Gaels third in Valley of Champions

Coach Bill Maloney’s Shelton High wrestling team took third place at the Valley of Champions Tournament at Oxford High on Saturday.

Foran of Milford (205.5) won the title, followed by Derby High (179.5) and the Gaels (173.5).

Eight Shelton grapplers finished in the top three of their respective weight classes, with Kyle McGinnis (113 pounds) and Liam Cummings (160 pounds) each being crowned champion.

McGinnis started off the day with a 58-second pin of James Murphy of Housatonic Valley Regional from Falls Village.

The win advanced McGinnis to the quarterfinal, where he met Foran’s Jake Pouliot. McGinnis earned the early takedown, and though Pouliot managed to escape, McGinnis took him down and recorded the pin with 17 seconds left in the first frame.

McGinnis was dominant in the final. He took down Darien’s David Ziga early in the first period and maintained control throughout the match before earning a fall just before the first-period buzzer.

Cummings started the day with a decisive 16-1 win in the quarterfinal round.

Three takedowns and four near-falls were enough to give Cummings the technical fall.

Cummings met Oxford’s Will Denslow in the semis and took a 3-1 lead before Denslow was ejected for flagrant misconduct, resulting in his disqualification and Cummings’ automatic victory.

In the finals, Cummings met Foran’s Beau Garcia, where the match remained scoreless through the first period.

Cummings assumed the defensive position to open up the second frame and escaped for a 1-0 lead.

Cummings earned a takedown late in the period, and added a pair of three-point near-falls in the third to secure his 7-0 win.

Prior to falling to New Canaan’s Frank Hogan in the 120-pound championship final, Shelton’s Scott Plucenik earned pins in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds.

Plucenik started the day with a pin of Foran’s Jubilee Witte. The match was scoreless until Plucenik reversed Witte in the second frame.

He earned a near-fall before Witte himself reversed. The score was at 5-2 in favor of Plucenik in the third when Plucenik earned the fall at 5:28.

The win advanced Plucenik to the semifinal, where he pinned Housatonic’s Matt Perotti in 1:17.

Shelton’s Mike Chernesky also took second, wrestling in the 138-pound class.

Prior to falling to Foran’s C.J. Luth in the final, Chernesky started the day with a 5-0 decision over Housatonic’s Sam Johnson, then met Derby’s Sebby Hernandez in the semifinal.

Hernandez earned the early takedown, but Chernesky escaped later in the first period, and the third period ended with the score deadlocked at three.

No points were scored in the first overtime period from the neutral position, thus beginning a pair of 30-second overtime frames.

Chernesky won the coin toss and elected the defensive position, from which he escaped early in the fifth.

Even if points are scored in the first period, both 30-second frames must be wrestled.

Chernesky took the 3-2 lead into the sixth, and maintained the score to secure the win and advance to the final.

Gael 195-pounder Will Dimeo was Shelton’s third and final second-place finisher.

Before losing to Oxford’s Andy Temple in the final, Dimeo defeated Foran’s Ben Croll in the semifinal. Wrestling aggressively, Dimeo earned a quick takedown and pinned Croll with about 20 seconds left in the first period.

Nick Pogacsas (145), Mac Thompson (182) and Alex Merdinger (220) rounded out Shelton’s repertoire of top-three finishers.

After falling to Wilton’s Andrew Sakamoto in the championship quarterfinal, Nick Pogacsas pinned Housatonic’s Tyler Spadaccini in 2:10 to advance to the third-place final.

Wrestling against Derby’s Josh Porter, he earned the early takedown and took a 2-0 lead into the second period. Nick Pogacsas added one more takedown and four near-falls in the final four minutes to secure his 13-2 major decision and the third-place finish.

After falling to eventual champion Jim Mcdunnah from Wethersfield in the 182-pound semifinal round, Thompson pinned Wilton’s John Luse in the consolation semi to advance to the third-place final.

Thompson met and pinned John Rhudy of New Canaan at the 50-second mark of the first period.

At 220 pounds, Alex Merdinger also pulled off a third-place finish after losing in the semifinal round.

Merdinger pinned Derby’s Jose Santamaria in 4:20 in the consolation semifinal and faced Foran’s Luke Edmonson for third.

It was Edmonson who earned the early takedown and took a 4-2 lead into the final frame, but Merdinger notched a takedown and a three-point near-fall to take the score to 7-4, where it remained for the rest of the match.