By Bob Birge
Special to the Sports Scene
STRATFORD—During Sean Sloat’s three seasons as the Bunnell wrestling coach, the Bulldogs have been on a steady upward spiral, increasing their win total each season.
On Tuesday, they parlayed six pins into a 64-18 victory over archrival Stratford at the Needham Gym to conclude the regular season at .500, a preseason goal.
”Every year we’re getting better and better,” said Sloat, whose team improved to 9-9 overall and 4-4 in the South-West Conference. “The year before we came in (as coaches), we didn’t win any matches, our first year we won like three matches and last year we won five matches.
”This year, we’re a .500 team, so we’re making good strides. We’re building a team, our first year we had seven kids. The best part about it is half our varsity team is freshmen. We don’t have experience so it looks good for the future.”
Julian Dematteo (145), Luke McLaughlin (160), Nick DeManche (170), C.J. Falotico (285), Ryan McLaughlin (106) and Tanner Roper (132) all recorded pins for the Bulldogs.
What is even more impressive is that all six pins came in the first period.
Dematteo, the Bulldogs’ junior captain, opened the match with a pin of Joshua Kydes at 1:08 of first period and Luke McLaughlin put the Bulldogs ahead to stay at 12-6 when he stopped Drilon Nasufi with 1:09 left in the opening stanza.
”I told my guys everybody that wins has to pin,” Sloat added. “I wanted six points from everybody. That’s is what the expectation was and for the most part they delivered. You have to have that mindset.”
Prior to the match, Tanner Mitchell, who wrestled in the 126-pound weight class, was recognized as the only senior on the Stratford team.
Mitchell, who completed the regular season with an individual mark of 27-8, dropped a 17-7 decision to Mike Amarando in the only bout that was not decided via a pin.
Stratford (6-21) was forced to forfeit matches at the 182- 195-, 220- and 113-pound classes due to injuries and academic issues.
Stratford’s two wins on the mat came from Sam Schumann (152), who pinned Craig Pressley at the 15-second mark of the second period, and Sean Meisel (120), who stopped Devin Redd with 41 seconds left in the middle period.
Hayden Roberts earned a forfeit win for the Red Devils at the 138-pound classification.
”We got a couple wins but there were a couple that didn’t go our way,” Stratford coach Dan German said. “Tanner has been battling that kid (for four years).
”All the scores have been similar to that. The big matches will be coming up this weekend (SWC championship) and next weekend (Class M championship) so we’ll meet up with them again then.”
Mitchell will be attending Brigham Young-Idaho next year with the hope of enrolling at BYU’s main campus in Utah while majoring in engineering Two of Mitchell’s brothers attended the Cougars’ campus in Provo.
One of the highlights of the evening came when Bunnell freshman Jimmy Galpin, who is blind, participated in an exhibition match following the varsity competition.
He actually is not the first blind wrestler for the Bulldogs as he followed Matt Soares, who graduated last year and sometimes returns to help Galpin in practices.
”He is an inspiration to the team,” Sloat said. “I know I wouldn’t be able to do it, go out there on a mat with another guy who is trying to take your head off and you can’t even see him. It’s a level of courage you and I will never experience.”
Sloat expects that a number of his freshman, including the McLaughlins and DeManche, could place at the SWC meet along with Dematteo and Amorando.
The Stratford roster is a bit thinner and German realistically anticipates that Mitchell and Meisel are his only wrestlers who can place at thw SWCs. Mitchell finished fourth in the SWC meet last year.
“He should do okay,” German said. “It depends on the luck of the draw, and make sure he’s healthy and all that good stuff.”