Warde’s championships highlight 2023-24 wrestling season for FCIAC

Fairfield Warde defended its title at the 2024 Joe Sikorski FCIAC Wrestling Tournament, and a week later coach Jason Shaughnessy’s Mustangs captured the first state championship in school history when they won the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference Class LL Wrestling Tournament.

Dominic Barrella and Viktor Petkov of Ridgefield, Deydon Soto and Jesse Defonce of Danbury, Fairfield Ludlowe’s Dylan Sherman, and Fairfield Warde’s Zach Brzoska all won multiple individual titles in their respective weight classes at the postseason championship tournaments.

The great seasons by those six individuals and the Fairfield Warde team highlighted the accomplishments of many FCIAC wrestlers and wrestling teams. The conference had three teams ranked among the top seven in the final Top 10 state poll.

Fairfield Warde was ranked third, Danbury was fifth and Ridgefield seventh in the Final CT Wrestling Online Poll. Xavier, which won the CIAC Class L Wrestling Tournament and State Open championships for the third straight year, received all 16 first-place votes and was ranked No. 1. Newtown was No. 2.

Ridgefield’s Barrella and Danbury’s Soto both had themselves a Triple Crown season by winning their weight classes at the FCIAC tournament and two state championship tourneys.

Ridgefield’s Petkov also was a champion at the state Class LL and State Open tourneys after his runner-up finish at the FCIAC tournament and he concluded his season with the highest finish among conference grapplers at the New England Championships by placing second in his 144-pound class.

Brzoska and his teammates Dominick Spadaro and Cole Grenier led Fairfield Warde to those team titles at the FCIAC and CIAC Class LL tournaments. Brzoska was the 113-pound champion at both tourneys while Spadaro (138 pounds) and Grenier (190) were conference champions who then placed second at the Class LL state tournament.

Jude Grammatico (106) and Ian Bertot (175) also won their weight classes and Owen Sheiman (126) placed second when the Mustangs won their second straight FCIAC championship with 258.5 points, which was 43.5 points more than the runner-up score of 215 points which perennial power Danbury had.

Last year the Mustangs placed fourth at the Class LL and this year they fulfilled a major goal of winning a state championship. This season’s Class LL tournament on Feb. 24 was tight race for the team title and again a 1-2 finish of FCIAC teams Fairfield Warde and Danbury. Warde scored 221 points to finish just six points ahead of coach Mike Silvestri’s Danbury Hatters (215).

Brzoska was a champion and Spadaro, Grenier, Louis Soracco (165) and Anthony Albanese (285) all placed second at the Class LL tourney.

Fairfield Warde had nine wrestlers out of the 14 weight classes who placed fifth or higher. Those four more Mustangs placing among the top five was vital given the narrow margin of victory. Grammatico placed third, Sheiman was fourth, and Bertot and Liam Finneran (215) each were fifth.

“Although we were pleased with winning FCIAC last year, we were disappointed in how we did at LL’s,” Shaughnessy said. “The kids work hard and are told to “do their job” and we are 14 strong. What that means is it takes all the members of the lineup to contribute. We always preach to the kids the goal is to peak at the end of the season. That means 14 kids peaking at the end of the season, which is challenging but I have a great coaching staff to help the kids reach their goals.”

Brzoska placed second and Spadaro was third to lead Fairfield Warde to sixth place at the State Open.

With Brzoska and Spadaro both being juniors and plenty more quality Mustangs returning, it will be more of a case of them reloading rather than rebuilding for the next 2024-25 season.

“This group put the time in during the offseason getting mat time at clubs, attending off-season tournaments and putting the time in the off-season lifting,” said Shaughnessy, who has a 481-96-2 record at Fairfield Warde since his initial 1997-98 season. “This group loves the sport and enjoys each other and likes to strive towards high goals. We have another very strong squad returning and have high goals for next season. We are hoping to replicate and improve on this season’s success.”

Xavier scored 243.5 points to cruise to the State Open team title. Newtown was runner-up with 147.5 points, East Hartford placed third with 116 and was followed by FCIAC teams Ridgefield (111), Danbury (90) and Fairfield Warde (80).

Individual championships by seniors Barrella and Petkov led Ridgefield to the highest placing among FCIAC teams at the State Open.

Barrella got his Triple Crown postseason success going by becoming a three-time FCIAC champion. He defended his 120-pound class championship this year and two years ago as a sophomore he was the 113-pound champion.

After Barrella won the Class LL and State Open tournaments, he ended his superb career by placing fourth at the New England Championships. His accomplishments in the two previous seasons include his FCIAC championship, placing second at the Class LL state tourney and third at the State Open last year; and in 2022 he was the FCIAC and Class LL state champion and fifth at the State Open. Barrella had a 140-26 career record after going 38-4 this year.

