PROVIDENCE, March 3 – Until this season, Granby High senior Cooper Fleming had never secured a berth to the New England wrestling tournament. He did this year and Fleming made the most of it.
Fleming won four of five matches and used a one-point escape with 1:15 left in the match to beat Vermont state champion Tyler Burgess of Mt. Anthony to finish third at the recent New England wrestling championships.
Simsbury freshman Ty Finn (106) advanced as far as the semifinals and finished fourth – the third Simsbury wrestler to win a medal at the New England championships in the past four years.
It was the highest ever finish for a Granby wrestler at the event and Fleming is just the second wrestler in team history to win a medal at the New England championships. Chris Nadeau (160) finished sixth in 2006.
“He is the most decorated Granby wrestler we’ve ever had, which is great,” Granby High coach Nick Watson said. “I haven’t seen as dedicated a wrestler as he has been. It’s been great to see and it will be tough next year without him. He’s been part of us for so long.”
Fleming (46-2) hopes to compete at Castelton State in Vermont next winter.
Fleming has won three Class S championships and wrestled in four finals. He took second at the State Open a few prior to the New England championships – falling to two-time Open champion Ryan Luth of Foran-Milford.
At the New England meet, Fleming had three takedowns, a three-point near fall and a two-point reversal in an 11-2 win over Dan Franco of Bishop Guertin (N.H.) in the first round. He beat Burgess, 6-3, in the quarterfinals.
“He is just so good in all positions,” Watson said. “He wrestles well in all positions. You see a lot of other wrestlers who are one-trick ponies. But (Cooper) is good everywhere – a great all-around wrestler.”
In the semifinals, Fleming gave up two takedowns in the first period and trailed 4-1 to Devin Rivet, the Rhode Island champion from Bishop Hendricken. Fleming had a pair of escapes and a takedown in the second period to cut the lead to 8-6. But he couldn’t tie up the match.
“It was a tough semifinal match,” Watson said. “He learned from it. You have to start quicker next time.”
In the consolation bracket, Fleming had a dominating 11-4 win over Justin Berube, the New Hampshire state champion from Timberlane Regional with four takedowns and a near fall. Fleming beat Burgess for the second time in a few hours to finish third.
Luth eventually beat Rivet in the championship match, 3-2 in triple overtime.
Fleming’s teammate Ben Kibby (182) qualified for participate in the tournament by finishing fourth at the State Open. But Kibby (34-3) got hurt so he declined the invitation. The top four in each weight class are eligible to wrestle at the New England tournament.
In his first varsity season, Simsbury’s Ty Finn (106) advanced to the New England tournament where he brought home a fourth place medal – a week after taking second at the State Open to Wilton’s Travis Longo.
“He wrestled great,” Simsbury coach T.J. Silva said. “He put together a good tournament. He worked hard this week. This is one of the toughest tournaments around.”
State Open champion Travis Longo, who beat Finn at the Open, won just one of his three matches and went home early.
Finn (50-6) began the tournament with an 11-6 win over Colby Frost of Bonny Eagle, Maine. A pair of takedowns and two-point reversals put Finn comfortably in command. Finn followed that up by pinning Ponaganesett, Rhode Island’s Tim Cook.
In the semifinal, eventual champion Hunter Adrian of Melrose, Mass., pinned Finn in 4:54 to move onto the finals. Adrian won the title with a 2-1 win over overtime over Joziah Fry of Coventry, R.I.
Finn beat Killingly’s Dan Cherron, 4-2 to earn a spot in the consolation final. Maine champion Jake Craig of Skowhegan beat Finn, 14-4.
Finn is the 14th Simsbury wrestler to bring home a New England championship medal.
Many state wrestlers, including Finn, will be competing in the upcoming National High School Coaches Association’s senior, junior, sophomore and freshman national wrestling tournaments this weekend (March 23-25) at Virginia Beach, Virginia.