Green Wave wrestlers hungry to reclaim state title
Published 10:53 am, Wednesday, December 13, 2017
NEW MILFORD — One point — that’s all that separated the New Milford High School wrestling team from claiming its fifth consecutive Class L state championship last year. One lousy point.
And while the Green Wave is focusing its attention on seizing their own destiny this year rather than dwelling on what happened last year, the utter disappointment of watching Bristol Eastern celebrate with the state championship plaque has thrown gasoline on the Wave’s competitive fire. The Green Wave has placed either first or second in Class L every year since 2009, but there’s nothing better than a championship.
They want that title back, and they want it bad.
“I’ll never forget what it felt like to see them holding up our trophy,” senior Brandon Leonard said prior to Friday afternoon’s practice. “But I’m looking forward. I can’t wait to try and take it back.” It’s easy to say that, but the Wave plans to back that up on the mats.
“We’re looking pretty good this year,” senior Mel Ortiz said. “Our team is like a family, and we’re able to push each other to be the greatest we can be.”
NEW MILFORD WRESTLING
Dec. 16, at Battle at Wethersfield tournament, 9 a.m.
Dec. 20, at Barlow, 6 p.m.
Dec. 22, vs. Fordham Prep (N.Y.), 6 p.m.
Dec. 27, at St. Anthony’s Bash tournament (St. Anthony’s High School, South Huntington, Long Island), TBA
Dec. 30, at Ryan Sabbagh Danbury Holiday Tournament, 10 a.m.
Jan. 3, vs. Pomperaug, 6 p.m.
Jan. 6, at West Springfield Duals (West Springfield, Mass.), 9 a.m.
Jan. 10, at Brookfield, 6 p.m.
Jan. 12-13, at Eastern States Classic (Loch Sheldrake, N.Y.), TBA
Jan. 13, at Greater Hartford Open (William Hall High School, West Hartford), TBA
Jan. 17, vs. Masuk, 6 p.m.
Jan. 20, New Milford Tournament, 9 a.m.
Jan. 24, vs. Newtown, 6 p.m.
Jan. 27, at Southington, TBA
Jan. 31, at Bunnell, 6 p.m.
Feb. 3, vs. Danbury, 2 p.m.
Feb. 5, vs. Weston, 6 p.m.
Feb. 9-10, SWC championships at New Milford
Feb. 16-17, Class L championships at Bristol Central
Feb. 23-24, State Open championships at Floyd Little Field House, New Haven
March 2-3, New England championships at Providence Career and Technical Academy
The Wave won’t have to wait until the Class L championships roll around to see Bristol Eastern again. In fact, they won’t have to wait too long at all, as both teams are scheduled to compete in the Ryan Sabbagh Danbury Holiday Tournament at Danbury High School on Dec. 30.
“Bristol Eastern is the defending state champions,” Wave coach Chris Piel said, “and this is the first time we’re going into that tournament where we don’t have a target on our back. We’re trying to regain something.”
This year’s team will be led by an impressive senior class that includes Ortiz, Leonard, Colin Lindner, Tyler Schultz, Kyle Fabich, Alex Richardson, Vincent Rago and Luke Schell.
Ortiz capped last season by placing third at the Virginia Nationals at 126 pounds and earning All-America recognition. He was third in New England and at the State Open, and first in Class L. Lindner was third at the State Open and first in Class L at 120. Schultz took second in Class L at 132, while Leonard placed third in Class L at 113. Richardson finished fifth in Class L at 152 and Fabich took sixth in Class L at 160.
All in all, that’s a pretty solid core.
“We’re senior-heavy,” Piel said. “These kids have all been together, and it’s a good group. Technically, it’s one of the most technical teams we’ve had as far as wrestling smarts. It’s if we can put it all together at the end of the season when it really counts. That’s the question.”
Another wrestler to keep an eye on is junior Joanne Ortiz, Mel’s sister and also an All-American. She won the girls division at 108 pounds at the Super 32 national tournament in North Carolina in October, and placed seventh at 106 pounds in the cadet women’s freestyle division at the USA Wrestling national championships in North Dakota in July. She’ll be a key part of the New Milford lineup, likely seeing action at 106.
“It’s something in our family that we have in common,” the older Ortiz said. “We work together, and we’re out supporting our teammates every day. We love this school. It’s the best school there is.”
New Milford will also have its South-West Conference title to defend. The Wave has won two straight and 13 of the last 16 SWC crowns. Last year, Leonard, Lindner, Mel Ortiz and Schultz were among the Wave’s six SWC champs, and Richardson, Rago and Fabich also placed.
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