Entering this year’s FCIAC wrestling tournament, Staples had sent just one athlete to the finals in any weight class over the last four seasons.

Saturday’s event changed all that.

Seniors Kieran Clarke (170 pounds) and Colin Hunter (195) each made runs to the finals at New Canaan High School over the weekend. Both lost in their finals matches — Clarke against Zach Zeyher of Wilton and Hunter against Matt Cuoco of Warde — by slim margins.

Both were seeded in the top two, so reaching the finals wasn’t a surprise.

"We expected them to do well going in," Staples coach Jesse Koproski said. "They had competitive weight classes and both wrestled hard to reach the final. We were pretty happy both had made the final."

Clarke, who has a 32-3 record after the tournament matches, was pinned after six minutes by Zeyher. The pair had squared off before; Koproski said that Zeyher was able to dictate the match more than they’d hoped, which led to Clarke falling behind in points before being pinned.

Hunter’s match went to double overtime against Cuoco, where he was defeated 7-6 to end the tournament with a 28-7 record in 2016-17.

"It was pretty much how we expected," Koproski said. "Both grinded it out; a lot of went into the scoring each points and a couple close calls could have gone either way. Colin wrestled for a hard seven, eight minutes; it’s disappointing to come up short."

Neither had experience prior to reaching high school. Clarke and Hunter both have football roots but made the successful transition to the mat.

"Wrestling as an individual sport, you do find out a lot about yourself," Koproski said.

As a team Staples placed eighth, joining the middle of the pack after several seasons near the bottom of the standings with a thin roster. Freshman Terry Brannigan reached the quarterfinals at 106, Dylan Marone finished sixth at 120, freshman Luke Molina reached the quarterfinals at 138, junior Dom Arciola finished sixth at 152, sophomore George Harrington took fifth at 285 and senior captain Ryan Mahoney finished fifth at 182. Koproski said he was pleased with his team’s performance.

"I have to say it was generally a good day for the team," Koproski said. "Coming from where we were last year, to be more in the middle of the pack is definitely an improvement and a testament to how hard the boys have worked. There were a few points left out there but we had some guys step and win big matches."

With just six returning wrestlers returning this season, most Staples’ athletes are freshmen and sophomores. The senior trio proved that inexperience isn’t a roadblock.

"To have models like Kieran, Colin and Ryan in the room working hard, and to see success pay off with coming into high school without wrestling experience, it shows the younger guys you can do the same if you put the work in," Koproski said.

Clarke and Hunter will have another chance to claim a championship; The Class LL championships are scheduled for Friday and Saturday at Trumbull High School, and both will be among the top seeds.

rlacey@bcnnew.com, twitter.com/ryanlacey11