Coach Bill Maloney’s Shelton High wrestling team placed eight wrestlers, including class champion Liam Cummings, and the Gaels placed second at the Shelton Invitational Tournament on Saturday.
Shelton’s 165 team points placed the Gaels second out of the 10 schools in attendance, as the squad finished behind only powerhouse Westhill of Stamford, who finished with 239.5.
Cummings, a junior wrestling at 170 pounds, pinned Masuk’s Anthony McConnell in just 24 seconds in the quarterfinal, before moving on to face Greens Farms Academy’s Jad Qaddourah in the semifinal.
Cummings earned the early takedown over Qaddourah in the first period of the match and maintained control despite an attempt at a reversal by Qaddourah.
Cummings earned the fall just 30 seconds into the second period, earning him a spot in the final against Westhill’s Monir Koumal.
Koumal took a 2-0 lead in the first period, and the Viking chose the defensive position to open up the second frame.
Cummings kept him down and earned two near-falls in the period, but the pin proved elusive.
The Gael escaped from the defensive position to start the final period, and he tacked on the points in the final two minutes with a takedown and near-fall to take the score to a 10-2 final.
Also taking the podium for Shelton were second-place finishers Mac Thompson at 182 pounds and Will Dimeo at 195.
Before falling to Greenwich’s Grant Cucchissi in the final, Thompson made quick work of his first three opponents.
The senior opened the day with a 21-second pin of Norwalk’s Sam Patterson, and then advanced to the semifinals with a 43-second pin of New Haven’s Jovan Polanco.
In the semis, Thompson earned a takedown of Westhill’s Isaac Chevron in the first minute of the match, then sealed the deal with a pin at 1:16.
In the final, Thompson kept control of Cucchissi for most of the match, but was flipped by the senior late in the period and was pinned with 39 seconds left.
Thompson’s classmate, Dimeo, encountered a similar fate in the 195-pound class.
After pinning New Haven’s Khari Daniels in less than a minute and a half in the quarterfinal round, Dimeo faced Weston’s Travis Delaney in the semifinal.
Dimeo earned the early takedown and spent the rest of the period looking for the pin, but Delaney stayed on his stomach for the rest of the period.
Dimeo worked Delaney onto his back in the second frame and earned the fall at 3:49.
In the final, Dimeo remained tied up with Masuk’s Sal Longo throughout most of the scoreless first period.
Dimeo escaped his defensive position to open up the second, but Longo earned a takedown and a near fall in the period and pinned Dimeo with 37 seconds left in the third.
Two Gaels finished third: freshman Kyle McGinnis in the 120-pound spot and junior Alex Merdinger in the 220-pound class.
McGinnis lost on points in his first-round matchup with eventual champion Austin MacDonald of Amity, but went on to win four in a row to take third place.
McGinnis’s first three pins came in less than a minute, at 44, 43 and 18 seconds, respectively.
This propelled McGinnis into the final round to face senior Tim Levene of Weston. Both were aggressive, but McGinnis notched the early takedown and maintained control for most of the one-minute first period.
McGinnis chose the defensive position to open up the second frame and was able to twist out of Levene’s grasp for an escape.
The Gael, wrestling aggressively, took down Levene shortly thereafter and earned the fall at 2:27.
The most exciting match of the evening, however, belonged to Merdinger.
An escape by the Gael in the second period and another by Westhill’s Austin Renovales to open up the third frame comprised the extent of the scoring in the first three periods of the match, which was tied 1-1 at the end of regulation.
The first overtime period is one minute in duration, followed by two 30-second periods. If a wrestler has scored a point in the first of these half-minute periods, he or she must maintain the lead until the end of the second half-minute period, or sixth period in total.
After the sixth period, the match goes into sudden death.
The score of the 220-pound match remained tied through the fourth frame, and Merdinger chose the defensive position to begin the fifth.
He escaped, taking a 2-1 lead, but an escape by Renovales to open up the sixth tied the match at 2.
Merdinger again had the option of top, bottom or neutral to open up the seventh, and strategically chose the defensive position.
Struggling to stand up, Merdinger fought to break from Renovales’s hold and was eventually successful, ending the match at 3-2 and giving Merdinger a hard-earned third-place finish.
Placing in the top four in their respective weight classes were John Rosa (106 pounds), Scott Plucenik (126) and Mike Chernesky (138).
This Saturday, the Gaels will travel to Bristol to face Bristol Eastern, Fairfield Ludlowe, Darien and Newington. Wrestling begins at 10 a.m.
Maloney said he expects the team to be anchored by its four seniors, all of whom are captains: Thompson, Zach Hoynoski, Chernesky, and Dimeo.
He “hopes McGinnis and Cummings will bring home wins for us,” adding that he “expects good things from Cummings” and sees a lot of potential in McGinnis, adding that the “younger guys have to step up.”