Luke Walsh left the spotlight of the mat at the New Haven Athletic Center quickly.
His State Open final against Charlie Costanzo of Danbury Sunday afternoon didn’t go the way the Farmington wrestler had planned. Costanzo went on the offensive from the start and prevented Walsh from wrestling his match. A pair of escapes was all he could muster in dropping a 4-2 decision, just his third defeat in 51 matches this year.
Walsh walked hurriedly from the main mat to a side mat behind the row of chairs where the officials held court. Most eyes were upon the triumphant Costanzo, a sophomore sensation in the incredibly long line of great Danbury wrestlers. Walsh was left alone to his thoughts, which undoubtedly centered on his window of opportunity slamming shut.
Walsh, and to a slightly lesser extent Evan Baily, Eric Orrell and Ben Brody, was the centerpiece of coach Eric Misko’s upward projection of a once-dormant Farmington program. Unlike Danbury, where wrestling reigns as the city’s proudest avenue to sporting supremacy, Farmington has been a difficult place to build a top-10 level team.
Had Walsh won, he would have been the first Farmington wrestler since the brothers Lingenfelter – Mike at 112 pounds and Jerry at 132 – to bring home Open gold since 1982. That accomplishment will now have to wait until another time.
Walsh was one of three local wrestlers to reach the brink, only to confront the specter of defeat at the state’s premier event.
T.J. Magnoli of Rocky Hill (145) was locked in an even bout only to yield a takedown with five seconds left to Derek Fish of Hand-Madison.
Trevor Ritchie of Southington, relegated to the second slot in Class LL at 160 the week before, hit the high note against previously unbeaten Jon Fiorillo of Berlin in Saturday’s semifinals. His bitter end came with his powerful frame wrapped tightly in a cradle by Ron Thompson of Westhill-Stamford, pinned at 1:03.
There were no Berlin wrestlers on center stage. Bristol, arguably central Connecticut’s wrestling hotbed, had just one competitor in the finals (Central heavyweight Tom Chambers) and he was pinned, too.
This Open belonged to Danbury, which has ruled the state since 1997. It belonged to eastern Connecticut with the ECC claiming seven of the 14 individual titles.
The Northwest Conference had one champion in Middletown’s 215-pounder Richard Perry, who did an Ozzie Smith flip after holding off injured Simsbury star Marcus Firze. The CCC had the heavyweight slot locked up with Chambers facing Resh Stanley of Weaver – the league’s lone champion.
Given how the cards played out, the local trio had nothing to be ashamed of. They had tremendous seasons for their respective teams and should have a special place in the hearts of their communities.