NEW HAVEN, Feb. 25, 2023 – It looks so easy when Avon’s Isaiah Adams is on the wrestling mat. He flows from move to move to move. When it doesn’t work, he tries another and then another.
The great ones always make it look easy. But it’s not, especially at this time of year. The wrestlers that can be pinned in 10, 15 or 30 seconds are gone, having seen their seasons come to an end.
All that is left are the medalwinners – wrestlers who have to finish in the top six of their respective tournament a week earlier to earn the right to compete.
Adams still stood above them all on Saturday at the CIAC State Open, winning his second straight State Open title by pinning South Windsor’s Kyden Merlin to win at 113 pounds.
Undefeated at 46-0, Adams is the first wrestler in the storied history of the Falcon program to achieve that feat.
Adams finished with three pins in the tournament. In a rematch of the Central Connecticut Conference finals from three weeks ago, Adams had a commanding 7-1 lead when he pinned Merlin with six seconds left in the match.
“He is just a phenomenal wrestler,” Avon coach John McLaughlin said of Adams. “He had some close matches today but that is what you expect at the Open. This is the best of the best in Connecticut.
“(Isaiah) was very aggressive on top and (Merlin) was very good at defending it,” McLaughlin said. “But (Isaiah) kept waiting for his opportunity, waiting and it appeared at the end. You can defend it perhaps 10 times but on that 11th time, he is going to bury you. He is patient, waits for it and when he sees his opportunity, he pounces.”
“My strategy is to rack up the points early in the beginning (of a match),” Adams said. “I like to give myself a foundation so that if mistakes happen, it won’t be detrimental to the match. I love to chase every opportunity.”
Adams is keenly aware of the situation when he is on the mat. Two weeks ago in the Class M championship meet, Avon was in a tight battle with RHAM for the tournament and a state title.
Adams was one of three Falcons in the finals. He was dominating Berlin’s Mason Arborio, who won a state title a year ago at 106 pounds. Adams had a 14-point lead in the third period and with another two points, he would win by technical fall, earning 5½ points for his team.
But he could earn Avon another half point with a pin, which was worth six points. Avon coach John McLaughlin told Adams to just get the technical fall but Adams wanted the pin. He needed to take Arborio right to his back and try to pin him.
Adams did it in one fell swoop and got the pin in 4:13. That extra half-point proved crucial. The Falcons beat RHAM by a half-point to win their first state championship since 1995.
“Wrestling is a lot like chess, which is why I like it so much,” Adams said. “You have to be thinking a few moments ahead and predicting what your opponent is going to do while still making your moves in real time.”
In the past two seasons, there haven’t been many wrestling achievements that have escaped his grasp. He is a two-time champion of the Central Connecticut Conference tournament, the Class M state tournament and the State Open.
One title eluded him a year ago – the New England championship. He went 2-2 and didn’t earn a medal. That’s something he hopes to change this weekend at the New England championships in Providence.
Adams and Jonah Weber will be representing the Falcons at the meet. Weber finished third at the State Open on Saturday with a 4-1 performance at 145 pounds.
Weber dropped a 2-0 decision in the semifinals to Fairfield Prep’s William Smith, who got a reversal with 51 seconds left in the match. But Weber rebounded with a 10-0 win over Xavier’s Max Morse in the consolation semifinals and a 7-4 win over Newtown’s Marc Maurath to finish third and earn his first trip to the New England tournament.
Lewis Mills freshman Jack Gedney earned a trip to the New England tournament by finishing third at 106 pounds. He dropped a tough 3-2 decision in the semifinals to RHAM’s Ben Fournier, getting turned to his back in the final 10 seconds of the match.
Gedney (34-5) beat Fournier three weeks ago in the Central Connecticut Conference finals, 8-6.
But Gedney remained focused with a 16-0 technical fall over St. Joseph’s Zachary Brzoska in the consolation semifinals and a 2-0 win over Danbury’s Cristian Pote to take third.
“He wrestled a tough tournament,” Simsbury coach T.J. Silva said. “He has really come a long way from beginning to now and it showed this weekend.” Gedney trains daily with the Simsbury squad.
A week ago, Gedney won the Class S championship at 106, the first Spartan wrestler to bring home a state championship since David Soden in 1992. Gedney is the first Mills wrestler to win a medal at the State Open and the first to qualify for the New England tournament. Lewis Mills had a varsity team from 1987-96 and had wrestlers represent the school as one-man squads on four other occasions from 2002-04 and 2017.
Simsbury had three medalwinners at the State Open. Chad Mairano finished fourth at 170, Griffin Devivo was fifth at 126 and Nick Savarese was sixth at 120. Sanique James (165) finished third in the CIAC Girls Invitational.
“We brought 11 guys here,” Silva said. “For a lot of them, it was their first experience at the Open. We wrestled well and left some wins on the table. We were an overtime (loss) and a few seconds away from putting a few wrestlers in the finals. So, we’ll try to make some adjustments and get on a podium next week (at the New England championships).
Mairano lost in overtime in the semifinals to Norwalk’s Ryan Gilchrist while Devivo came close to getting a potential match-tying takedown in the waning seconds of his 3-1 semifinal loss to New Fairfield’s Vincent Tripaldi.
Canton had a pair of medalwinners. Junior Reese Titus finished fourth at 120 pounds while junior Maela Sosa finished fourth at 107 in the CIAC Girls Invitational.
With Titus’ medal, it is the first that the Warriors have brought home medals in back-to-back State Open tournaments since 2001-02 when Josh Kaplan won medals in consecutive years. Last year, Titus’ older brother, Ethan, finished second at the Open at 120 pounds.
Reese Titus (38-5) won his first two matches of the tournament including a 6-0 win over Class L champion Kevin Kasperowski of Xavier in the quarterfinals. Reese Titus lost to NFA’s Jaiden James in the semifinals, 13-4 but earned a spot at the New England tournament with a 6-0 win over Simsbury’s Nick Savaverse.
The top five wrestlers in each weight class from Connecticut advance to the New England tournament.
Ridgefield’s Dominic Barrella beat Reese Titus with a pin in 2:31 to finish third.
Sosa won her first two matches of the Girls Invitational with a 36-second pin and a 5-2 decision over Jonathan Law’s Melissa Wargo. Sosa was pinned in the semifinal by eventual champion Samantha Yap of Stamford, who won her third CIAC Invitational title.
Sosa rebounded by pinning Gilbert’s Madison Arthur in 4:39 before falling in the consolation final to Sybella Landrie in 1:25.