The Bunnell Bulldogs wrestling team took part in the Fairfield Warde Invitational meet over the weekend, one of the toughest events of the team’s schedule.
Julian DeMatteo made it to the semifinals, where he lost to one of the best wrestlers in New England. He then came back tough and won three in a row to take third place in a very strong weight bracket at 145 pounds.
Nick Demanche went 3-2 for the day to take 5th place at 170 pounds.
Brandon Toscano, at 195, and Tanner Roper, at 138, both took 6th place.
Also getting wins at the tournament were Mark Anishcyk (113 pounds), Lex Vanicky (132), Ryan McLaughlin (126 pounds) and James Depina (160 pounds).
The prior weekend, Bunnell competed at the Milford Duals and went 4-1, losing to just rival Stratford by a tie-breaker.
In the first match, Bunnell beat Harding 48-24. Brandon Toscano pinned his opponent in 53 seconds at 220 pounds, and Tyree Hall pinned in the second period at Heavyweight.
Next, Bunnell grappled against Oxford and won, 42-30. Julian DeMatteo pinned in 54 seconds at 152 and Nick Demanche pinned in 1:10 at 170.
Notre Dame-West Haven, the favorite to win the tournament, was next and Bunnell pulled out a 42-39 win.
Ryan McLaughlin started things off with a pin in 1:16 at 126 pounds.
The biggest swing match was at 132 pounds with freshman Lex Vanicky. He had to face an opponent who had beaten him twice already this season. Vanicky went in with no fear and wrestled hard but was trailing 10-4 in the third period. He found a surge of energy and showed how much heart he had by tossing his opponent to his back and pinning him to earn the Bulldogs’ six important team points.
Julian DeMatteo pinned in 1:08, James Depina pinned in 46 seconds at 160s, Nick Demanche pinned in 36 seconds, and Tyree Hall pinned in 1:36.
Another big match for Bunnell came from Craig Pressley at 182. He was outmatched by his opponent and also giving up a significant weight difference, only weighing in at 159 pounds, but he stayed tough for the team and only lost 7-3, which meant he only gave up 3 team points. instead of 6 if he had gotten pinned
In our fourth match, Bunnell faced the host school Jonathan Law and won 40-33. Ryan McLaughlin fought back after giving up the first takedown to get a third-period pin. Julian DeMatteo won 8-0 to pick up a major decision, James Depina pinned in 1:15, and Brandon Toscano pinned in 29 seconds.
In our last match, Bunnell faced Stratford High.
“It was a crazy dual with a lot of energy and we ended up tying 39-39 so we had to go to criteria for the tie-breaker,” Bunnell coach Sean Sloat said. “The first six criteria still ended us in a tie but the new rule just implemented this year is whichever team gave up less forfeits will take the match. Since we gave up four forfeits, they won the criteria and won the dual 40-39. It was a very fun match and terrific for wrestling in Stratford that we can be so competitive against each other.”
Julian DeMatteo pinned in 50 seconds, James Depina pinned in 1:43, Brandon Toscano pinned in 1:00, Lex Vanicky pinned in 2:30.
In an exciting match at 126, Ryan McLaughlin faced Stratford High’s captain Sean Meisel. It was a high-scoring match and McLaughlin was winning 18-11 with 5 seconds left in the match. Ryan was on bottom and getting an escape would have gotten him one more point to earn him the major decision and actually win us the dual. But Sean showed why he is the captain for Stratford and showed heart by not letting Ryan escape even though he knew he was losing the match.
Julian DeMatteo went 5-0 for the day, Brandon Toscano went 4-0 for the day.
Also getting wins were freshmen Kenny Crowe at 106, Tyler Swist at 113 and Isaiah Rivera at 138.