The match had been circled on Newtown High School’s wrestling team’s schedule from the moment it was announced in preseason: New Milford at Newtown, January 22.
“We’ve been thinking about this really all year long,” as a matter of fact, Newtown Coach Chris Bray said after the South-West Conference juggernaut Green Wave — unbeaten in SWC action since 2009 — battled past Newtown 36-29 in that clash.
The Nighthawks now have the February 15 SWC championships marked on their slate. That will be the next chance for the Hawks to overcome their rivals.
New Milford and Newtown each won seven of the 14 bouts, but the Wave earned four pins to Newtown’s two, earning 24 points to Newtown’s 12 in those competitions, and picked up another pivotal six points on an injury when Newtown 170-pound weight division grappler Forest Speed was called for an illegal slam only seconds into his competition.
Bray thought his team matched up well against the Wave from a physicality standpoint, but that mental errors proved costly, and may have denied the Nighthawks a chance to earn the upset.
New Milford came into the match ranked third in the state coaches’ poll, and Newtown was sixth, but Bray and company didn’t come into the matchup thinking they weren’t going to come out on top.
“Quite honestly, we expected a win coming into this,” Bray said. “This team is here — we’re here to stay.”
Newtown’s winners were Luca Crudo at 120, Matt Gonzalez at 126, Alex Stavola at 152, Connor Lemay at 160, Greg LaRussa at 182, Andy Hubina at 195, and Ryan Wagner at 285.
Lemay overcame a 2-0 deficit heading into the third period; he rallied to pick up a 5-2 decision over Johnny Ceconi. That gave Newtown three team points and pulled the Hawks to within 24-13. The Wave then padded its lead on the illegal slam and suddenly had a commanding 30-13 lead. LaRussa followed with an 11-3 major decision win for four more NHS points. LaRussa came from behind with a momentum-swinging two-point takedown for a 4-3 lead in his bout and pulled away. Hubina then pinned his opponent for six points, bringing NHS back to within seven at 30-23, but 220-pound wrestler Tom Long lost via pin fall, sealing New Milford’s win with one match to go. Wagner won via a pin to bring the score a little closer.
The Green Wave improved to 7-0 this winter and Newtown suffered its first loss and carried an 8-1 mark into the Gene Brigham Invitational in Minisink, N.Y., scheduled for January 25.