NEW HAVEN – Senior Skylar Lang is going to go where few Canton High wrestlers have gone before – the New England wrestling championships.
Lang took third at Saturday’s State Open championships at the Floyd Little Athletic Center with pins in five of the six matches he wrestled at 220 pounds. It earned him a berth into the New England tournament. The top four wrestlers in each weight class qualify.
Only five other Canton wrestlers have ever competed at the New England tournament. The last one was current head coach Josh Kaplan in 2002 when he finished fourth at 140 pounds.
At the State Open, Canton finished 23rd in the field of more than 90 teams. Senior Patrick Lawler (152) went 3-2 at the tournament, falling two wins shy of earning a top six finish and a medal. Senior Dylan Houle dropped a pair of close decisions at 170 pounds.
Lang began the tournament with a pin, taking care of Bristol Eastern’s Jacob Pelletier in 2:58 for his 37th consecutive victory. But a slow start against Trumbull’s Andrew Marino sent Lang to his first loss of the season, 5-2.
Marino, the eventual State Open champion, took a 2-0 lead with a first period takedown. He extended his lead to 3-0 with an escape early in the third period. Lang got a takedown to cut the lead to one and let him escape intentionally.
“He nearly got another takedown but he ran out of time,” Kaplan said. It was just Lang’s second six-minute match of the season.
In the consolation bracket, Lang got back to work. In a rematch of the Class S final, Lang pinned Griswold’s James Walsh for the second straight week in 59 seconds. He followed that up by pinning Manchester’s Noel Cardona in 4:04.
Lang secured a spot in the New England tournament by pinning Middletown’s Jamar Jones in 1:47 in the consolation semifinals. In the consolation final, Lang pinned Xavier’s Chidiebere Broderick in 2:00.
The only other Canton wrestler to finish third at the State Open was Kacy O’Connor at 140 pounds in 1999.
Lang (41-1) has been on a roll in the postseason. In the past two weeks, he has nine pins in 10 matches. He has 28 pins on the year. It is tied for fourth in the school record book for most pins in a single season. The record is 31 set by O’Connor in 1999 and Rich Jones in 2010.
Setting a record at the New England tournament will be difficult. Pins aren’t common at the tournament with the top wrestlers from five New England states.
Lawler (29-15) ended his scholastic career with a strong effort. He pinned Greenwich’s Jack Freiheit in 3:04 in his first match before dropping a 17-2 decision to eventual State Open champion Anthony Falbo of Newtown.
Lawler rallied with two tough victories. He beat Fairfield Warde’s Anthony Rotz in double overtime, 6-3. The match was tied 2-2 after regulation and both scored a point in the first overtime session.
In his next match, Lawler trailed Pomperaug’s Anthony Ryan by two points after two periods. In the third period, he escaped and got a takedown to take a 3-2 lead. But Ryan got an escape to force overtime. In OT, Lawler got a takedown to secure the 5-3 victory.
“He really wrestled his heart out here,” Kaplan said.
Lawler’s tournament ended in the next round in a 15-3 loss to Trumbull’s Stephen Brighenti.
Houle (35-9) dropped two tough decisions. He lost to Shelton’s Liam Cunningham, 2-0 on a first period takedown. Houle was eliminated in a 5-4 double OT loss to Bradley Marston of E.O. Smith.