Log In

Reset Password

Wrestling Team Welcomes Back Coach Bray And Aims For Championship Success



Text Size

A handful of years removed from coaching the Newtown High School wrestling team, Chris Bray is back at the helm with the varsity lineup. Bray, who led the Nighthawks from 2014-17, went back to the Newtown Youth Wrestling Association for a second stint. He departed Newtown last winter for a season with the Ridgefield High squad, and now returns to his Newtown roots with enthusiasm to see some of the grapplers he coached at the elementary and middle school level.

Bray is excited to rejoin the program and enthusiastic about the participation with two dozen wrestlers on the roster. “I’m happy about the numbers,” he said.

“I’m already familiar with many of these wrestlers having coached several of them in the youth program, so I’m very much excited to see them through their high school careers,” Bray added.

The coach said Tom Maurath, who stepped in as head coach last winter and will continue to help out as an assistant coach as well as leading the booster club, was instrumental in his return.

Bray led Newtown to the South-West Conference championship in 2015, and Class LL state titles in 2014 and ‘15. There were also numerous individual SWC and state champs during those seasons. Bray’s Nighthawks captured the 2015 State Open title with five individual open champions. His teams were runner-up in New England three consecutive years. The Connecticut High School Coaches Association recognized NHS as Team of the Year and Bray as Coach of The Year in both 2014 and ‘15.

Maurath noted that Bray started the youth program before joining NHS, and returned to the youth program in 2018 to run the elite travel team. With his return, more than 50 percent of the Newtown High squad is represented by wrestlers coached by Bray in the youth program.

Newtown is coming off a successful season, which included a 17-2 dual meet record and unbeaten mark in the SWC; the Hawks were runner-up to New Milford in the conference championships. During the course of the campaign, the Hawks won 359 matches, 70% of which were by pin fall. The team placed top three in six of eight season tournaments, and had nine regular season tourney champions. NHS had ten place winners and a trio of champs in SWCs and eight place winners and one state champ in Luca Manfredi.

This winter, the goal is to contend for an SWC title. NHS is in Class L and Bray said he is optimistic his Hawks will place high in that tournament as well.

Manfredi, who won SWC and state titles in the 132 pound weight division, is expected to compete at 152 this winter. Another SWC champ, Fisher Stites, is at 170. Tommy Milligan (106), Kenna Gioffre (113), Marc Maurath (145), Acea Shagham (182), Charlie Dunn (195), and John DaSilva (heavyweight) are other key returnees to watch as the season gets underway, Bray said.

“We expect 100 percent. We don’t accept anything less than that,” the coach added.

Among the teams that should give the Nighthawks a good test in the SWC is New Fairfield. Coincidently, that is Newtown’s first opponent on the schedule; the Rebels visit the Nighthawks on Thursday, December 15, at 7 pm.

“I like to see where we are,” Bray said of opening the campaign with what could ultimately be the strongest competition his lineup will face within the conference. Xavier of Middletown, whom Bray said his team would face twice in season tourneys, is among the tough nonconference competition on the slate.

Among the season highlights will be the Second Annual Nighthawk Invitational Duals on Friday, December 30. The Hawks have doubled entries from four to eight teams, with Branford, Joel Barlow of Redding, Norwalk, East Haven, Fairfield Prep, Notre Dame-West Haven, and Westhill of Stamford coming to the NHS gym for a day of competition beginning at 10 am.

The Hawks will attend The George Bossi Holiday Tournament in Lowell, Mass., a huge event that includes 80-plus teams from across New England.

In all, the Hawks will compete in eight team duals, eight tournaments, and then the postseason tournaments that include the SWC, Class L, State Open, and New England Championships, followed by the High School Nationals.

Sports Editor Andy Hutchison can be reached at andyh@thebee.com.

Coach Chris Bray, right, speaks to the Nighthawks during preseason practice in the Newtown High wrestling room. Bray is back on board to lead the Hawks after previously coaching the team 2014-17. —photo courtesy Tom Maurath
Comments are open. Be civil.

Leave a Reply