NEW HAVEN — The season didn’t reap typical top-10 team results for Southington wrestling coach Derek Dion and his staff, but the doings at the State Open surely kept the Blue Knights’ program among the most highly respected in the state.
Zach’s for sure.
Zach Maxwell became the first wrestler in school history to win two Open titles and Zach Bylykbashi crashed through to the finals from the 11th seed Saturday to compensate for a season ravaged by injuries and the after-effects of the football team playing into mid-December.
Maxwell, Bylykbashi, Zach Murillo and Alex Martin will all compete at the New England Open in Providence next weekend. Shawn Devin and Austin Abacherli didn’t place, but Dion was ecstatic about their effort.
“We had six horses and they all wrestled great,” Dion said. “If you get in a tournament setting and you get four of those through, you’re in good shape.”
The Knights finished sixth with 85 points. Danbury topped out at 141 with New Milford second (114.5) and Fairfield Warde third (92).
Maxwell, the West Point-bound senior competing at 195 pounds, won by fall within the first minute of his second-round and semifinal bouts. He scored a 4-2 win over Adam Patsun of Somers in the quarters.
In the final, Maxwell faced a familiar foe in Simsbury’s Jacob Feldman. He took him down eight seconds into the bout and rode him for most of the period, but Feldman escaped with three seconds left. Maxwell (30-1) reversed him in the second period and rolled him for a three-point nearfall in the third to gain a 7-3 win.
“I wrestled him three times this year and once last year,” Maxwell said. “I’ve won every time I faced him, but I was a little nervous this time. He’s a tough kid. He’s going to win it next year.”
Bylykbashi, a junior at 120, advanced his game a level at the Class LL tournament and again at the Open.
He lost in the semifinals a week ago Saturday to Keith Penney of Simsbury, 4-3, before beating two higher seeds to claim third place. He met Penney again in the Open semifinals and beat him 4-1 before losing a gripping 1-0 bout to Danbury’s Chris Bryant in the final.
“I don’t know what got into him, but he had the best tournament I’ve ever seen,” Maxwell said.
Murillo made it to the semifinals, where he lost 9-2 to Class M champion Matt Dowler of the St. Bernard/Norwich Tech co-op. Dowler also ousted Maloney Ryan Pantalena from championship consideration in the quarterfinals.
Pantalena (47-3) and Murillo (33-6) squared off in the scrap for third place, with the Spartans’ captain prevailing, 6-4. Pantalena registered three takedowns, one in the first period and two in the second, while Murillo was only able to muster four escapes.
Martin, competing at 160, knocked off Farmington’s Class L champion Harry Pacheco (3-1) in the quarters, but lost a 2-0 decision to S titlist Dakota Fleming of Windham. Martin (28-9) went on to place fourth, splitting a pair of consolation bouts.
Devin (23-14) entered the Class LL tournament last weekend as an 11th seed, dumped two higher seeds in the consolation round, but was pinned by New Britain’s third-seeded Josh Graves in the battle for fifth place.
This past weekend in New Haven, Devin eased past Douglas Katz of Masuk, 12-5, in the first round. He was bounced by Class S champ John D’Agostino, but once again stiffened in the wrestlebacks. He beat Jonathan Pelletier of Rockville and Ledyard’s Daniel Contino by 8-3 scores before losing to Paul LaRosa of Haddam-Killingworth in the consolation semifinals.
Just getting there was a major accomplishment for Abacherli (21-14), a 113-pound freshman who went two and out.
The Most Outstanding Wrestler award went to 145-pounder Howie Kilpatrick of Bacon Academy.