Gino Esposito, Michael Ross answer call
For the Lions’ Michael Ross, taking the 145-pound title in the Class M state tournament was further validation of his greatness.
“(Last season) motivated me and changed me as a person,” Gino Esposito said of winning the title with a 2-0 decision over Berlin High’s Nick Arborio, after losing in last year’s state final as a sophomore. “Everyday since a year ago I worked my butt off to get here and win that match. It feels really good.
“It’s very emotional, taking second last year was hard on me. I hit a little elbow duck (to score a first period takedown). He’s a great competitor. Props to him, but I was able to pull it out. I’m thankful.”
Foran head coach and Gino’s dad Dave Esposito said: “I have to live with that kid. He lost last year 2-1 in the finals, and that devastated me. But it didn’t devastate him. From that minute until this minute, I saw how hard he worked. I just wanted it so bad for him because he deserved it.
“But in this sport, you have to go out and earn it, nobody gives it to you because you worked hard. It was more relief than anything else just to see and to know that all his hard work paid off.”
Gino Esposito, seeded first, had advanced with a 1:49 fall, a 14-2 major decision and a 12-4 major decision.
For Ross, a junior who brought a 120-10 career record into his final, it was an opportunity to add to the title he won while at Bunnell High a year earlier. Out of the first seed, Ross advanced with a pin in 1:04, an 11-0 major decision and a 15-0 technical fall.
“That’s what he’s been doing for us out there all year,” coach Esposito said of Ross. “He’s like a grizzly bear out there. Michael never stops wrestling, he just scores points.”
“I don’t take anyone lightly, whether it’s a jayvee or a state champion,” Ross said after dominating Mike Angers from Tolland High via 15-0 tech fall in 3:41. “I just wrestle. I don’t worry about tactics, I don’t watch them, I don’t look them up on line. I deserved it, I earned it, and I expected it. Not to sound cocky but I expected to win this whole tournament. I worked so hard.”
Toward that end, Ross works out in the wrestling room with Ryan Luth, who lost 3-1 in overtime to place second at 132 pounds.
“Ryan Luth is the best wrestler in New England in his weight class,” Ross said. “It doesn’t matter how many losses he has, it doesn’t matter. He’s a National All America, he’s incredible.”
A sophomore, Luth brought a 101-8 record into his title match with New London senior Alejandro Paulino. Luth and Paulino had won Class M titles in different weight classes in 2015. Luth went on to take third in the State Open and fourth in New England.
After a scoreless first period, Luth escaped early in the second stanza and was on top leading 1-0 to start the third. Paulino escaped at 1:28 to tie the match. Restarts at 40 and nine seconds left both wrestlers on their feet,
The first overtime is one minute in duration from the neutral position. First point wins. At the 26-second mark, Paulino took Luth down. First ruled out of bounds, the two officials conferred and it was ruled a good takedown. Paulino won, 3-1.
“When Ryan lost that real tough match in overtime, that gave Michael an opportunity to pick his brother up,” coach Esposito said. “There aren’t really many times we have to pick Luth up. He’s our best. He has a short memory and will be ready for the Open.”
Witte, Hubler and Khan are also headed to the Open.
Witte earned a spot in the semifinals out of the four seed with pins in 2:32 and 1:10. In the semifinals he lost to top-seeded Matt Dowler from St. Bernard’s, 8-2. Witte wrestled back with a pair of victories, including a 3-2 win over Ellis Tech’s Mike Devanney in the consolation final.
Hubler, 99-30 in his career, won his first two bouts by fall, in 1:24 and 5:22 to earn a spot besides Avon’s third-seeded Jack St. Onge in the semis. Hubler, the second seed, advanced with a 7-2 decision before losing a 5-3 decision to top-seeded Andrew D’Amico from New Fairfield. D’Amico is 113-25 in his career and won his third Class M title.
Khan was seeded second and pinned in 4:44 and 4:32 before winning his semifinal with Berlin’s Antonio Marino, 8-5. In the finals, Khan, a sophomore, lost by first period fall to New Fairfield senior Tyler Burlinson (113-37).