Wrestling: Seniors finish out scholastic careers with success

Liam Cummings was better suited than most to take on the task of wrestling in consolation rounds to extend his scholastic career.

After all, the Shelton High senior came from humble beginnings.

“In my first year (at states) I lost on the first night, and this season I was happy to get to the second day,” said Cummings, who went on to place fifth in Class LL at 170 pounds and earn a spot in this weekend’s State Open in New Haven.

“I had nine wins that first year (followed by 20 and then 35) and never was that guy that could take the mat expecting to win.

“I’m very proud to have four bars (varsity letters). I have to thank Sean Kellett, who was a captain, because he wanted to be good and kept pushing me to think the same.

“I began wrestling with the Boys & Girls Club. My dad had wrestled and asked me if I wanted to give it a try.”

That began a journey that included a trip to Lake Placid for the Pop & Flow Duals.

Cummings defeated Canton’s Dylan Houle, 2-0, in his first bout at the Open.

Danbury’s Class LL champion Juan Garcia, the eventual Open winner, then pinned Cummings in the third period.

Cummings moved onto the consolation quarterfinals with victories over Portland’s James Pianeta (4-0) and Immaculate’s Alex Lagas (18-2 technical fall).

Eventual fourth-place finisher Dovyidas Simanskas of Farmington advanced with a 6-0 win.

Nick Pogacsas

Pogacsas, who took third in Class LL, defeated Brett Leonard from New Milford, 4-2, in his 145-pound opener.

Howard Kilpatrick, the Class M champion from Bacon Academy, who would win the title, knocked Pogacsas into the consolation round with a 12-4 major decision.

That began a strong run by the senior in wrestlebacks. First, he pinned Westhill of Stamford’s Kryz Mazur in 3:28. Then he won a 4-2 decision from Lyman Memorial’s Mitchell LaFlam to gain the consolation quarterfinals.

Grayson DeLuca from Woodstock Academy advanced with a 9-8 decision over Pogascus.

DeLuca would place fifth.

“The best part for me was getting to wrestle with my brother Will (another Open qualifier) when I was a freshman,” he said.

“The weirdest pat is knowing as a senior, that now every time I wrestle (with a loss) it could be for the last time. That’s it, no more wrestling. I’ll miss it.”

Alex Merdinger

Merdinger, who took sixth at 195 pounds in Class LL, is a three-year wrestler who is reaping the benefits of wrestling up a class as a junior.

“It was tough going at 220 because of the strength difference,” said Merdinger, who complied a 26-5 mark this season.

“It taught me to think on my feet and counter much better.”

At Opens, Merdinger first lost by fall in the third period to Maloney of Meriden’s Dimitri Smith.

In the consolation round, Merdinger was edged out 4-3 by Daniel Hand of Madison’s Justin Dwyer.

Jose Nieves

Nieves, who brought a 19-14 record into the Class LL tourney, where he was seeded 10th in the heavyweight division, is known in wrestling circles as an earner.

That’s a grappler who goes out and gets the tough team points to win dual matches. That sits fine with Nieves.

“It’s been a long journey and I’m sad to have it come to an end,” he said. “Liam asked me if I wanted to try a great sport and had me come out for wrestling.

“I’m so grateful for the experience, grateful to my coaches and teammates. Everything has its time... I’m happy for my time wrestling.”

Next up for Nieves is becoming a pilot like his father.

“I’m off to Purdue University, where I’ll do ROTC for the army. I’m looking forward to becoming a pilot.”