C.J. Luth, Clay Callahan earn respect for program

Foran High’s wrestling program might have been underestimated until now by most of its competition, but Lions’ coach Frank Peters is content to let results do the talking.

“It’s great to be recognized for our accomplishments, but at the end of the day, it’s actions that matter more than words,” Peters said from the State Open Championships in New Haven on Saturday.

“We have a solid record to show, we brought five wrestlers into the Opens, and two of those wrestlers made it to the finals and are headed to New Englands. We’ve had a great year.”

Those two wrestlers are a pair of seniors, C.J. Luth and Clay Callahan, whose combined regular-season records total out to 70-1.

C.J. Luth

Luth, a two-time Class M state champion and three-time finalist, entered the Open as the top seed in the 138-pound division after defeating Brookfield’s Blaise Boullianne in the state final the preceding weekend.

Luth, who went 34-1 during the season, began his quest for the Open championship with a round of 16 victory over Cheshire’s Daniel Massucci, earning a first-period takedown and adding another takedown and a trio of near falls to secure his 15-0 technical fall.

In the quarterfinal, Luth took on eight-seed Dylan Bender of Fairfield Warde. Luth earned the early takedown, and though Bender escaped, Luth took him down again before the frame expired. Luth opted for the defensive position to open up the second period and maneuvered a reversal to stretch his lead to 6-1, then added a penalty point and another takedown from neutral in the third period to seal the deal on his 9-1 major decision.

Luth’s victory over Bender carried him into the championship semifinal round, where he met four-seed Favion Williams of Weaver/Hartford Public.

Williams, a 26-4 junior, took the top spot in the Class LL tournament after defeating Danbury’s Zach Tepper, who himself went on to finish fourth in the Opens.

In the semis, it was Williams who notched the early takedown, but Luth escaped later in the period.

The pair returned to neutral for the start of the second period, and Luth took down and earned a near fall of Williams during that frame.

Luth added another near fall in the third and won the bout, 11-2.

Luth’s victory brought him to the championship final, where he met two-seed David Colvin of Westbrook/Old Saybrook, a 34-2 junior who won the Class S title.

The match remained scoreless through a minute, before Luth shot and took down Colvin to give himself a 2-0 lead.

Those two points were the only score through the first period. Colvin assumed the defensive position to open up the second period, and Luth held him briefly before Colvin reversed to tie the bout at 2.

Luth escaped, was taken down again, and escaped again to make it 4-4 heading into the final period.

After a optional start by Colvin gave Luth another escape point, the Lion senior notched a takedown and a two-point nearfall to prevail, 9-4, and earn his first State Open victory.

“It feels awesome,” Luth said after the match. “I feel like I’ve been wrestling really well lately, especially the past few weeks, and I guess I peaked at the right time in the season.”

Peters said: “I think 138 was a really good class for spectators to watch; in the semifinals, it came down to the top four seeds, the State Champions from each class.

“These are all very good wrestlers, and C.J. had to beat some very good wrestlers just to get to the final, and then to win. He should be going into New Englands with confidence, because he’s done very well.”

Clay Callahan

Joining Luth at the New Englands will be Callahan, who went 36-0 in the regular season in the 152-pound class.

Callahan was seeded third coming into the Opens, having defeated Ledyard’s Brandon Finney to win his second Class M title.

Callahan opened the tournament with a 2-0 victory over Middletown’s Jacob Grasis, then moved on to face Fairfield Prep’s Conor Ward in the quarterfinals.

Ward, a senior, was seeded sixth in the Open after taking second place in the Class LL tournament.

Callahan’s early takedown was the only scoring in the first period. Callahan chose the defensive position to open up the second frame, quickly escaping and took control of Ward for another takedown.

The two went back to neutral to open up the third, but Callahan was right back at it, taking down Ward and earning a near fall to stretch his lead to 10-0.

The major decision lifted Callahan into the championship semifinals, where he met Conard’s Lucas Muntz.

Muntz, a 32-1 senior who took the top spot in the 152-pound division in Class L this year, was seeded second in the Open.

One might think that Callahan, who reached the Open last year in the 145-pound class but did not place, might have had his work cut out for him in facing the defending 152-pound Open champion, but if there was pressure, it didn’t show.

Callahan set the tone for the match with an early takedown and near fall, then reversed from his second-period defensive position with 40 seconds left in the period.

The pair returned to neutral to open the third, Callahan earned another takedown, then finished off Muntz with a pin at 4:52.

The victory over Muntz put Callahan in the final, where he faced top-seeded Sam Odell of South Windsor.

Odell scored first on a takedown a minute in, but Callahan halved the deficit with an escape early in the second.

The score remained at 2-1 into the third, before Callahan was granted a penalty point the second time Odell was cautioned for stalling.

The point tied the score at 2, and it looked as though overtime was in store when Odell finally squirmed free of the defensive position he had assumed at the beginning of the frame.

The escape, with just 10 seconds left, proved to be the deciding point in the match.

Callahan was satisfied with his performance:

“I’m not too disappointed, because I thought I wrestled well, and in the end, time just wasn’t on my side. I just have to figure out where I need to improve, not dwell on the loss, and come back for New Englands a better wrestler.”

Peters credits Callahan’s success to his exceptional resiliency.

“He’s very self-critical, but he doesn’t get down on himself — he uses his self-criticism to find his flaws and work to improve them, so he’s constantly getting better,” Peters said. “This has absolutely been a breakout year for him.”

Solid footing

It’s also been a breakout year for Foran wrestling as a club. Last year, the team as a unit didn’t crack the top forty in team scores at the 2012 Open. This year? Eleventh.

“C.J. and Clay had a big hand in that by making the finals, but it wasn’t just them,” Peters is quick to note.

Beau Garcia at 160 pounds and 182-pounder Zach Hubler, though not placing in the top six in their classes, combined for four wins at the Open.

“No, they didn’t place,” Peters says, “But their wins got us points, and those points helped us to almost crack the top 10 That’s huge for us.

“It’s a good day for Foran wrestling, not just because we have two guys going to New Englands, which is phenomenal, but because of what we’ve accomplished as a team.”