Area wrestling teams head into the CIAC class tournaments on Friday afternoon with solid expectations.
For good reason. There’s a reigning New England champ in the mix, a couple of No. 1 seeds and 15 guys who already have at least 25 wins on the season.
It should add up to something good, as it did a year ago, for coach Derek Dion’s Southington Blue Knights, coach Bryan McCarty’s Platt Panthers and coach Eric Bergeron’s Maloney Spartans.
The one bummer? The three area programs won’t be under the same roof until next weekend’s State Open. For now, Southington is in Trumbull for Class LL, Platt in Guilford for Class M and Maloney at Bristol Central for Class L.
Action gets under way Friday at 4:45 p.m. and resumes with quarterfinals Saturday at 9 a.m. Semifinals follow at 1 p.m., the finals at 6 p.m.
Southington, ranked No. 5 in the latest CT Wrestling Online poll, placed fourth as a team last year in Class LL and at the State Open. The Blue Knights also had a New England champ in 160-pounder Paul Calo.
Now a 170-pound junior, Calo is the No. 1 seed in Class LL. He sports a 37-1 record, with his lone loss coming at the Eastern States Invitational in New York, where he placed second.
The words “second” and “Paul Calo” have not appeared in the same sentence in Connecticut all season and that’s not likely to change this weekend.
Calo also has two senior teammates in contention for Class LL crowns. Tagan Welch, at 33-6, is seeded No. 1 at 152 pounds. Shaun Wagner, with a record of 30-3, is the No. 3 at 138.
Yet another 30-win wrestler for the Blue Knights, junior Jacob Cardozo (30-8), is seeded No. 4. Jacob Vecchio, a 220-pounder sophomore, is No. 4 in his division at 23-15.
A few other Blue Knights to watch: junior 132-pounder Jason Brault (28-11) and sophomore 160 William Carr (25-14). Both are No. 6 seeds. Sophomore Caleb Brick (25-12) is No. 7 at 106.
Bottom line: Southington has a wrestler in every weight class and will be among the leading contenders chasing perennial Class LL and State Open champ Danbury, which ranks No. 1 in the state poll.
As for Platt and Maloney, they are led by their senior captains and stars — 182-pounder Ben Stratton for the Panthers; 132-pounder Demetre Carnot for the Spartans.
Carnot is the defending Class L champ in his weight class. He is Maloney’s all-time wins leader at 142-19. He goes into the postseason with a 21-1 mark on the year.
Stratton, who reached the 100-win milestone to start the season, takes a mark of 29-1 into the Class M tourney. He is the No. 2 seed at 182 and he’ll be looking to land his first state title after falling in last year’s 160-pound final 1-0.
Coming off an 18-5 dual-meet campaign, and with wrestlers in 12 of the 14 weight classes, Platt will be setting its sights on the team title after finishing fourth a year ago behind champion Ellis Tech. Killingly, Waterford and Joel Barlow are other teams deep in the hunt.
The Panthers have an additional No. 2 seed in 120-pound senior Jeremy Polanco (26-6) and a pair of No. 3’s in sophomore 113 James Rondini and senior 170 Zavian Arroyo. Rondini and Arroyo both went 30-5 during the regular season.
Platt also brings two No. 4 seeds to the table. Ryan Greene, a junior, went 28-5 at 195 pounds. Isaiah Ross, a sophomore, was 19-8 at 126.
Maloney, meanwhile, has some depth behind Carnot. Senior Markeese Thompson (22-9) is the No. 4 seed at 160. Nik DeBaise, 28-8 as a junior, is the No. 5 at 182.
Then there’s senior Jocelynn Rodriguez. Battling against the boys, the 106-pounder went 23-13 this year. She’s seeded No. 11 in her division.
Potential dark horses for the Spartans? Junior Jayden Robles (25-9) is the No. 7 at 120. Sophomore Kody Talento (21-10) is the No. 8 at 145.
Bristol Eastern, ranked No. 2 in the state poll, is the defending Class L team champ. New Milford, ranked No. 3, leads the cast of challengers.
The top six wrestlers in each weight class at all four class meets advance to the State Open, which returns to the Floyd Little Athletic Center next Friday.