Wreckers continue rebound season
NEW CANAAN — The Staples High wrestling team has bounced back in a big way this season.
The Wreckers, who were eighth in the FCIAC a year ago, finished in fourth place at the annual Joe Sikorski FCIAC Tournament on Saturday at New Canaan High.
“They really stepped it up today,” Staples first-year head coach Fred Mills said of his wrestlers. “Yesterday (Friday) we had a couple tough losses but today we came through, especially in the finals. I’m happy, very happy.”
The Wreckers ended up with 131 points with Fairfield Warde (177), Trumbull (200) and champion Danbury (257) finishing ahead of them. The Hatters won their ninth straight title and 32nd in 33 years.
Each of those three squads that finished higher than Staples are ranked in the top 10 in the state.
Senior George Harrington at 220 pounds and junior Jacob Rizy at 285 became Staples’ first multiple champions at the FCIAC meet since at least the late 1990s or early 2000s.
“George and Jacob both grinded it out,” Mills said.
Harrington (26-2) locked up a hard-fought 12-9 decision over McMahon’s Jeff Cocchia and Jacob Rizy (30-7) pinned Danbury’s Jordan Agosto in 4:12.
Harrington became a two-time champion, having won a title at 285 a season ago.
“He (Cocchia) was shorter than me and last time (in the finals) I went against Jack Stewart (of New Canaan) who is 6-foot-5,” Harrington said. “I knew going into the match I didn’t want to shoot (for a takedown) too much because of his body type so I went to the bear hug and once I locked the first one up, I knew that I’d be able to lock up a few more during the match.”
He did lock up several more, racking up four takedowns and after having an 8-7 lead going into the third period, Harrington put Cocchia on his back to secure the victory.
“It feels good,” he said of the win. “I’ve had to adapt going down to 220 with the wrestlers there being quicker. It might not be what I’m best suited at but I like the challenge.”
As for Rizy, he trailed Agosto 2-1 going into the third period before getting an escape that resulted in Rizy putting Agosto in a cradle for the pin.
Rizy lost to Agosto during the season but learned from the setback.
“When we wrestled him during the regular season, I had a cradle locked up on him but the clock keeper didn’t start the time and it got taken back and I wasn’t able to score off it,” Rizy said. “I had the opportunity today and I took it and I scored off it and I won. I’m thankful to all my new coaches who are teaching me everything I know and my practice partner (Harrington).”
Rizy went on to say the last time Staples was among the top four teams in the FCIAC was 30 years ago.
“We’re making really good change for the better here,” he said. “We will only continue to improve and I’m really proud of the team.”
Staples had six other wrestlers place in the top six. Reese Watkins (99 pounds) and Jacob Qiu (170) each took third place, Terry Brannigan (120) was fourth, J.C. Montoni (160) and Nicholas Augeri (195) were fifth and Luke Molina (145) ended up sixth.
“It was a full team effort,” Mills said.
The next challenge ahead for the Wreckers will be the CIAC Class LL state tournament this weekend at Trumbull High. Mills said states will have its fair share of stiff competition, going up against the biggest schools in Connecticut.
No matter what happens, though, it’s already been quite a memorable season for Staples.
“I’m very happy to get where we are now from where we started,” he said. “It’s been an extreme 180 from where Staples wrestling was a year ago.”