BRISTOL – Southington 152-pounder Tagan Welch faced a bout that could well swing the balance of power in the season opener against potent Bristol Eastern.
Welch, who rallied late last season to take third in the Class LL 138-pound division, faced off with Class L place-winner Justin Marshall.
Welch won the battle, but Southington couldn’t equal the Lancers’ strength from top to bottom Wednesday, falling 43-22 in an interdivisional CCC match between two of the league’s best squads.
”We didn’t match up well,” Southington coach Derek Dion said. “We’ll have a different team in a month. But we battled all the way through. We had close matches in probably 10 of the 14. It was fun.
”It’s a starting point, not an ending point. It’s just unfortunate we had this match so early.”
Bristol Eastern was ranked fifth in the state coaches’ poll last year after winning all 19 of its dual meets. The Lancers returned seven place-winners from a team that won the Class L championship. Southington went 15-1 and returned four place-winners from Class LL.
Welch used a crossface to earn the first takedown with 46 seconds left in the first period. Another takedown gave him a 4-0 lead. A penalty point and a reversal staked Welch to a 7-0 advantage. A late escape by Marshall, fourth at 152 last year, left the verdict at 7-1. It gave Southington a 13-12 lead, its first of the match.
Pins by Eastern’s state champion Michael Barrett at 160 and Southington’s New England kingpin Paul Calo at 170 left the Blue Knights ahead by a point.
At 182, Caleb Chesanow persevered in a donnybrook against Eastern’s Keegan Bartis. Chesanow had an 8-5 lead in the final seconds when Bartis scored a two-point takedown. Chesanow’s 8-7 win enabled Southington to take a four-point lead.
All Southington coach Derek Dion wanted from Nick Truncali at 195 was to avoid the pin against Eastern’s returning place-winner Trinidad Gonzalez. Gonzalez won 9-0, but Truncali did his job. The score was tied with four bouts to go.
“[Truncali] did great,” Dion said. “He had never seen a wrestling match before in his life and he had some chances to score.”
The Knights’ Jacob Vecchio appeared to have Ethan Mathieu pinned in the second period of the bout at 220, but he was assessed a penalty point and the battle continued. Mathieu posted a 7-5 decision to propel the Lancers back in the lead.
”It turned into an illegal headlock. I don’t think it was,” Dion said. “[Mathieu] was on his back for a minute-and-a-half so you kind of hope for the pin there. It didn’t go our way, but it’s not a pin until the referee calls a pin.”
Eastern’s Hidekel Mangual busted up a close bout with a pinning combination early in the second period to all but put a lock on a Lancer victory. Eastern’s sttate place-winners Bryce Beebe (106) and Jordon Champagne won by fall to expand the margin of victory.
The action began with the 120-pound weight class where Eastern’s Thomas Nichols pinned Devin Lord in 1:40. The Lancers moved out to a 12-0 lead when Carson Sassu, fifth at 120 in Class L last year, stuck freshman Dawsen Welch in 1:07.
Southington got on the board in the third bout, but not the way Dion would have liked. Jacob Cardozo used an early takedown and a reversal at the start of the second period to build an 8-0 lead. But Cardozo’s bid for a pin cost him a major decision in waning seconds, limiting Southington to three team points instead of four, or the six a pin would bring.
Jason Brault drew the Knights a bit closer at 138 with an 8-2 decision over Tyler King.
Dion said that one of Southington’s 2016-17 place-winners — heavyweight Jimmy Starr — has not returned to the team.