CANTON, Feb. 14 – Practice had concluded one December afternoon for the Avon High wrestling team. A group of seniors went to talk with head coach John McLaughlin. The message was clear.
“They told me you have to work us harder,” McLaughlin said. “Have faith in us. We can be a good team.” He smiled as he recalled this story a few days after the Falcons finished the regular season with a 25-3 record and 7-0 in the NCCC.
When these seniors were freshmen, the Falcons were a talented squad winning a school-record 27 matches and finishing second in Class S. But it was a team that McLaughlin had to push hard all the time.
This year, McLaughlin doesn’t have to push as hard. “There isn’t a kid in this room that would run until they vomit,” he said. Now, the Falcons don’t practice until they are ill but they do work hard.
“We knew would be a good team this year,” he said. “But we didn’t think we would be this good. The guys did a lot of work in the off-season. It’s an amazingly hard-working team. And it’s a fun group. I love coming to practice every day.”
Avon, which clinched its fourth NCCC championship in five years with a win at the NCCC Tournament last Saturday, has seven seniors in the starting lineup. But they also have wrestlers who have been patient and waited for their opportunity.
Senior David Wyrick (171) and junior Mike Hogan (160) are in the varsity lineup for the first time this year. Hogan finished second at 160 while Wyrick was third at 171.
“At a lot of schools, if you’re not varsity by a sophomore, the kids quit,” McLaughlin said. “We have kids who buy into it and are still a part of the team.”
The Falcons have their veterans, too, and they are successful. Matt Silver (140, 30-7), who was named the outstanding wrestler in the NCCC Tournament, outlasted Somers’ Dave Chokas, 4-2 in the 140 championship match. Just to get to the finals, Silver had to beat Enfield’s Ryan Peterson, 10-8 in overtime.
Seniors Joe Tripodi (135, 35-2), Eric Lybeck (145) and Brian Haynes (185) won NCCC titles along with Connor Douglas (112) and Sonny Portelance (215), who beat Somers’ Ken Vollaro, 6-3.
Seven of Avon’s nine finalists in the NCCC tournament won and four other wrestlers finished third. Eleven of Avon’s 14 varsity wrestlers finished in the top three of their respective weight class.
“Success breeds success,” McLaughlin said. “The more popular it gets and kids want to be part of a winning program.”
Avon’s 25 wins is the second-highest in team history. Avon’s title was its 16th NCCC championship. The Falcons will compete in the CIAC Class M tournament on Friday and Saturday at Windham High.
2009 NCCC Tournament
Team results –1. Avon 232, 2. Somers 155, 3. Canton 133, 4. Stafford 75.5, 5. Enfield 72, 6. East Windsor 43, 7. Suffield 39, 8. Ellington 18, 9. East Granby 3
103: Final — Matt White, Canton dec. Jason Lybeck, Avon, 9-3; Third: Tim Olshafski, Enfield pin Mike Sawtelle, Enfield, 0:18
112: Final — Conor Douglass, Avon dec. Roshawn Rehman, Stafford, 10-0: Third: Kevin Bentz, Suffield pin Brian Fitzpatrick, Canton, 2:15
119: Final — Dan Piscottano, Somers dec. Steven Carpenter, Canton, 8-5; Third: Herbie Browne, Avon dec. Allen Yang, Stafford, 4-0
125: Final — Joe Tripodi, Avon pin Benjamin Lombardo, Granby, 5:22; Third: Matt Grisevich, Canton dec. Evan Frassinelli, Stafford, 10-4
130: Final — Joe Titus, East Windsor dec. Zach Lisk, Enfield, 10-0; Third: Bobby Davies, Avon pin Peter LeDuc, Canton, 0:31
135: Final — Troy Zachary, Somers pin Brandon Lancaster, Enfield, 3:25; Third: Zach Mills, Granby pin Ryan Raider, Enfield, 13-2
140: Final – Matt Silver, Avon dec. Dave Chokas, Somers, 4-2; Third: Matt Janiga, Ellington pin Ryan Peterson, Enfield, 2:19
145: Final – Erik Lybeck, Avon dec. Joseph Rivera, Granby, 10-2; Third: Cody Koehler, East Windsor pin Brandon Leach, Canton, 0:28
152: Final – Robert Garlick, Somers pin Trevor Corallo, Granby, 4:19; Third: Jon Ponziani, Avon pin Keith Hill, East Windsor, 1:12
160: Final – Rich Jones, Canton dec. Mike Hogan, Avon, 10-4; Third: Tucker Fontanella, Stafford pin Costas Casilakis, Granby, 1:43
171: Final – Tim Vollaro, Somers dec. Kyle Sheridan, Suffield, 16-5; Third: David Wyrick, Avon pin Jon Landry, Enfield, 0:39
189: Final – Brian Haynes, Avon pin Nate Haller, Canton, 3:16; Third: Nick Bastarache, Somers pin David St. Onge, Avon, 1:23
215: Final — Sonny Portelance, Avon dec. Ken Vollaro, Somers, 6-3; Third: Sean Delany, Canton pin Dennis Martel, Stafford, 3:35
285: Final – Nick Nikolov, Somers dec. D.L. McDonald, 4-2; Third: Garth Gilligan, Stafford pin Cole Murphy, Canton, 1:00
Outstanding wrestler: Matt Silver, Avon (140); Fast fall: Nick Bastarache, Somers 3 pins in 3:30; Best new wrestler: Ken Vollaro. Somers (215); Coach of the Year: Bill Phelps, Canton; Assistant Coach of the Year: Ed deSimas, Canton