MERIDEN – Platt wrestlers opened their 2017 season and christened their new gymnasium Wednesday night with a dominant and emotional win.
The Panthers overwhelmed Conard 59-15 in their first meet at Platt since 2015.
Before the action started, Platt honored 2009 grad and standout wrestler Ryan Smith, who died in August from injuries sustained in a car crash. In the pre-match announcements, Smith’s named was called as Platt’s 106-pounder and his father Dan, wearing his son’s Platt varsity letter jacket, came out to the mat and shook the Conard wrestler’s hand.
The ceremonial handshake was done with the blessing of the Conard coaching staff, a gesture the Platt squad appreciated.
“Ryan wrestled for me and his father was my coach,” said Platt coach Bryan McCarty, who wrestled for Dan Smith in 1988 and 1989. “They are a part of the Platt wrestling family. It’s tough to lose an athlete so young. I felt that it was appropriate to honor them.
“Ryan always had that great spirit and great spunk and character, and had a tremendous senior season for us in 2009,” McCarty added. “He’s best remembered for his goofiness and going all out. Just a great kid.”
The Panthers wore special t-shirts in Smith’s honor. Before next week’s home meet against Berlin, the Panthers will honor another fallen Panther: Jay Agli, who died earlier this year. This would have been Agli’s senior season.
Platt channeled all the inspiration and controlled the match from beginning to end.
“There’s plenty for us to work on, but they were determined,” McCarty said. “They looked good and looked tough.”
The most exciting victory came at 152. Platt’s Dante Morris held a 5-3 lead and was seemingly in control, on the back of Conard’s Anthony Adam in the closing seconds. Adam reversed to tie the match 5-5 with 10 seconds left. Morris escaped just before the buzzer to win 6-5.
Platt rolled to a 21-0 lead following that match.
“Just non-stop wrestling,” McCarty said. “He kept wrestling. He gave up that reversal, and to get that escape with less than three seconds, it was really exciting.”
Platt senior Ben Stratton had one of the most dominant wins of the night. Trailing Tai Craig Jr. 2-0 in the opening seconds, Stratton got an opening and took advantage of it. He forced Craig Jr. to the mat with a powerful takedown and then pinned his opponent in 39 seconds.
“I was kind of mad about it,” Stratton said. “I didn’t want to pin him. I’m trying to break the record for takedowns. But I’m proud of myself and I worked hard in the offseason.”
Stratton said he needs 67 takedowns for the school record. He also is sitting on 84 career wins, with No. 100 in his sights.
Platt senior Jeremy Polanco was equally impressive for the Panthers with a pinfall victory in 35 seconds at 126.
Platt’s Damian Morris, a senior, also pinned, taking 145 in 1:17. Sophomore James Rondini scored a 16-0 tech fall at 113.
Rasec Rodriquez and Luis Santibanez started the match with forfeit wins at 132 and 138. Platt had a total of five walkovers in the win. Also earning forfeit wins were Ryan Greene (182) and Cesar Flores (220) and Cesar Flores (220).
Platt senior Zavian Arroyo worked out a 9-5 win at 170.
Conard’s highlight of the night was in a thrilling 160-pound clash. The Cheiftains’ James Cheverier outlasted Platt’s Mahmoud Hassan 14-12 with a reverse with three seconds left.
Conard’s other two wins came on a pin a 4:48 at heavyweight for Michael Mancini and Nick Urso’s forfeit win at 103.
The Panthers have high expectations for this season. They return 14 seniors, including five place-winners.