Wreckers finish 10th at FCIAC championships

Staples senior quad-captain Julian Gendels was sidelined for most of the month of January with an injury, came back to finish the regular season, earned the No. 6 seed in the 285-pound weight division of the Joe Sikorski FCIAC Wrestling Tournament -- and went on to reach the championship match in the Feb. 11-12 tourney at New Canaan High School.

Gendels ended up runner-up, falling in a tough 4-3 decision to top-seeded Marquise Weaver-Hart of Westhill in the pinnacle match.

Staples scored 55 points and finished 10th in the 16-team tourney which was won by Danbury with 234.5. In addition to Gendels' strong placement, the Wreckers had several other strong efforts and a pair of placements.

The highlight for Staples was the effort of Gendels who won his first match by forfeit, then earned a 3-2 decision over No. 3 Zach Voytek of Trumbull in the quarterfinals and earned a 5-2 decision over No. 10 Mark Robinson of Stamford in the semifinals.

"I was very confident that Julian could actually get to the finals and win this thing from the start of the season," Staples Coach Kevin Lippart said.

The match went to triple-overtime and the Staples grappler lost, in part, because of a coin flip. In overtime, following the first two 30 second periods, the wrestler who scored the first point gets to chose his position in the third OT, Lippart explained, and that proved costly.

"He didn't do anything wrong in the match that cost him," Lippert said. "He should be very proud of what he did."

This is especially so considering Gendels was injured in early January and missed competition and practices for most of the month. The injury, Lippart said, can't be disclosed to protect Gendels in the upcoming state championships.

"I was out of shape when I came back. I worked hard in practice," Gendels said of working his way back.

"He's got a great heart. He's a great kid. He's a very strong kid -- not just physically, but mentally," Lippart said. "He really wrestled in this tournament like he wanted to win it."

Gendels has the state championships ahead this weekend. "I'm looking forward to it a lot. I'm really hoping to place," he said.

In the 215-pound weight class, No. 3 Chris Giunta finished fourth. He pinned No. 14 Albin Salazar of Harding in 45 seconds, then earned an 8-3 decision over No. 11 Kadeem Brown of Norwalk in the quarterfinals before being pinned by No. 2 Bryan Barnash of Trumbull, who went on to win the title, in a hard-fought match that lasted 5:38. Giunta went on to earn a first-round bye in the consolation round, edged No. 5 Vincent Deramo of Central 1-0, and was pinned by No. 7 Eddie Garcia of Danbury in 3:56 to settle for fourth.

In the 135-pound weight class, No. 4 Brad Menchaca earned sixth place. He beat No. 13 Drue Hallee of Fairfield Ludlowe 12-1, then earned a 3-2 decision over No. 5 Armani Mondesir of Westhill before being pinned in 21 seconds by top-seeded eventual champion Ben Anderson of Trumbull. Menchaca had a first-round bye in the consolation bracket, ensuring a placement in the tourney. He lost 10-2 to No. 7 Anthony Cote of Danbury, then fell 8-6 to No. 3 Matt Gray of Greenwich to finish sixth.

At 112, No. 8 Alex Kogstad, after beating No. 9 Ben Holcomb of Darien, was pinned by eventual champ and top seed Johnny D'Elia in 1:59 in the quarterfinals. At 125, No. 8 Jeremy Sherman earned a 9-2 decision over No. 9 Connor Beaumont of Darien then lost 18-8 to Ben Pierre Saint, of Stamford, also a top seed and eventual champ. At 130, No. 7 Michael O'Day earned a forfeit win before losing 18-3 to No. 2 Evan Fraser of Fairfield Warde.

At 140, No. 4 Andrew Washington earned a 10-3 decision over No. 13 Kevin Aurelien of Norwalk, then lost his next two matches. At 189, No. 9 Mikell Washington topped No. 8 Rob Delacruz 9-1 in the first round, then lost his next two. Max Kahn at 103, Alex Brown at 119, Michael Sila at 145, Stephan Patterson at 152 all lost their first-round matches.

"They all wrestled well and did the best they could have done. They were just up against kids who were better than them," Lippart said.