Petkov set the new school record for wins in a season this year with his 55-9 record and he had a 126-32 career record. In the two previous Class LL tournaments he was fourth last year at 138 after placing sixth as a sophomore 132-pounder.

Six more Ridgefield Tigers placed high at championship tournaments. John Carrozza won the FCIAC 126-pound final and placed third at the Class LL, and Luciano Tumminello was the FCIAC’s 150-pound champion and fourth at Class LL. Dylan Meyers (113) was nipped by Brzoska, 4-3 in an overtime thriller, in the FCIAC’s 113-pound final, and Meyers then placed third at both the Class LL and State Open. Carter Lanzilli (106) placed second at the FCIAC and fourth at the Class LL tourney, and Leo Moore (132) and Lorenzo Lanzilli (132) placed third at Class LL.

Soto and Defonce, their Danbury teammate Christian Pote, and Norwalk senior Phoenix Gardella all embarked on their excellent careers two years ago. This year’s seniors did not get to compete as freshmen. There was no 2020-21 wrestling season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Soto, a junior, secured his Triple Crown season by winning at the State Open after he was the 132-pound champion at the FCIAC and Class LL state tournaments. He had a 12-0 record in those three tournaments, was 16-2 in the postseason after going 4-2 and placing fourth at the New England Championships, and he was 38-4 this past year. Soto placed second in the Class LL and fourth in the State Open two years ago and he missed last year’s postseason tournaments because of an injury.

Defonce had a great senior season as a 165-pounder by winning FCIAC and Class LL state championships and then wrestling back to place third at the State Open. He was the 138-pound FCIAC champion last year.

Pote (120) was runner-up to Barrella at the FCIAC, Class LL and State Open tournaments. Last year he was the 106-pound Class LL champion and fourth at the State Open and in 2022 he was the 106-pound FCIAC champ.

Danbury’s Eric Coons (175) and Anderson Da Silva (285) placed third at Class LL.

Gardella (132) was runner-up to Soto at the FCIAC, Class LL, and State Open. Two years ago, as a 120-pound sophomore, Gardella was fourth at the State Open. Last year he was selected the Most Outstanding Wrestler in the lower weights at the FCIAC tournament after he won the 126-pound title. Gardella’s teammate Nick Fatone (144) was fourth at the Class LL state tourney.

Fairfield Ludlowe’s Sherman became a multiple champion in the postseason at the Class L state tournament one week after he was good enough to win an 8-6 decision over Petkov in the FCIAC’s 144-pound final. Sherman was one of Fairfield Ludlowe’s three FCIAC champions. Donnell Young (157) won the FCIAC and placed fourth at Class L, and Sebastian Guzman was the FCIAC’s 285-pound champion.

Trumbull had a champion in Aethan Munden (215) and a pair of runner-up finishers in Tyler Neiva (157) and Braden McDermott (175) at the FCIAC tournament and Rory Firmender (190) was fourth at Class LL.

Westhill’s 215-pounder Woodensley Blaise placed second at the FCIAC tourney and fourth at Class LL.

For New Canaan: Trey Kaupp (138) was the FCIAC runner-up and Teddy Goetz (144) was third at the Class L state tournament.

Wilton’s 165-pounder Lorenzo Caratozzolo placed third at the Class L state tournament.

For Staples: Damian Rousseau (150) placed second at the FCIAC tourney, and Blake Watkins (138) and Lucas Rosen (165) both placed fourth at Class LL.

Jake Virgulak (190) of Brien McMahon was runner-up at the FCIAC tournament.

The popularity of girls wrestling continues to ascend and the FCIAC has been at the forefront of that.

Three of the conference’s grappling girls – Marangeli Teixeira of Trumbull, Kan-yah McCarthy of Fairfield Ludlowe and Stamford’s Jasmine Whitfield – became state champions at the 2024 CIAC Girls State Wrestling Championship.

Marangeli, a superb sophomore, won her second consecutive state championship by fall in the 165-pound class with her victory at 4:31 over Bunnell’s Matilda Tote.

McCarthy, Fairfield Ludlowe’s 138-pound junior, won her state title by fall at 6:27 over Shelton’s Lilya Akande. McCarthy than placed second at the first official New England Girls Wrestling Championship on March 2 in Providence, R.I.

Whitfield won her state championship when she decisioned Cristel Miguel of Amity, 6-3, in the 120-pound final.

Four more FCIAC female wrestlers finished among the top three at the state championship tournament.

Rylee Donohue (132) and Esmeralda Ramos (145) of Norwalk were two of the conference’s three runner-up wrestlers and their 126-pound teammate, Lina Rodriguez, placed third. One week later Norwalk’s Bears placed third in team scoring at the first New England Championships with 45.5 points for the top score from Connecticut teams.

Trumbull’s Emma Rial (126) was the other FCIAC wrestler who placed second at the state tournament.

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