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Simsbury freshman Max Konopka captures State Open championship

Simsbury’s Max Konopka has Windham’s Jaycee Diaz on his back during their semifinal match at the State Open. Konopka won with a pin in 5:29.

NEW HAVEN, February 24, 2024 – It’s hard to fly under the radar when you win the first 37 of the first 38 matches of your career, win individual titles and the Outstanding Wrestler award at the George Bossi Lowell Holiday Classic, the Fairfield Warde Invitational and the Frank Chaves Invitational in Simsbury.

Sometimes, freshmen get overlooked even when their winning the Class L state championship. But don’t count on Simsbury’s Max Konopka standing under the radar much longer.

Konopka (38-1) became the first Simsbury High freshman to win a State Open championship since 2003 on Saturday at the Floyd Little Athletic Center on the campus of Hillhouse High with a 4-0 win over Brayden Soleau of East Lyme/Norwich Tech in the finals at 190 pounds.

It capped off a dominating tournament for Konopka, who had three pins and gave up just one point (an escape in the semifinal) in four matches.

A second period takedown and a reversal with 1:47 left in the third period was enough for Konopka, who won the Class L title a week ago with a 4-0 win over Soleau.

Konopka, the grandson of long-time East Hartford and Penney head coach Steve Konopka (1975-2013), will be competing beginning Friday at the New England championships in Providence., looking to be the first Trojan since 2005 to bring home a New England championship.

“He has been on a mission dominating,” Simsbury High coach T.J. Silva said. “He’s a freshman. We know how good he is and what he can accomplish. Now, he has proven it to everyone else here in the post-season.”

There are plenty of upperclassmen with excellent wrestling resumes around Connecticut.

Konopka has a good one, too. He finished first at USA Wrestling’s 15-and-under national championship meet in 2023. He finished second in the 15-and-under Pan-Am trials for freestyle and Greco-Roman.

“He is a 15-year-old athlete who is going out there and wrestling,” Silva said. “He has high expectations for himself, which allows him to be as dominate as he is.

“This was his first step of showing everyone who Max Konopka is. We’re excited about more tough matches (for him).”

Konopka helped Simsbury finish seventh at the State Open, the fifth top 10 finish in the last six years for the Trojans. There was no tournament in 2021 due to the pandemic.

Simsbury had nine wrestlers that finished in the top six of their respective weight classes at the Class L championships a week earlier to qualify for the State Open. Eight wrestlers won at least one match.

“Obviously that’s not our goal,” said Silva, who has never been shy about his desire for Simsbury to be among the top teams in the state. “Our goal is to win this tournament, to be what Xavier is. That is what we aspire to be.”

No. 1 Xavier had five individual champions and eight finalists to win the State Open for the third straight year with a tournament record 243½ points.

Konopka became the 19th Simsbury wrestler to win a State Open title and the first since Zach Jones won in 2022 at 152 pounds. The last Simsbury freshman to win an Open title was Joey Martin at 103 pounds in 2003.

Avon had two medalwinners at the State Open and finished 24th. Gavin Fallon (190) finished fourth while Elijah Fagin (132) finished sixth. Fallon went 4-2 with three pins in the tournament. He got pinned by Konopka in the quarterfinals. By finishing fourth, Fallon earned a spot at this weekend’s New England tournament.

Fagin lost his first match of the tournament in overtime to Ridgefield’s Leo Moore, 11-9 but then rallied to win four straight matches to get into the medal round.

Canton’s Reese Titus went 2-2 at the State Open at 132 pounds.

Canton’s Maela Sosa advanced to the semifinals of the CIAC Girls Invitational with a pair of victories but lost to Amity’s Cristekl Miguel, 5-0. Sosa beat Makayla Santiago of Conard in the consolation semifinals, 10-5 but got pinned in the consolation final by East Haven’s Gonul Celik to finish fourth.

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 40 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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