Nighthawk Grapplers Make History With First State Title

TRUMBULL – Newtown High School’s wrestling team celebrated its first state championship in the program’s history by dethroning Danbury to claim the Class LL state title at Trumbull High on February 22.

The Nighthawks demonstrated just how important the team element of the individual sport of wrestling is. Danbury had five weight division champions and Newtown had two – James Leuci in the 132-pound weight class and Anthony Falbo at 152. The Nighthawks, however, racked up significant points by getting strong contributions throughout the lineup with nine grapplers to get deep in the bracket and finish among the top six in their respective divisions.

Newtown scored 213 points to edge out Xavier of Middletown (207) and Danbury (200.5). Simsbury had 185 and host Trumbull scored 146 to round out the top five teams among 26 to score points.

Danbury claimed 15 Class LL titles since 1995, and Xavier – in 2011 and ’12 – was the only other school to win until the Nighthawks celebrated.

“We feel good to be mentioned in the same category,” said Newtown Coach Chris Bray, who once coached in Danbury’s youth program, then in Newtown’s youth program before moving on to work the high school grapplers this winter.

“We are a complete team from top to bottom. They work as a unit,” Bray said. “A couple of guys don’t do something – we don’t win this thing.”

Everybody did something as Newtown’s representatives from all 14 weight divisions won at least one match in the two-day event.

The Nighthawks had a trio of finalists. Ed Lovely, a freshman, got all the way to the pinnacle bout before losing to Danbury’s Jeremy Fields, 8-1. Leuci beat Ridgefield’s Kevin Side, 3-1, to win his division.

“It was a tough win – coaches kept telling me to push the pressure,” Leuci said after his finals round victory.

Falbo, a freshman, defeated Trumbull’s Steven Briganti, 11-4.

“It feels good,” Falbo said the Hawks winning the title. “We’ve been wrestling hard to earn this. We just go out there and do our best every day.”

Newtown’s best was enough on this day. It wasn’t a week ago, when they came up just short against New Milford in the South-West Conference championships.

“It’s still sinking in but it’s very exciting,” Bray said before his wrestlers were presented with their trophy. “It helps us swallow that bitter pill we had last week.”

Luca Crudo was fourth in the 120 division, Matt Gonzalez earned third at 126, Forest Speed was sixth at 170, Greg LaRussa earned third at 182, Andy Hubina was fifth at 195, and Ryan Wagner came in fourth at 285.

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