WRESTLING: Top area seeds are ready to state their case

WRESTLING: Top area seeds are ready to state their case

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MERIDEN — There are plenty of title contenders among area wrestlers heading into this weekend’s CIAC state class tournaments.

Meriden sports a trio of No. 1 seeds in Maloney’s Kody Talento and Platt’s James Rondini and Luke Fuerstenberg as action gets under way Friday afternoon and continues on Saturday. (Rondini, who suffered a dislocated elbow several weeks ago, has been cleared to wrestle.)

In addition to the top seeds, there are several other championship threats from Maloney, Platt and Southington.

The Blue Knights could have as many as 10 grapplers reach the podium. Southington coach Derek Dion said a goal for the Blue Knights is to place in the top three at a team at the Class LL competition at Trumbull High School.

Southington’s top seeds are No. 2 Billy Carr (182 pounds, 31-4 record) and No. 3’s Caleb Brick (145, 18-3), Dawsen Welch (152, 30-9) and Josh Vitti (160, 27-7).

Also seeded in the Top 10 for the Blue Knights are No. 5’s Ben Gorr (126, 31-4) and Darius Mangiafico (132, 24-4); No. 6 Jared Guida (138, 26-11), No. 7’s Luke DeAngelis (195, 17-9) and Jake Vecchio (220, 31-8) and No. 8 Colton Thorp (106, 20-11).

The top six in each weight division for the four class tournaments advance to next weekend’s State Open at the New Haven Athletic Center.

“We can get nine or 10 guys on the podium,” Dion said of his team’s Class LL prospects. “None of our guys are the No. 1 seed, but we have a tough schedule. Our mantra is to beat your seed. Every guy we are bringing can make the podium.”

Dion said all four of his seniors who will be in action — Carr, Brick, Vecchio and Vitti — could win it all. Carr was Class LL champ a year ago at 170.

“We want to get as many kids as possible in the State Open,” Dion said. “We can finish in the Top 3 if we wrestle well. We are going to go out there and do the best we can.”

Maloney will wrestle in the Class L championships at Bristol Central led by the top-seeded Talento. The senior enters the competition with the highest of expectations after going 30-3 in the regular season, earning career win No. 100 and winning the CCC small-school crown last weekend at 160 pounds.

“I think he can win this tournament,” Maloney coach Joe Winoski said. “He has to keep a level head on his shoulders.

“As a team, everyone needs to wrestle like they are the underdog,” Winoski added. “We have to go in humble and stick to what we’ve done all season.”

Winoski said he would like to see Talento end his matches as quickly as possible to conserve energy for later in the tournament.

Also for Maloney, Darel Rivera is expected to do some damage at 220. He’s the No. 3 seed with a 32-3 record.

“He’s got stiff competition and he has the mindset where he’s not afraid of anyone,” Winoski said. “As long as he sticks to what he knows and doesn’t think about it too much, he has a good chance to be in the finals and winning it.”

Also seeded in the top 10 for Maloney are No. 8 Austin Studley (132, 18-10), No. 9’s Elijah Stevenson (195, 14-11) and Onil Carrion (120, 28-8) and No. 10 Brandon Kwarteng (heavyweight, 14-11).

Winoski said he’s looking for his Spartans to get in the Top 10 as a team in a difficult division.

Winoski said junior standout R.J. Plumberg would have been a No. 3 or No. 4 seed at 152 if he were healthy. The junior had shoulder surgery on Tuesday.

Speaking of injuries, Platt initially received great news on Thursday morning that the unbeaten Rondini was cleared to wrestle in the Class M tournament in Guilford.

Rondini has missed the last two weeks with a dislocated elbow. At 34-0, he is the top seed in 132.

“We are excited for him to have the opportunity to compete,” McCarty said. “He’ll give it everything he’s got.”

The Panthers will now hope for additional good news on Friday morning regarding senior Isaiah Ross, who injured his knee over the weekend.

McCarty said Ross is 50-50 to compete. If he does, he will be the No. 2 seed at 126 with a 36-2 record.

Fuerstenberg is the Panthers’ second top seed with a 39-1 record at heavyweight. He’s coming off a CCC small-school championship last weekend. En route to that title, he also set a Platt single-season record with 30 pins.

“He earned it,” McCarty said. “His one lose was against Bristol Eastern and he avenged that (last) weekend. The Branford kid was listed as No. 1, but Luke beat him head to head. Hopefully, he has a nice weekend and brings home a championship.”

Sophomore Mathew Merrigan is a No. 2 seed at 162 with a 33-1 record. Percentage-wise (97.1%), he was the top seed, but was switched to No. 2 due to tiebreaker.

“He took second at CCC’s and we really liked how he wrestled,” McCarty said. “He doesn’t back down and he has a high-paced, high-energy style on the mat.”

Plat has a pair of No. 4 seeds in Cristian Calero (170, 28-5) and Evean Oquendo (182, 21-7). Tristyn D'Aniello checks in at No. 5 in 138 with a 20-10 record.

Rounding out Platt’s top guys are No. 9 Ommy Velez at (220, 13-8) and No. 10 Owen Chambers (195, 19-10).

The Panthers finished with a 24-11 regular season record and were sixth in the CCC Tournament, but weren’t at full strength. That is something they hope to be this weekend in the Class M championships in Guilford.

“If we are at full capacity, we will be contenders,” McCarty said. “Every year we have had some really good wrestlers at states, but not a big group like this. It’s a different team and we are looking forward to see what they can do on the mat.”