The achievements of the Farmington High wrestling team can be construed in several ways.
The Indians followed up a dual-meet season where they went 27-1, came five points short of winning a CCC West title against Southington and were ranked among the top 10 teams in the state all year.
Last weekend, they finished third in the Class L tournament, equaling the 2007 team for the highest tournament finish in school history. Coach Eric Misko will bring 10 wrestlers – nearly 60 percent of his starting lineup – to the State Open in New Haven this weekend. Those 10 had to place – finish among the top six in their weight classes in Class L – in order to qualify.
The state’s wrestling intelligentsia will proclaim that such a list of accomplishments project Farmington among the top wrestling towns in the state. Such a projection would have been unthinkable a decade ago. To this day, the town does not have a youth pipeline. In places such as Bristol and Southington, youngsters become familiar with the sport from an early age.
Third may not be first, but Misko and his staff have overcome some imposing barriers. Finishing behind Hand-Madison and New Milford should not be downplayed when the likes of such wrestling-rich legacies as Bristol Eastern and Bristol Central were fourth and seventh respectively.
“We certainly wanted to finish higher but Hand was tremendous and New Milford had a good year,” Misko said. “We were very close with them.”
Hand, bolstered by three ‘L’ champions, ended with 233 points. New Milford, with two winning ‘L’ titles, scored 178 points. Farmington, with 173.5 points, had no champions. None of them made the finals, so none finished second. Only one – heavyweight Brandon Marquis – took third.
In order to pile up the points, Farmington wrestlers had to shake off setbacks in the championship bracket, retain their competitive spirit and poise and wrestle back through the grueling consolation round.
“We’re a team, a team that is solid. We didn’t have the great stars. I think that’s the way we represented at the L’s. We wrestled tough,” Misko said.
But he expected as such. Nobody in ‘L’ had more wrestlers place among the top six. According to Misko, nobody will be better represented at the Open except Ledyard with 12.
Joining Marquis at the Open will be: Tim Orrell (5th at 106 pounds); Eric Suhre (4th at 113); Garrett Hastings (5th at 132); Ryan Rigney (5th at 138); James Paigo (6th at 145); Mason Yancey (4th at 152); Mike Berlandy (5th at 170); Harry Pacheco (4th at 182); Thomas Stevens (4th at 195).
Misko said the two strains of flu that were going through the team and the depth of quality participants made the going very difficult.
“We weren’t surprised how good the L’s were going to be and how deep each weight class was,” he said. “We really had a hard time getting through but we had a lot of heart. Guys weren’t at practice [Monday] because we’re seeing if we can’t get them better for next weekend.”
Orrell (seeded 2nd; 35-3 on the year) won his first bout by fall but lost a decision to Matt Elias of Hand to drop into the consolation round. He was pinned by third-place winner Mark Failla of Shelton but dropped Halim Bourjoli of New Milford in the battle for fifth.
Suhre (seeded 3rd; 33-7) advanced to the semifinals but lost 10-2 to Newington’s Brian Amato. He won in the consolation semifinals but lost the bout for third against Kevin Hall of New Canaan.
“[Suhre] got beat by Amato 15-0 in two periods during the regular season so he improved,” Misko said.
Hastings (seeded 4th; 37-4) was ousted from the championship bracket by Justin Elias of Hand. He won consecutive matches against Louis Morocho of Bristol Eastern and James Reed of Darien, lost in the consolation semifinals, but pinned Tyler Burrow of Bristol Central in the skirmish for fifth.
Rigney (seeded 1st; 34-5) posted two shutouts in the championship bracket but lost a 3-2 squeaker to eventual 138-pound champion Ray Laudato of Masuk. He lost to Craig Sassu of Bristol Eastern in a consolation semifinal but snagged fifth with a 2-0 win over Connor Hayes of Bristol Central.
Paigo (seeded 5th; 31-11) lost his first bout but faced with a torturous schedule in the wrestlebacks, he settled for sixth place after a 2-1 loss to Colin Davis of RHAM.
Yancey (seeded 7th; 21-6) spent a major portion of the regular season battling a shoulder injury and wrestling behind Dovy Simanskis. But Yancey surged into the semifinalswith a technical fall against Alex Sullivan of Fairfield Ludlowe and a hard-fought decision against second-seeded Ales Fern of Wethersfield.
Yancey lost 4-3 to Randy Boyne of Bristol Central in the semis, gained a decision in his first consolation test but lost to third seed Kevin Kollar of Fairfield Warde in the battle for third.
Berlandy (seeded 2nd; 36-4) was relegated to the wrestlebacks after a quarterfinal loss. He won a pair of bouts, lost a 3-2 decision to Kevin Wivell of Hand in the consolation semis then shut down Nery Ceron of Norwalk in the bout for fifth.
Pacheco (seeded 2nd; 37-5) and Stevens (seeded 4th; 34-7) followed identical paths to securing fourth place. Each won their first bout and lost in the quarterfinals. They strung together three victories in the wrestlebacks before falling in bouts for third place. Both of Stevens’ defeats came in close bouts against Cy McIntosh of Bristol Central.
Marquis (seeded 4th; 33-7) won his first bout by fall and edged Wilton’s Joseph Fraccaroli in the second. He was pinned by eventual champion Joseph DeMichele of Hand, but pinned Bimael Acevedo of Maloney and beat Fraccaroli again to garner third place.
The season came to an end for George Sticca (21-8 at 120), Matt Natale (28-9 at 126) and Tyler Strauss (33-6). Fernando Roldan, who was recruited late in the season to fill a hole at 220 pounds, earned two wins in the tournament.
Strauss earned his 100th career victory in the regular-season finale against Simsbury.
Farmington wrestlers posted a 44-28 record at the L’s. Misko will be returning seven placewinners next season. The graduating seniors are Orrell, Suhre, Natale, Paigo and Strauss.
Mike Daniels, Farmington’s primary assistant coach, received Misko’s praise.
“Mike and I are great friends so we have fantastic time together and the kids can see that,” Misko said. “That’s what they tuned into. We enjoy each other.
“We want them all to win state titles but in the end, do they have a good time together? That’s what keeps them coming in. The grind is hard. If they have a good time, hopefully we’ll become a positive influence in their lives.”