WRESTLING: Despite loss of New England champ, postseason prospects remain high for Southington

WRESTLING: Despite loss of New England champ, postseason prospects remain high for Southington

SOUTHINGTON — The Southington wrestling team went into Newington High School to take care of business Wednesday night and did just that. The Blue Knights routed the Indians 60-3 in a CCC West dual to put their record at 8-1 on the season.

They rank No. 4 in the latest Connecticut Wrestling Poll.

The Blue Knights have been rolling since their season-opening loss to Bristol Eastern, but they have suffered a couple of bumps as of late. The first is illness, which has limited a few of their wrestlers.

The second is the devastating loss of senior Paul Calo. The two-time New England champ tore his labrum last week in practice and his season is over.

Despite these misfortunes, Southington had no trouble dominating Newington. Assistant coach Brian Zaccagnino, filling in for head coach Derek Dion, who could not attend Wednesday’s match, liked the way the Blue Knights handled the recent adversity.

“We’ve had some injuries and kids getting sick, but the kids wrestled hard,” Zaccagnino said. “Newington’s guys were ready to go and they fought off their backs well. We need to do a better job of putting them away when they are on their backs, but overall it was a good performance.”

When asked about Southington’s standout wrestlers and their prospects as the state tournaments draw closer, Zaccagnino affirmed that the Blue Knights have more than what people may think.

“We have a lot of guys that we expect to contend for a podium spot at LL’s,” the assistant coach said. “Obviously, guys like you mentioned before — (Jacob) Cardoza, (Billy) Carr, and (Caleb) Brick. But I would say out of the 14 weight classes, we expect to be contending for a medal in arguably 11 of them.”

Jacob Vecchio, Southington’s 220-pounder, and Ben Gorr, at 113, are also Blue Knights to watch come February.

Depth, of course, is critical at the state tournaments because the points each wrestler accumulates factors into team scoring. Depth also has a way of fueling the performance of individual wrestlers.

“The teams that are in it, you can see the energy amongst their teammates when another guy is wrestling, no matter the seeding, because those points matter a lot,” Zaccagnino explained. “So if you have a team with just one or two standouts and not much experience throughout, then you may not have that same energy. We hope to have that energy when states come, but that is still some time away.”

In the meantime, the Blue Knights aim to stay on the pedal. On Saturday, they’re due to head up to New Hampshire for the annual Timberlane Tournament.

“The message we send to our guys is momentum can burn. We don’t need you peaking at Christmas; no one ever handed out the state championship in December,” Zaccagnino said. “This week is another step. We still have some things to work out, but we will be ready come next week.”