It was a bittersweet day for the New Milford High School wrestling team on Saturday.
Still, when the Green Wave looks back on this day two months from now, it'll most likely seem a lot more sweet than bitter.
Coach Chris Piel's grapplers saw their seven-year grip on their own invitational end. Massachusetts state power Franklin outlasted the Green Wave by 12 points after a spirited duel for team laurels.
"The weekend was a successful one," reflected coach Piel. "I was very pleased with the team's performance."
In all, 11 Green Wave wrestlers placed in the scoring.
"That is quite amazing," he said. "There were some great teams there."
Brian Amato of Newington was selected as the tournament's Most Outstanding Wrester.
Coach Piel's NMHS mat crew owned a 10-0 regular-season record as it headed into Saturday's tournament.
Still ahead are the South-West Conference, state Class LL and state open tournaments, plus possibly New England comepttiion for the very best of the best,
The Green Wave's next goal is capturing yet another SWC title. Among its hurdles will be a Feb. 6 home date with New Fairfield that coach Piel deems "huge."
So, reflecting on Saturday's results, chalk it up as a good experience for a young New Milford team that is growing stronger every day.
Lessons learned in a tournament of this caliber could pay off at the aforementioned tournaments.
Not claiming its own tournament championship for just the third time in 15 seasons definitely stung.
"It's tough to lose," Kameron Bradshaw said. "You never like losing, but we're a good team. We know that. We're going to bounce back."
He won a 9-2 decision over Franklin's Brian Dougherty in the 152-pound final.
Rob Tozzi pinned Sheehan's Jeff Petit in 2:47 to win the 220-pound final.
"With the team we've got and how young this team is, at the beginning of the year I said that we're going to surprise some people at the end," coach Piel said. "I think we're starting to make that move. I think we're starting to surprise some people."
A key to NMHS' performance was its success in wrestlebacks.
Brett Leonard added fourth place at 138.
"I really can't say enough about the resolve of this team," coach Piel said. "We have a lot of hard-nosed kids who understand what it means to wrestle back for the team."
"The reason we're doing all these individual tournaments is because hopefully, when we get to the state tournament," he concluded, "we'll be battle-tested and know how to take a loss and bounce back from it."
The team scoring:
Franklin (Mass.) (201); New Milford (189); Newington (152 1/2); Newtown (113 1/2); Cheshire (83 1/2); Ridgefield (70 1/2); Norwalk (63); Weston (38); Holy Cross (23); Lyman Hall (18); Sheehan (14); New Milford `B' (13); Brookfield (11); Kennedy (4).
The Green Wave was set Wednesday to host Pomperaug in an SWC match and will then venture north Saturday, Jan. 26 for the MASS Confusion tournament in Southington.