CANTON, February 2 – Canton High wrestling coach Josh Bristol was there 17 years ago the last time that the Warriors won a league championship. So was his assistant coach Josh Kaplan.
Both wrestlers won North Central Connecticut Conference titles in February 2002 with Kaplan winning a Class S title and finishing fourth at the State Open that winter.
Bristol and Kaplan were both smiling again Saturday morning as their Warriors captured their fifth league championship in school history with a 66-6 victory over Granby. That victory gave Canton a clean 7-0 record in NCCC action.
The match that really determined the league championship came in mid-January when the Warriors got a pin in the final bout to beat Suffield/Windsor Locks, 42-36. But Canton still had to beat Coventry, East Windsor and Granby to seal the deal. The Warriors gave up just nine points in the three victories.
The win over Granby was the first of four matches for the Warriors on Saturday at the Four Corners Duals. Canton also beat Derby, Morgan and Griswold to finish 20-3 overall with the second-highest winning percentage in team history.
“I’m proud of the kids. They worked hard for this and it’s great that they have achieved so much,” Bristol said. “I remember what it felt like and mean to me to that (win a league championship) back in 2002 and I hope that I have paid it forward. And it’s great to be on another conference winning team with (Josh) Kaplan, too.”
This was sweet for the Warriors who came so close to league titles the past two seasons – posting records of 6-1 in the NCCC each year. The losses came to Granby. Canton did win the NCCC Tournament the past two seasons but the league champion is determined solely by the dual meet records.
Canton (20-3, 7-0 NCCC) has fielded a full lineup of 14 wrestlers for most of the season and has received consistent wrestling up and down the lineup.
“The success of our younger guys coming into their own as wrestlers has helped us have this kind of success,” Bristol said.
The veterans have excelled, too. Senior Brian Connolly became the 14th wrestler in team history and the first since 2014 to earn 100 career wins. Connolly went 4-0 on Saturday to improve to 101-54 in his career.
Canton had little trouble with Granby, which put just seven wrestlers on the mat in a 66-6 loss. Jack Freedenberg (126) and Gabe Deiulis (132) had pins for the Warriors while Ethan Titus (106) won with a technical fall.
Derby had just five wrestlers and dropped a 63-15 decision to the Warriors.
The most competitive match of the day came against Griswold in a 39-31 victory. Titus gutted out a 6-4 victory over Aiden Christie while Matt Webb (113) outlasted Tyler Aresnault, 4-0.
In an exciting match at 120, Ryker Bahre got a takedown as time expired to tie the match 18-18 and force overtime where he got a two-point takedown to earn a 20-18 victory. The Warriors pulled away with pins from Freedenberg (126), Deiulis (132) and Donovan Mackin (145).
Griswold won the final four matches of the bout but it wasn’t enough for the Wolverines.
Canton had six pins and a technical fall to close out the afternoon with a 71-3 win over Morgan.
It was the final bout of the regular season. The Warriors return to action on Saturday at the NCCC championship tournament in Granby. The Class S championship tournament is February 15-16 at Windham.
NOTES: It’s the third time in team history that Canton has won at least 20 matches and the first time since 2009 when Canton was 20-11. The Warriors had a .869 winning percentage, the second best in team history. In 1995, Canton was 18-2 with a .900 winning percentage.
Kaplan was the head coach for four years (2012-15) before stepping down due to increased commitments at work. Bristol has been the head coach for the past four seasons (2016-19) with Kaplan as one of his assistant coaches.
In 2002, Canton erased a 16-point deficit to beat Avon, 39-36, in the most crucial match of the season in their championship run. Bristol, then wrestling at 119 pounds, erased an early deficit to pin Avon’s Reid Time. Kaplan (140) had a pin in the victory.
The wrestling championship banner in the Canton High gym can be confusing. It says that the Warriors were conference champions in 2017 and 2018. That is incorrect. Canton won the NCCC Tournament both seasons but the league champion was determined by the team with the best dual meet record. In both seasons, Canton was second behind Granby.
