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Granby’s Ben Libby finishes second at State Open, loses to undefeated Accousti

Newtown’s Joe Accousti controls Granby’s Ben Kibby in the State Open final at 170 pounds Saturday night in New Haven. Accousti won by pin for his second Open title in three years.

NEW HAVEN, Feb. 25 – It was the semifinals of the State Open tournament at 170 Saturday afternoon and Granby High sophomore Ben Kibby was holding a three-point lead over Mason Laflam of Lyman Memorial/Windham tech, the Class M champion.

Laflam had escaped for the second time to cut the lead to 5-2 with 56 seconds remaining and it looked like the momentum was turning. But Kibby didn’t panic.

He used his speed to create opportunities for takedowns. With 29 seconds remaining, he took his shot and got it done with his third takedown of the match that he eventually won, 7-3. It made Kibby the first Granby wrestler to earn a spot in a State Open championship match.

Libby ran into one of the best wrestlers in the tournament in the 170 pound championship final when he faced off against undefeated Joe Accousti of Newtown. Accousti got three takedowns on Kibby and finally put him to his back and pinned him with nine seconds left in the match but not without a long, drawn-out battle.

Libby will be one of three Farmington Valley wrestlers competing in this weekend’s New England championships in Providence. Simsbury’s Joshua Kowalski and Jaspone Stone also qualified.

“He is a talented opponent,” Accousti said of Libby.”He was an impressive wrestler, tough. But I really wanted that pin.” Accousti (36-0) won his second State Open title in three years with four wins and three pins in the tournament. He gave up just one two-point reversal in the entire tournament.

But Kibby (35-2) was just as impressive up to that point. He won his first three Open matches with a pin and two decisions. “He has been on another level from everyone he has faced so far,” Granby coach Nick Watson said after the semifinals. “His true test comes in the finals.”

Granby’s Ben Kibby drives into Mason Laflam of Lyman Memorial/Windham Tech in the semifinals of the State Open Saturday. Kibby won, 7-3.

Kibby, who won the Class S championship a week ago, may get another shot at Accousti. He will be the first Granby wrestler to compete in the New England tournament on Friday and Saturday in Providence.

Granby’s Cooper Fleming also wrestled in the tournament and earned a medal by finishing sixth. But he missed out on a trip to the New England tournament by a point thanks when Montville’s Samuel Kury escaped with five seconds remaining to earn a 3-2 victory. The top five finishers in each weight class earned a trip to the New England tournament.

Fleming (38-5) dropped a 10-8 decision to Newtown’s Ed Lovely thanks to a third period takedown and Lovely rode out the remainder of the third period.

Fleming, who was second in Class S, pinned Xavier’s Jake Holland in 3:01 before losing to New Fairfield’s Avery Shay by pin (3:48) in the quarterfinals. Fleming beat Hand’s Zakery Santoemma, 8-1, and Platt’s Mannash Carlson, 3-0, to get into the medal round.

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Simsbury’s Joshua Kowalski has the leg of New Milford’s Charles Schultz and looks to trip him to the mat during Saturday’s State Open championships in New Haven.

Simsbury had four wrestlers in the tournament will have two competing in the New England tournament in Providence – Joshua Kowalski (138) and Jasper Stone (285).

Kowalski, the Class L champion, won his first match beating Pomperaug’s Daniel Germain by technical fall, 16-0. But Kowalksi dropped his next bout to Class LL runnerup A.J. Kovacs of Danbury, 9-3. Kowalski won his next three bouts with two pins and a forfeit to earn a spot in the consolation final.

But New Milford’s Charles Schultz erased a three-point deficit to beat Kowalski, 4-3 and take third place. Kowalski (41-7) led 3-0 with 1:14 left in the second period but Schultz escaped and got a quick takedown to tie the match at 3-3. In the third period, Schultz escaped with 56 seconds remaining and held on for the win.

Simsbury’s Joshua Kowalski battles New Milford’s Charles Schultz Saturday in the consolation final at the State Open.

Stone (28-3) is going back to the New England tournament for the second consecutive year. He beat New Haven’s Jacarie Houston, 2-1, to finish fifth. Stone had three pins on the day and four victories.

After opening the tournament by pinning Staples’ George Harrington in 2:58, Stone dropped a 3-2 decision in triple overtime to Platt’s Nicholas Martone. The match was tied 1-1 after three periods and both wrestlers had escapes in the second overtime session. In the third overtime, Martone escaped within eight seconds to secure the win.

Stone hung tough with two wins by pin. In the consolation semifinal, he dropped a 3-2 decision to Hand’s Michael Burchcell, who escaped with 51 seconds left in regulation.

Simsbury’s Jackson King (195) and Nicholas Gugliotti (182) each went 2-2 in the tournament. King had two pins in the tournament.

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Brian Connolly (120) was Canton’s lone representative in the tournament. He beat East Haven’s Tanner Divito, 8-5 in his opening match on Friday before getting pinned by Guilford’s Keldon Larose in 3:19. Connolly’s tournament ended when he was overweight by less than a pound during Saturday’s weigh-ins. He finished the year 20-13.

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years.

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