NHS Wrestling Wins SWC Championship
For Newtown High School, the biggest point scored in the February 9 South-West Conference wrestling championships was actually one that went against the Nighthawks — by design.
Heavyweight grappler Joe Zeller, in command of his pinnacle bout with a 7-0 advantage in the third period, allowed his opponent to escape for one point. That gave Zeller a waning-seconds opportunity for a two-point takedown and, thus, an eight-point differential, good for a major decision triumph.
Zeller got the takedown, with less than ten seconds left in his match, and a 9-1 win, giving Newtown a difference-making extra point in an oh-so-close 137-136 edging of Joel Barlow of Redding, at neutral site New Fairfield High.
A regular decision victory would have meant four points and a share of the championship with Barlow, but Zeller went for the triumph under the direction of Coach Ron Chivinski.
“I just do what my coach says. My coach knows best,” Zeller said.
“It was amazing. As I was wrestling, I knew I couldn’t let my team down. Everybody worked so hard today,” Zeller added.
Newtown’s other three finalists were Nik Accousti at 132, Fritz Maurath at 145, and Andrew Sayers at 152.
A quartet of Hawks also placed in the consolation finals. Justin Bogdanoff (170) won via pinfall in his consolation finals match, earning third place,
Bogdanoff and Maurath had key wins over Barlow counterparts they had lost to in a late-regular season match.
Ayden Kasbarian (138) overcame a 1-0 deficit to go ahead on a takedown before pinning his consolation finals counterpart, New Fairfield’s Zach Kalmanson, avenging his first loss of the season in the process.
Sebastian Vona (195) and Steven Leuci (160) also scored big points for the Hawks, each placing fourth.
Greg Gargano (106), James Tibolla (113), Connor Faxon (120), Sullivan Koekkoekk (126), Ryan Callahan (182), and Noah Clark (220) also contributed to Newtown’s team success.
“Every single win counted. Every single kid was a difference-maker,” Chivinski said. “It was a team effort."
The Nighthawks went into the finals leading Barlow 132-120. Both teams had four representatives in the final round. Barlow racked up 14 points on a pair of four-point regular decision wins and a six-point pin, and the Nighthawks did not come away with any points in their first three finals bouts.
Barlow’s last representative lost against Brookfield in the 220 pound weight division, keeping Newtown’s team title hopes alive.
The Nighthawks went from rooting for Brookfield to looking for a win over Brookfield as Zeller squared off with Richard Mitchell.
“He has poise, he’s a senior, he’s a captain, and he got the job done,” Chivinski said of Zeller.
New Fairfield placed third with 130 points, New Milford was fourth with 109.50, and Brookfield came in fifth with 109.
“This took a Herculean effort. Seven teams scored over 100 points. Every team had three or four place winners. The difference was, we placed eight in the tournament and that’s why we won,” Chivinski said. “I’m very proud of them.”
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