NEW HAVEN, Feb. 27, 2022 – Canton High wrestler Ethan Titus went to the State Open championships looking to be challenged on the mat.
He had won 34 of 36 matches before the tournament began including victories at the NCCC championship meet and becoming the first Canton High wrestler since 2014 to win a Class S state championship.
It was the right place to be to find a challenge.
Titus erased a five-point deficit in the second period to beat long-time friend William Hamilton of Bristol Central in the quarterfinals, 7-6, and beat Norwalk’s Phoenix Gardella by technical fall (15 points or more) in the semifinals.
Titus became the first Canton wrestler in nearly a quarter century to earn a spot in the State Open finals. Kacy O’Connor was the last Warrior to wrestle in the Open finals in 1998.
Titus stood toe to toe with Xavier freshman Jackson Heslin but couldn’t manage to get a takedown in a 4-1 defeat Sunday in the 120 pound championship match at the Floyd Little Athletic Center on the campus of Hillhouse High in New Haven.
Heslin (21-1), who lives in Marlborough, is not your ordinary freshman wrestler.
Last October, he won a gold medal in freestyle and silver medal in Greco Roman competing for the United States in the U-15 Pan American Championships in Mexico. Last spring, he won the USA Wrestling U-15 national title in Greco-Roman, which is all upper body wrestling moves.
Titus (37-3) scrambled out of a potential takedown attempt in the first period. Heslin nearly completed a takedown but Titus never stopped moving and eventually scooted away.
Heslin used his quickness to finally get a takedown with 13 seconds left in the second period to take a 2-0 lead. Titus escaped quickly in the third period to cut the lead to one, 2-1.
But Titus couldn’t find an opening for a takedown and Heslin got a takedown with 30 seconds remaining to extend his lead to 4-1.
“(Heslin) is a tough customer,” Canton coach Joshua Bristol said. “I thought that first scramble when Ethan kept from being scorer upon was phenomenal. It was a close match and a tough one. (Ethan) had trouble getting his set up and firing his shots.”
Titus was proud to get to the Open final but as he watched the other State Open finals, he was already thinking about a potential rematch with Heslin at this weekend’s New England championships in Providence.
“I could have done better but I am proud of the way I wrestled,” Titus said. “I need to stay low and find a new style. I hope I can make some new changes and get a new outcome.”
In this first match of the tournament, Titus got a technical fall victory over New London’s Andy Martinez-Soliz before rallying to beat Hamilton, 7-6, in the quarterfinals.
Titus and Hamilton were old teammates at the Bristol Gladiators youth wrestling club and Titus had yet to beat Hamilton in high school. Hamilton led 6-1 in the second period before Titus escaped and got a two-point takedown and three-point near fall with no time left to take a 7-6 lead.
Titus rode out Hamilton in the third period to secure the win.
“(Ethan) has been extremely motivated,” Bristol said. “He is hyper motivated. He has been putting in the work since he was in kindergarten. He wrestles year round. I think he is peaking now. He is just physically and technically hitting his peak. “
Titus wasn’t the only Canton wrestler at the State Open. His younger brother, Reese, went 1-2 at 113 pounds with a 6-4 win over Guilford’s John Fernandes in OT. Ryker Bahre (160), Mark Freedenberg (182) and Chris Dinneen (195) each competed in the tournament and lost two matches each.
Maela Sosa (113) competed in the Girls State Championship tournament and finished sixth, dropping a 2-1 decision to Haddam-Killingworth’s Amelia Peterson in the fifth place bout.
Peterson snapped a 0-0 tie with 1:21 remaining with a two-point near fall to take the lead. Sosa escaped with 55 seconds remaining but couldn’t get a takedown to take the lead.
Sosa beat Stafford’s Aubrey Langlois in her debut match of the tournament, 10-5.