Improvement is the theme this season for the Greenwich wrestling team, which includes a lot of underclassmen and first-year athletes.
And Saturday’s Brunswick School Invitational Wrestling Tournament was the perfect setting for the Cardinals’ wrestlers to gain valuable match experience against impressive competition.
Four Greenwich grapplers placed among the top six finishers in their respective weight class at the 11-team Brunswick Invitational – a tournament won by host Brunswick, which posted a team score of 310 points.
Freshman Anthony Panarella registered a third-place finish for Greenwich in the 99-pound weight class. In the match for third place, Panarella pinned Brunswick freshman Christian Yanoti in 2:44.
“I started off the match not too good, he got a takedown on me,” Panarella said. “Then I was slowly coming back and then we kind of got in an awkward position and I popped my head out and I ran the half and the next thing you know I was pinning him.”
In the quarterfinals of the 99-pound bracket, Panarella was pinned by Brunswick seventh grader Silas Corveddu – the eventual champion of the weight class. Panarella rebounded with a victory against Eric Fusscas of Hopkins School, pinning him in 3:47. He’s been one of the underclassmen that’s sparked coach Jere Petersen’s Greenwich team.
“I started off the season all right,” Panarella said. “I placed in two other tournaments this year and I had some matches where I haven’t wrestled good and I’ve had some other matches where I’ve wrestled really good. It’s going good for my first season.”
Senior Facundo Montesinos finished third in the 138-pound division at the Brunswick Invitational for the Cardinals. He pulled out a hard-fought 7-4 decision against Brunswick senior Kyle Karas in the third-place match.
“I’ve always liked being down, because I move my hips rolling around,” Montesinos said of his position in the third period. “It was better than going mutual or top, because I’m not really good at setting up shots. So I think going on bottom was the best option and thankfully, my coaches told me to go down.”
Montesinos also edged Karas in the quarterfinals, taking a 9-7 decision.
“The first match he gave me a really hard time, we had to go into overtime for it,” Montesinos said.
In the 138-pound semifinals, Montesinos was pinned by Joey Iamunno of Greens Farms Academy in 1:18. Iamunno won the 138 title.
“I lost against the first seed, but it was a great experience,” Montesinos said. “He showed me what a great wrestler he was. The season has been pretty good, I have been able to make my goal of getting on to the varsity team.”
In the 120-pound fifth-place matchup at the BIT, Angel Espana, a senior, was victorious for Greenwich against Ethan Phelps of Brunswick, winning by pinfall in 2:58.
“He’s the same body build as me,” Espana said of his fifth-place match. “I usually wrestle kids who are a little taller and lankier it was the fifth match, I was a little bit tired, but I got the pin, which was good. It was a very different fight from the ones I had today, because everyone I wrestled was taller, so usually they use their arms. So I had to use different techniques to break him down.”
Espana finished with a record of 3-2 in the 120-pound division, with both of his losses coming against Hopkins.
“This is my first year on the team and I’m having a lot of fun doing this,” Espana said. “Wrestling as a senior, it’s fun, I started this year, so it’s a complete new sport to me. I’ve grown more as a person and I’ve learned how to manage my time and my meals – making weight – by wrestling.”
At 145, Cardinals senior Javier Serra had a sixth-place finish. He won his first-round match against Kason Sabazan-Chambers of Poly Prep by pinfall (1:06), then pinned Luke Strohski of Rye Country Day School in the quarterfinals in 39 seconds. He lost to Flynn Kearney of Episcopal Academy, 13-5, in the semifinals.
As for Greenwich’s season as a whole, the team has posted victories against Wilton, St. Joseph, Westhill, Fairfield Ludlowe and Bunell and is 5-7 on the season. Some of their losses have come against traditional powers such as Fairfield Warde, Foran, Fairfield Prep and Branford.
The lineup has been juggled nearly every week, since some athletes have had to quarantine for a certain time period due to COVID-19.
“It’s great compared to last year, when there was no wrestling at all,” Petersen said. “From that standpoint, it’s great to get out there and get after it. But it’s been challenging with COVID. The roster has changed quite a bit from week-to-week.
“We’ve had 28, 29 wrestlers who have competed in varsity matches, so it’s been next man up and it’s been challenging from that standpoint,” Petersen continued. “Everybody is facing the same problem, but it’s fun to be back. We’ve taken our lumps and have had some big wins.”
Senior Louis Ceci (182) is 14-1 so far this season. He won his division title at the Greater Hartford Open and was second at the Guilford Invitational. Garrett O’Dell, a senior has a record of 12-4, while freshman Steven Numme (113) is also 12-4 for the Cards.
“We have a lot of first year guys – 9-10 first-year guys are in the lineup every match,” Petersen said. “There have been some great surprises.”