Canton 66, Granby 6
170: Tyler Perez (G) dec. Austin Kilduff, 7-6; 182: James Pelehach (C) forfeit; 195: Braydon Fluckiger (C) forfeit; 220: Chris Dinneen (C) forfeit; 285: Devin Flagg (G) dec. Charlie Corso, 6-5; 106: Ethan Titus (C) tech fall Matt Ginz, 15-0; 113: Matt Webb (C) forfeit; 120: Ryker Bahre (C) dec. Luke Dlugoneski, 9-5; 126: Jack Freedenberg (C) pin Sam O’Neil, 3:05; 132: Gabe Deiulis (C) pin Aaron Galuska, 1:07; 138: Brian Connolly (C) forfeit; 145: Donovan Mackin (C) dec. Owen Bogli, 11-2; 152: Brendan Kelly (C) forfeit; 160: Nate Biega (C) forfeit
Records: Canton 17-3, 7-0 NCCC
Canton 63, Derby 15
182: James Pelehach (C) forfeit; 195 Braydon Fluckiger (C) dec. Nate Bartone (D), 9-3; 220 Christepher Dinneen (C) pin Matt Whelan (D); 285 Abraham Rodriguez (D) pin Charlie Corso (C); 106: Ethan Titus (C) forfeit; 113: Matt Webb (C) forfeit; 120: Ryker Bahre (C) forfeit; 126: Jack Freedenberg (C) forfeit; 132 Toby Lindner (D) pin Gabriel Deiulis (C), 2:58; 138: Brian Connolly (C) forfeit; 145 Michael Melendez (D) dec. Brendan Kelly (C), 8-2; 152: Donovan Mackin (C) forfeit; 160: Nate Biega (C) forfeit; 170: Austin Kilduff (C) forfeit
Records: Canton 18-3
Canton 39, Griswold 31
195 Johnny Falco (G) pin Christopher Dinneen (C), 1:07; 220: Braydon Fluckiger (C) forfeit; 285: Cory Carr (G) forfeit; 106 Ethan Titus (C) dec. Aiden Christie (G), 6-4; 113 Matt Webb (C) dec. Tyler Arsenault (G), 4-0; 120 Ryker Bahre (C) dec. Tyler Bellisle (G), 20-18 OT; 126 Jack Freedenberg (C) pin Lucas Wrobel (G), 3:39; 132 Gabriel Deiulis (C) pin Trevor Bellisle (G), 3:34; 138: Brian Connolly (C) forfeit; 145 Donovan Mackin (C) pin Celan Odom (G), 0:59; 152 Zach Sicard (G) dec. Brendan Kelly (C), 10-6; 160 Dakota Gardner (G) pin Nate Biega (C), 1:36; 170 Cadan Odom (G) dec. Austin Kilduff (C), 15-4; 182 Stephen Sims (G) pin James Pelehach (C), 2:56
Records: Canton 19-3
Canton 71, Morgan 3
220: Chris Dinneen (C) forfeit; 285: Charlie Corso (C) forfeit; 106: Ethan Titus (C) forfeit; 113 Matt Webb (C) pin Kevin Hicks (M), 2:40; 120 Ryker Bahre (C) pin Evan Baptista (M), 2:41; 126: Jack Freedenberg (C) forfeit; 132 Louis Bradley (M) dec. Gabriel Deiulis (C), 4-0; 138 Brian Connolly (C) tech fall Rex Smith (M), 17-2; 145: Brendan Kelly (C) forfeit; 152 Donovan Mackin (C) pin David Fortuna (M), 1:09; 160 Nate Biega (C) pin Ryan Hromadka (M), 1:31; 170 Austin Kilduff (C) pin Todd Morin (M), 1:10; 182 James Pelehach (C) pin Ethan Reemsnyder (M), 0:45; 195: Braydon Fluckiger (C) forfeit
Records: Canton 20-3