Even with a young, inexperienced team this year, Avon High School wrestling head coach John McLaughlin said his athletes will be competitive in the state Class M championships Friday and Saturday in Windham.
McLaughlin said that the Falcons are peaking at the right time, evidenced by last weekend's victory at the NCCC tournament, Avon's fifth consecutive conference meet victory and seventh in the past eight years.
“We did better than anyone thought we would do. We ended up with seven finalists and six champions, so it was really nice,” McLaughlin said Thursday. “We’ve had a good streak.”
Leading the way is junior Joe Murphy (170-pound weight class), who is 35-0 on the year and won his third consecutive NCCC title last weekend. He earned the Outstanding Wrestler Award at the NCCC meet for his effort.
Murphy hopes to continue his dominant season at this weekend's Class M meet, where he is seeded second. Next year, Murphy could become just the third wrestler to ever win four consecutive NCCC titles.
In addition to Murphy, senior captain Alex Heston (120-pound weight class) and juniors Jessica McCamish (106), Tyler Mattioda (113), Dan Rodrigues (160) and Alberto Borstein (195) all earned All-NCCC honors. Sophomore Peter Suter came in second at the conference championship for the 132-pound weight class.
“Everyone in the finals won by pin,” McLaughlin said. “Of those six, five of them are back next year.”
Heston is seeded third in the state in his weight class.
“He really is the leader of the team emotionally and on the mat, he dominated the tournament and got three pins to win the thing,” McLaughlin said. “Those two [Murphy and Heston] should do very well.”
Despite McCamish's battle with injuries, between sitting out last year due to a torn ACL and recovering from an elbow injury this season, McLaughlin said that he foresees her becoming a state champion, if not this season, then next year.
“She’s the first ever female champion of the conference,” McLaughlin said. “She really dominated. She pinned everyone all the way through the conference and now she’s seeded eighth in the Class M State Championships. ... I think there are only three girls who have ever gotten medals in states and I think she could get one this year.”
In a rematch of last year's final, Mattioda came from behind against Somers High's Hunter Frasca to win the 113-pound weight class title, McLaughlin said.
“He’s a returning conference champion,” McLaughlin said of Mattioda. “Early in match, he was down 3-0 and he just got better and better.”
Rodriques, seeded fifth in the conference championship, overtook the fourth seed in the semifinals. He won the finals, beating someone he lost to earlier in the season.
“He was losing in the finals by five points and ended up pinning the kid, so he ends up winning conference champ,” McLaughlin said. “It’s just a good testament to hanging in there.”
Borstein was the underdog in his matches, but came out on top in his class, seeded fifth. He defeated the fourth seed in the semifinals on a pin after being down by six points. He came back off of a seven-point shortfall against the top-ranked wrestler to win the finals for his weight class, McLaughlin said.
“It’s good conditioning and good toughness that went into that,” McLaughlin said.
In a wrestling tournament, athletes get points for pins and placing, as well as technical maneuvers like knocking an opponent from his or her feet to the mat, escaping, or exposing the opponent’s back to the mat even if it isn’t touching the ground, McLaughlin said.
The competition is broken down into 14 weight classes. Matches go for six minutes, but if an athlete pins its opponent or is up by 15 or more points, he or she automatically wins.
McLaughlin’s philosophy in preparing his team for States isn’t much different than the usual routine.
“Just hard work. They’re polishing and getting in good shape,” McLaughlin said. “We really try to get them confident in their conditioning so they don’t have to worry about running out of gas in the end. We really focus on their moves. We teach hundreds of moves, but we focus on four or five that they really know and we get them ready for that. Otherwise, we just let it go.”
The top six in each weight class will receive medals and advance to the State Open meet the following weekend in New Haven at Hillhouse in New Haven.
Editor's Note: E-mail photos of the tournament to Jessie.Sawyer@patch.com. If you think any corrections need to be made to this article, contact Avon Patch Editor Jessie Sawyer via e-mail or at 860-356-6339. Join in on the Avon Patch conversation on Facebook (www.facebook.com/AvonPatch) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/AvonPatch). You can also add your own announcements and events or apply to blog on Patch.