NEW HAVEN, Feb. 24 – Granby’s Cooper Fleming knew he would be challenged in the final of the State Open wrestling tournament on Saturday night.
Fleming, who had yet to lose a match this season at 152 pounds, was facing defending State Open and New England champion Ryan Luth of Foran-Milford – the wrestler who has won more career matches than any other wrestler in state history.
“We know he is in for a tough match but he is up for the challenge,” Granby coach Nick Watson said.
Unfortunately for Fleming, Luth was too quick with a 13-8 decision in the final at 152 pounds to win his second straight State Open championship.
Fleming was one of four Farmington Valley wrestlers to win medals for finishing in the top six here at the State Open at the Floyd Little Athletic Center. Fleming finished second while teammate Ben Kibby finished fourth at 182 pounds.
Simsbury freshman Thomas Finn finished second at 106 pounds after dropping a 4-1 decision to Wilton junior Travis Longo. Finn’s teammate Jackson King (182) finished sixth with a 3-3 record. Simsbury’s Saul Pera finished one win shy of a medal, going 4-2 at 113 pounds.
Fleming and Finn qualified to compete in next weekend’s New England championships in Providence. The top five wrestlers in each weight class qualify. Kibby also qualified but he is bowing out due to an injury.
Fleming (42-1) became just the second Granby wrestler to make an Open final. He won his first three bouts with two pins and a 7-0 win over Class L champion Justin Marshall of Bristol Eastern in the semifinal.
“He has been wrestling really well,” Watson said prior to the final. “He has managed to keep a cool head and stay calm in all of his matches. He is peaking at the right time.”
Luth (48-2) has lost just twice this season and both times it came to New York wrestlers at the Eastern States Classic. Luth had five takedowns to control the bout with Fleming.
Luth had three takedowns and a 7-5 lead after one period. But he never let Fleming get anywhere near the lead. “He was probably the toughest guy I wrestled in Connecticut this year,” Luth said. “He was pretty funky with the way his body moves. He’s slippery but I’m sure I’ll see him at the New England’s next week.”
Finn (47-4) beat Bristol Eastern’s Bryce Beebe in the quarterfinals, 9-0 and outlasted New London freshman Naje Powell-Keyton in the semifinals, 7-1 to get a rematch with Longo. Finn lost to Longo in overtime in a dual meet in January.
“Finn has been wrestling great,” Simsbury coach T.J. Silva said. “He continued from last weekend (when he won a Class LL championship) and his goal is to win a State Open title and go to the New Englands and win a New England title.”
Longo, who had pair of 5-3 victories in the quarterfinals and semifinals, got the first takedown within seconds of the opening whistle to take command of the match. Long had a pair of takedowns in the first period and it was enough to earn a 4-1 victory.
Kibby (182) let leads get away from him. He won his first two bouts of the tournament, beating Danbury’s George Estevez, 13-0 and beat Xavier’s Dylan Souza, 7-4. But in the semifinals, Killingly’s Zach Caffrey erased a 5-0 lead and beat Kibby, 7-6.
Caffrey got two takedowns in the second period to pick up four points. In the third period, he had a one-point escape and a takedown with 58 seconds left to pull ahead.
“He was in control of the whole match and his opponent took advantage of a mistake he made,” Watson said.
Kibby beat Simsbury’s Jackson King, 5-0 to move to the consolation final but he dropped a 5-4 decision to E.O. Smith’s Isaiah Rivera to take fourth. Kibby had a 4-1 lead in the second period but Rivera cut the lead to two points with an escape.
In the third period, Rivera escaped with 1:54 left and got a takedown with 13 seconds left in the bout to earn the win.
Granby teammates Hunter Fleming (126) and Tyler Perez (170) also wrestled in the tournament with Hunter Fleming going 1-2. Perez was 0-2.
Granby finished 16th with 43 points while Simsbury was 18th with 42 points.
No. 1 ranked Danbury won their fourth State Open championship in the last six years with two individual champions and six medalists. Fairfield Warde, Bristol Eastern and Killingly each finished tied for second place with 95 points with Southington a half point back with 94½ points.
Avon had four wrestlers in the tournament. Chris Gens (220) went 4-2 and was one win away from earning a medal. Abhi Bhabad (106) and Matt Bourquin (195) were each 1-2 while Henry Schrecengost (285) was 0-2.
Gens won his tournament opener with an 11-4 win over Bristol Eastern’s Hidekel Mangual but he dropped a 5-0 decision to Class LL champion Isaiah Jiminian of East Hartford.
Gens rebounded with three straight wins including two pins and a 4-2 win over Danbury’s Montez Osbey. Gens got a three-point near fall with 25 seconds left to beat Osbey. But Gens was eliminated in a 4-2 loss to Montville’s Nick Tibbetts.
Farmington’s Muhil Saravana (220) was 1-2 while Canton’s Brian Connolly (132) and Matt Webb (106) were each 0-2. Webb dropped a 2-1 decision to Southington’s Caleb Brick in his final match in the tournament.