Foran’s Luth claims second straight New England title
PROVIDENCE — It was a triumphant weekend for a group of local high school wrestlers at the New England Championships on Friday and Saturday.
Ryan Luth of Foran worked overtime to win his second straight New England championship, Ryan Jack of Danbury and Mel Ortiz of New Milford each won his first New England title, and defending team champion Danbury finished third in the team scoring, an impressive feat considering the Hatters marched into battle with only four qualifiers.
Jack won the 120-pound title in dramatic fashion, Gino Baratta placed fourth at 170, and A.J. Kovacs took third at 145 to lead Danbury. Kyle Fields also qualified and won two of his five matches before being eliminated.
“I’m really proud of my team,” Baratta said. “We came up here with a lot of doubt on us, and no matter how it turns out, we definitely proved some people wrong. I think we did better than most people thought we would.”
Ponaganset (R.I.) won the team title with 83 points, followed by Mount Anthony Union (Vt.) with 80. Timberlane (N.H.). Mount Anthony had a tournament-high 11 qualifiers, while Timberlane had nine and Ponaganset had seven.
Luth, a senior, is a four-time New England medalist, having placed fourth as a freshman and second as a sophomore. He won a thrilling 3-2 decision over Devin Rivet of Bishop Hendricken (R.I.) in the 152-pound final.
“It’s just a lot of hard work that paid off,” said Luth, who has committed to wrestle at Washington and Lee University in Virginia. “I’ve had a lot of great coaching in my life, friends and family always supporting me.”
In the deciding, 30-second overtime period, Luth chose to start on defense, feeling confident he could escape and score the win. Had Rivet held him down for those 30 seconds, Luth would’ve had to settle for a silver medal. But with 10 seconds to go, Luth wriggled himself free for the win.
“I knew I could get away,” Luth said. “I knew, after the second period, that he couldn’t hold me, so I was pretty confident going down.”
In the 120-pound final, Jack was tied 1-1 with Jack Darling of Masconomet (Mass.) as the third period ticked away. With four seconds remaining, Jack took his shot, took Darling down and took the New England title with a 3-1 victory.
“It feels good after losing last year,” said Jack, a sophomore who took home runner-up honors in the 106-pound class last year as a freshman.
Jack’s strategy worked perfectly.
“He was pressuring into me, and I waited for the moment when he pressured into me a little off-balance so I could get my shot in and hopefully finish.”
Ortiz won a high-octane clash, 12-10, against New Canaan’s freshman phenom, Justin Mastroianni, in the 126-pound final.
“It feels good having my teammates support me from back home,” Ortiz said. “They’ve always been there, and we’ve always supported each other and pushed each other to the limit. My hats off to them.”
Ortiz, a senior who will wrestle for Division I George Mason, was impressed with the up-and-coming Mastroianni.
“I had to definitely push the pace,” said Ortiz, who had placed third in New England last year. “He’s a talented wrestler, and I had to go as hard as I could. If he beats me, he beats me. Today, I won, and it feels good to take first. He’s going to be a powerhouse next year.”
Warde had a pair of fifth-place finishers in Izaake Zuckerman at 160 and Joe Gjinaj at 195. William Chase Parrott of Westhill placed fourth at 120, Nick Cote of Bethel placed fifth at 220, Tyler Sung of New Canaan placed fourth at 138 and Trumbull’s Matt Ryan finished sixth at 138.