Pouliot carries Lions to third in SCC

Jake Pouliot won the individual title at 113 pounds and the Foran High wrestling team notched a third-place finish at the SCC Tournament at Shelton High’s Murray Gymnasium on Feb. 15.

Teammate Zach Hubler was runner-up at 195 pounds, while Gino Esposito took third at 106. Ricky Kratzer (152), Cristian Woodford (182) and Ben Croll (220) logged fourth-place finishes.

Xavier of Middletown won the team title for the third time in a row, piling up 224 team points on the strength of 12 place-winners. Daniel Hand of Madison (103.5 points), Foran (85), Shelton (84.5) and Amity of Woodbridge (84) rounded out the top six. The SCCs were canceled last year due to inclement weather.

It was Foran’s best finish at SCCs since joining the conference in 2005. The Lions previous best finish was fourth place in 2012. Despite that, Foran went just 17-16 in head-to-head bouts — leaving head coach Frank Peters with the sense his squad could have done even better.

“Today, looking at the placement of some of our individuals, I think we underachieved as a team,” Peters said. “I think this should be motivation going into next week at [Class] Ms. That we’re capable of a better performance.”

With the weather wrecking havoc leading up to the tournament, the Lions missed out on valuable mat time, a problem faced by virtually every team in the state.

“That’s something that affects everybody, not just us,” Peters said. “Everybody’s routine was affected, I would’ve liked to see our guys shake it off a little bit more.”

The layoff did not affect Pouliot, as the top-seeded senior dispatched Xavier’s Brendan Lawler 16-3 in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, Pouliot won an 11-3 major decision over Francis Regala of Daniel Hand.

Pouliot, who has been battling a rotator-cuff strain, earned his SCC crown with a hard-fought 5-4 win over Amity’s Jake Cala. He grabbed a 5-1 lead midway through the second period, using a first-period takedown and a near-fall in the second after Cala chose the down position.

The senior looked like he had notched another near-fall with a double chicken wing, but he wasn’t awarded the backpoints.

“I definitely felt it,” said Pouliot of the torque the move puts on a grappler’s shoulders.

Cala then countered with a reversal to get within 5-3, before Pouliot picked down to start the final frame. Cala, a sophomore, worked hard to try to flip Pouliot, who was called for stalling, but the crafty veteran fought him off to secure the victory.

“I wasn’t in a rush, but I was definitely trying to work out,” