Orange Live Sports Writer
Showing why it is ranked sixth in the state, the Hand High wrestling team pinned a 51-18 loss on Amity Wednesday night in a Southern Connecticut Conference match that was held in Woodbridge.
The 6-9 Spartans have been hampered by a thin roster since the start of the season. In many of its matches, Amity has been forced to forfeit three or even four matches. It gave up four matches (and 24 points) to the Tigers. To make matters worse, injuries sidelined four starters (Austin MacDonald, Steve Della Giustina, Nick Photos and Jordan Schaperow), forcing Coach Bruce Marien to turn to inexperienced fill-ins to avoid further forfeits.
The match got off to a promising start for the Spartans as Dan Grober opened the night by building a 7-0 lead and then pinning his 145 pound opponent, Lance Hosmer in 3 minutes, 48 seconds. With that win, Grober improved his record to 21-1. Evan Donohue followed Grober by defeating the Tigers’ Todd Standard 7-0 in their 152 pound battle to give the Spartans an early 9-0 lead.
Coach Bruce Marien said, “Dan is a very strong intelligent wrestler and one of our captains. He wrestled a very clean match with good technique. Teams are afraid of him and are trying to avoid him by forfeiting at 145. Evan is a third year wrestler and is now 15-5. He continues to develop and learn a lot of moves. He is very strong and his long legs give him a lot of power and leverage. With that leverage he is able to reach and grab an opponent’s leg to control him.”
Following Ben Onofrio’s 1:41 pin of Dave Buono at 160 pounds, Hand picked up consecutive forfeits vat 170, 182, and 195 and pounced head 24-9. Amity stopped that Tiger run when Damon Robinson won his 220 pound contest with a pin of Eric Syverston in 3:08.
According to Marien, “Onofrio is a monster machine! He is one tough kid and he’s only 15. Dave shot a good double leg tackle but got grabbed and crunched. He wrestled well but got outmuscled. Damon Robinson (now 8-8) did fine. He went out and immediately recognized that he was more powerful than his opponent. He used that strength to get a second period pin. Now we want to get him to use some finesse moves when he faces tougher competition.”
Leading 24-15, Hand (now 9-5) posted a forfeit at 285 followed by pins at 106 and 113 and a decision at 120. In the most exciting match of the night, a two-point near fall with six seconds left broke a 3-3 deadlock and gave Jesse Cala a 5-3 victory over Andrew Kennelly at 126. The meet ended with Hand recording pins at 132 and 138 pounds.
“Jesse gutted it out and made his move at the end of the match. He used a cowboy tilt move to get his guy onto his back. By exposing his back to the mat and putting him in jeopardy for two seconds, he got the two near fall points he needed to get the win,” Marien said.
He added that Jake Cala had wrestled a good opponent (Johan Lewis) at 120 pounds and was doing well until he unknowingly walked into a move that resulted in his being pinned in 1:44.
Marien also praised the efforts of Mike Cala (who was trailing 11-0 when he was pinned by Ashton Gynezis at 3:59 of their 132 pound battle) and freshman Eli Silvert who fell behind 14-2 before he was put away by Matt Elias in 3:44.
He said, “Eli had been sick for two weeks but still wrestled fine. He just didn’t have much stamina. He’s only a freshman and I think he’ll become a good wrestler in the future.”
Looking back on the match as a whole, Marien added, “For all the points we gave away on forfeits, I thought we did fine. Our guys that wrestled, wrestled tough. The moves, the intensity, the crispness were all there. We wrestled Hand much tougher tonight than the last time we faced them, but they are still much tougher than we are.”
Last Saturday the Spartans traveled to suburban Boston to compete in the Natick (Mass.) Invitational, which was a 24 team tournament that attracted some of the top teams in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire and included many of the wrestlers that will compete at the New Englands in March.
Marien labeled it “A showcase for New England high school wrestling.”
He added, “We picked up a lot of pins and scored a lot of points. I was pleased to see us place seventh out of 24 teams.”
Grober was exposed to some of the top New England wrestlers in his weight class and came home with a first place trophy. He won the trophy with a decisive 8-1 victory over someone Marien described as “a talented Natick opponent” and did it in front of the MIT coach he hopes to wrestle for next year.
Using his considerable quickness Buono placed second at 160.
“Dave was as strong as anyone in his weight class and used it with his double leg tackle to get numerous take downs. Opponents knew it was coming and saw it coming, but that didn’t matter as he picked up several pins. In the Finals, his opponent (also from Natick) saw the move coming, circled around Dave and cradled him,” Marien added.
He also noted that Jake Cala was fifth at 113 and Donohue placed sixth at 152.
On Saturday, Amity will be off to Clinton to participate in the Morgan Duals, which get underway at 9 a.m.