Wrestling: Five Gaels punch tickets to Open

“This was a great day for us,” Shelton High head wrestling coach Bill Maloney said after the Gaels placed five grapplers at the Class LL Tournament in Trumbull on Saturday. “I think the last time we sent five to the State Open was in 2010.”

In that season, Patrick Gillen was the Class LL 215-pound champion and was named most outstanding wrestler.

Will Pogacsas was runner-up at 160, Mike Frizinia placed second at 171, and Sean Kellett at 112 and Ricky Jordan at 140 finished fourth to join Gillen as State Open qualifiers.

This year, Nick Pogascas (Will’s brother) placed third at 145 pounds, anaad Nico DiStassio (113), Kyle McGinnis (120 pounds) and Liam Cummings (170 pounds) placed fifth. Alex Merdinger (195 pounds) was sixth.

Contributing team points for the Gaels were John Rosa (106 pounds), Scott Plucienik (two wins at 126 pounds) and Jose Nieves (heavyweight). Newtown High won the team title, followed by Xavier of Middletown and Danbury High. Shelton was seventh.

Nick Pogacsas

Pogacsas, a senior, was seeded fifth with a 35-5 regular season record.

In the first round, Pogacsas pinned Jacob Graves from New Britain in 1:59. Quinn Marino, the four seed from Xavier, was next to lose to Pogacsas, who advanced to the semifinals with a 6-0 victory. Eventual champion and No. 1 seed Favion Williams (17-1) from Weaver/Hartford Public, pinned in the first period to drop the Gael to the consolation round.

Pogacsas wrestled back to pin Kryz Mazur of Westhill in 3:08 and pin Marino in 2:09 to take third.

Nico DiStassio

DiStassio was seeded first at 113 with a 28-6 mark. In the first round, the sophomore pinned Brandon Edwards from Manchester in 4:21 and then won by 2:40 fall over Ridgefield’s Brandon Donnelly to gain the semifinals.

Fourth-seeded Ed Lovely from Newtown High scored a 14-3 major decision and went on to place second. DiStassio lost to Southington’s Austin Abacherli in his first wrestleback, but took fifth with a 5-2 decision over Greenwich’s Alex Margetoes.

“I started wrestling two weeks into my freshman year when Kyle (McGinnis) suggested I come out,” DiStassio said. “I always worry a little (before each match) and if I had to choose I wouldn’t want to know (his opponent’s record. I just go out and give my best.”

Kyle McGinnis

McGinnis, a sophomore with a 35-4 record, was seeded fourth at 120 pounds. He pinned Cheshire’s Darren Barile in 47 seconds in the first round and next decisioned fifth-seeded Matt Conte from Westhill, 5-2.

In the semifinals, McGinnis lost to Danbury senior Chris Bryant, the eventual champion, by second-period fall. In wrestlebacks, McGinnis lost 8-3 to third-seeded Luca Crudo from Newtown before winning by default over Conte.

“Wrestling in states are different than Saturday duals, because you know if you lose your season (could be) over,” McGinnis said. “That’s what separates this (pressure) from other matches.”

Liam Cummings

Cummings, a senior, earned a third seed with a 41-1 record at 170 pounds.

He opened with an 18-1 win by technical fall over Ken Beaton from Amity, but in Saturday morning’s quarterfinal was surprised 5-2 by Seve Burgos from Xavier, who he had beaten three times in four previous matches. Taking on the challenge of the consolation rounds, Cummings won decisions of 7-3 over NFA’s Sean Doran and a 10-6 decision over Weaver’s Calvin Williams.

In the consolation semifinal, fourth-seeded Martin Chobanyan from Westhill advanced with a 5-0 decision en route to a third-place finish.

Cummings defeated fifth-seeded Forrest Speed from Newtown by 15-0 technical fall to take fifth.

Alex Merdinger

Merdinger was seeded sixth at 195 pounds with a 26-5 record.

The senior won a 9-1 major decision over Marcus Joyner from Danbury in the first round. Third-seeded Jacob Feldman, who placed third, from Simsbury took the quarterfinal bout by second-period fall. Merdinger went to wrestebacks, where he decisioned New Haven’s Jarrod Walker 9-4 and Manchester’s Humza Ali 4-2. In the 4-2 win, Merdinger scored two points in the final 30 seconds to punch his ticket to the State Open.

New Britain’s fifth-seeded Alex Swaby won the consolation semifinal by third-period fall, and Newtown’s Andy Hubina took the fifth-place bout with a pin in 2:29.