrestling Team. We work light to heavy, starting at 113.Ben Gorr,Southington fr. 113
How’s this for a rookie debut? Despite Southington’s grueling regular-season schedule, which includes tournaments in Lowell, Mass. and at New Hampshire powerhouse Timberlane, Ben Gorr won 33 of 42 matches.
He went on to place fourth in Class LL and qualify for the State Open, where he went 2-2. That gave him a final freshman record of 39-13.James Rondini,Platt jr. 120
The sparkplug of the Panthers, James Rondini returned to the All-RJ Team for a second straight year by going 34-3 in the regular season and capping it with career victory No. 100 in the Platt-Maloney match.
His runs to second place in Class M and at the State Open featured three pins, two minor decisions and a major decision in the Class M semifinals.
The State Open silver sent Rondini on to the New England Championships, where he went 1-2.
It added up to a final 2018-19 record of 41-6. Rondini takes 107 career wins into his senior season and a definite sense of unfinished business.Isaiah Ross,Platt jr. 126
Following Rondini in the lineup, Isaiah Ross gave the Panthers a devastating 1-2 punch at 120-126. Consider that while Rondini was going 34-3 in the regular season, Ross was going 32-5.
Ross finished third in Class M by rebounding from an overtime loss in the semifinals to win a pair on consolation matches, including a 9-8 decision in the third-place match.
Ross went 1-2 at the State Open to finish the season 37-8.Jacob Cardozo,Southington sr. 145
Aside from Platt’s Rondini, Jacob Cardozo is the lone returner to the All-RJ Team.
A year after winning 44 matches and finishing fourth in Class LL and at the State Open at 126 pounds, Cardozo moved up three weight classes and claimed the Class LL crown at 145.
Cardozo was a house of fire on that run, winning his first match 8-0 and then pinning in 12 seconds into his quarterfinal bout. A 12-6 semifinals victory set up a 3-2 victory in the final.
At the State Open, Cardozoz reached the semifinals and ultimately placed fifth. He was 2-2 at the New England Championships for a final senior year record of 42-10.
Those 42 wins were the area high.Kody Talento,Maloney jr. 152
After a standout football season in which he led the Class L state runner-up Spartans on defense with 124 tackles, Kody Talento moved from middle linebacker to middleweight on the Maloney mats.
Wrestling primarily at 152 pounds, though occasionally bumping up, Talento pieced together a 31-12 season. He placed sixth in Class L at 152 and advanced to the State Open, where he went 1-2.Josh Vitti,Southington jr. 160
At 41-14, Josh Vitti was one of the area’s three 40-match winners. He was also one of the area’s three New England qualifiers, joining Cardozo and Rondini in Providence.
After a 31-9 regular season, Vitti placed third in Class LL. He reached the semifinals, where he tied No. 1 seed Dean Tsiranides of Fairfield Prep with a third-period escape and takedown. Tsiranides, in turn, escaped from that takedown to escape with a 9-8 victory.
Vitti recovered with a wild 13-12 victory in the consolation semis and a 7-2 triumph in the third-place bout.
Vitti’s resiliency was evident again at the State Open. After losing in the quarterfinals, Vitti won three of four consolation matches to place fifth and earn a spot in the New England Championships.Billy Carr,Southington jr. 170
Like Maloney’s Talento, Billy Carr was a standout linebacker who went directly from the gridiron to the mat and thrived.
Carr was All-Conference in football with 106 tackles. He was All-State in wrestling by marching to the Class LL title bout at 170 pounds with a pin, major decision and minor decision.
In the finals, Carr defeated No. 1 seed Andrew Seaton of Amity 5-4.
Carr went on to go 3-2 at the State Open and finish his junior season at 33-8.Nik DeBaise,Maloney sr. 182
Due to an abbreviated regular season, Nik DeBaise was only a No. 6 seed heading into the Class L state tournament. He put the lie to that ranking by defeating both the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds en route to the 182-pound finale.
DeBaise finished second and moved on to the State Open, finishing the season at 19-9.
DeBaise was also his team’s Record-Journal Scholar-Athlete. He’s heading to UConn, where he’ll major in Economics.Ryan Greene, Platt sr. 182
Like his Maloney rival, Platt 182-pounder Ryan Greene was an R-J Scholar-Athlete. He’ll be majoring in accounting a year from now.
This season on the mat, Greene went 31-7 in the regular season with 15 pins and 37 takedowns. He placed fourth in Class M and qualified for the State Open. His final mark: 34-11.Andy Flores,Platt sr. 195
At 195 pounds. Flores is the de facto heavyweight on this year’s All-RJ Team.
Following Greene at the top of the Platt lineup, Flores compiled a 32-12 campaign. Like Greene, Flores reached the semifinal round of the Class M tournament and ultimately finished fourth. He went on to win a match at the State Open.