Wrestling: Ryan Luth leads amped up Lions to state title

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Foran High head wrestling coach Dave Esposito said after his Lions won the Class M state championship in Guilford High last Saturday. “It was one of the most amazing team efforts I have ever seen. We had one champion (Ryan Luth), yet won by fifty points over a team (Killingly) that was 32-1 and had five finalists. All 14 of our wrestlers scored points; 12 placed in the top six and are going to the State Open.”

Foran won its second state title (2016) with 236 points. Killingly had 190 and Guilford 140.

“Two years ago, it was crazy and came down to the last match (a win by Luke Edmondson),” Esposito said. “This time was so bizarre. It was like a tidal wave as nobody could lose. I told them all year that because we were such a deep team that we would do well in a tournament setting. But did I expect this — no.”

Each of the Lions that placed wrestled equal to or better than their seed.

“Ryan Luth is the best wrestler I’ve seen,” Esposito said of his senior, a three-time Class M champion who won the State Open and the New England championship as a junior. “He went against a great wrestler (Ben Coppock from Joel Barlow) and against a wrestler with a 33-0 record he took a 15-0 lead and got the pin, all in the first period.”

That completed a day, where Foran made it a habit to finish what it started.

“You get one point if you advance, but you get three points if you advance with a pin,” Esposito said of why the Lions could overcome a talented team from Killingly. “We had 71 points above advancement points. That’s like having two extra wrestlers in the tournament. We had 24 pins in all.

“When the score was ten, our guys looked to take it to ten. If it was ten, they went for the pin. We have fifty kids on our team and they went from mat to mat during the consolations. The guys fed off each other. When one would win, the next guy would say, “Why can’t I do this?’

“There was a roar after one match and then another roar after the next one. For one day, it all clicked. They all had a piece of this title and that makes it so special.”

Luth captured the 152-pound title with a pin in 1:53 over previously unbeaten Ben Coppock from Joel Barlow. Luth, the state record-holder in victories (206-17), advanced with pins in 1:01, 21 seconds and 29 seconds.

Qasim Khan was seeded third at 220 pounds. The senior advanced to the finals with pins in 38 seconds, in 1:22 and added a 9-7 decision over second-seeded Kyle Zalewski from Branford. Top-seeded Nick Cote from Bethel won the title in 3:55.

Will Mauro wrestled to his third seed at 132 pounds with a 5-0 win in the consolation finals. He had a 20-5 win by technical fall and a 1:50 pin, before the senior lost to Law’s second-seeded Shayne McCourt in the semis.

Michael Giordano, seeded fourth at 120 pounds, placed third with a 5-0 decision. The junior had wins in 1:15, 1:33 and 2:09.

Kevin Pokornowski, the No. 12 seed, took fourth. The junior won his first bout in 2:18. In wrestlebacks, Pokornowski had wins of 5-1 and 4:53.

Umer Khan, the sixth seed at 170 pounds, took fourth. A junior, Khan had wins of 8-3, 8-1 and a pin in 1:27.

Bill Ives, the No. 11 seed as a junior, placed fourth at 182 pounds. Ives won his first bout by 17-2 technical fall then pinned third-seeded Xavier Alvarez from New London in the quarterfinals. Knocked into wrestlebacks by second-seeded Ben Stratton from Platt, Ives won an 8-5 decision.

Nolan Bannon, the sixth seed at 195 pounds, placed fourth. A junior, Bannon pinned in 1:12 before going to the consolation bracket where he strung together pins in 1:37 and 58 seconds.

Jordan Lang, the No. 10 seed as a junior, placed fifth with a pin in 3:55. He also had wins by fall in 3:58 and 4:33.

Ethan Edmondson, seeded seventh at 138 pounds, placed fifth after a 10-4 win. A freshman, Edmondson won his first match 7-5 and stayed alive with 10-2 and 7-3 decisions.

Ronnie Gaul bettered his ninth seed at 160 pounds with a 2-1 win that placed him fifth. A senior, Gaul had pins of 5:56, a 10-0 major decision and a 5-4 decision.

Sophomore heavyweight Phillip Boyes was seeded 13th and finished sixth. He advanced in the championship round with a 2-1 decision. In consolations, he won 3-1 and 2-1 decisions.

At 106 pounds, 15th-seeded sophomore Tanish Joshi won a 5-0 decision in wrestlebacks.

At 120 pounds, sophomore Ryan Jordan was seeded 13th and won his first match with a 16-second fall.

Foran, 12 wrestlers strong, will compete at the State Open in New Haven beginning Friday night and all day Saturday.

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