Ten Gaels reach podium at Valley of Champions tourney

The Shelton High wrestling team placed 10 grapplers on the podium in 14 weight classes at Saturday’s Valley of Champions Tournament at Oxford High.

Kyle McGinnis (120 pounds), Nick Pogacsas (145) and Liam Cummings (170) all took top spots for coach Bill Maloney’s Gaels.

Nico DiStasio (113) and Alex Merdinger (195) took second in their respective weight classes.

John Rosa (106), Scott Plucenik (126), Brett Scanlon (182), Kyle Tobin (220), and Jose Nieves (285) each finished third. Shelton placed behind team champion Derby.

Kyle McGinnis

After a first-round bye, McGinnis faced Seymour’s Chris LaBaire in the semifinals. McGinnis earned an early takedown and pinned LaBaire at 1:03, securing him a berth in the championship round against Darien’s David Ziga.

McGinnis was dominant from the start, taking down Ziga early in the first period. Ziga reversed to gain control and tie the score, and the first period closed out with the score locked at 2. McGinnis chose the defensive position to open up the second frame and made short work of Ziga, flipping him for a reversal and earning the fall 34 seconds into the period.

Nick Pogacsas

Shelton’s second first-place victory was earned by Pogacsas in the 145-pound category. Pogacsas faced Seymour’s Wesley Minalga in the semifinal, earning a fast takedown and near fall before pinning the Wildcat with 16 seconds left in the first period.

Pogacsas moved on to tackle New Canaan’s Kenny Philipson in the championship round, where he found himself wrestling a tough match.

Pogacsas notched the early takedown, but Philipson soon reversed and kept control for the rest of the period. Philipson likewise chose the top position to open up the second frame, but Pogacsas answered with a reversal to put himself back on top 4-2.

He chose the top position to open up the final frame, but Philipson flipped him to gain control and tie the score at 4. Pogacsas later earned a reversal, and those last two points proved to be all he needed to hang on for the win and earn the title.

Liam Cummings

Cummings kept things going a few weight classes later with a swift victory in the 170-pound final.

Cummings’s day had started off with a bye, after which he moved on to face Masuk’s Clayton Hoskins in the semifinal.

Cummings worked a quick takedown and never relinquished control of Hoskins, earning the fall just over a minute into the match.

He likewise made short work of Derby’s Charlie Sampson, taking down and pinning the sophomore in 32 seconds to top the podium at 170.

Taking second

Two other Shelton wrestlers encountered some difficulty in the final round, but enjoyed strong days overall that garnered them second-place finishes.

DiStasio opened up his day with a 3:15 pin of Masuk’s Mike Fedorko, before falling in a 20-6 major decision to Derby’s Josh Russell.

DiStasio was dominant against Fedorko, taking control early and adding a near-fall in the first period to take a 5-0 lead into the second frame.

Fedorko chose the defensive position to open up the second and DiStasio capitalized on the Panther’s choice, holding him down and working him onto his back for the pin just over a minute into the second period.

Merdinger’s first match of the day at 195 pounds likewise came in the semifinal round, when he faced Oxford’s Brandon Carothers.

After a scoreless first period, Carothers took an early lead when he escaped from the defensive position he assumed to open up the second frame.

His lead was short-lived, though, as Merdinger took him down and maintained control for the rest of the period.

He was awarded a penalty point in the final frame, and that 3-1 lead proved to be all he needed to secure himself a place in the finals.

There he met Masuk standout Sal Longo, and hung in for five and a half minutes before he was ultimately pinned.

Taking thirds

Rosa (106) lost to New Canaan’s Nick Khzouz, but went on to defeat Oxford’s Ryan Dexter.

Plucenik (126) opened up his day with a 35-second pin of Darien’s Will Crane before falling to eventual champion Mike Mauro in the semifinals. He went on to pin O’Brien Tech’s Jake Wronski at 2:25 and Northwestern’s Tyson Benoit at 1:47.

Scanlon pinned Seymour’s Emil Lizak in 37 seconds in the first round before losing to New Canaan’s Aidan Donovan in the 182-pound semifinal. Scanlon took three minutes to pin Darien’s Brandon DelGatto in the consolation semifinal, then earned a 15-0 tech fall over Oxford’s Adam Duke.

Tobin (220) lost in the semifinal to the eventual winner Spencer Stovall of Darien. Tobin regrouped on the consolation final, pinning Derby’s Vinny Signore in 3:29.

Heavyweight Nieves wrapped up Shelton’s day with a third-place finish, pinning Seymour’s Christ Ernst in the opening round and the third-place final.

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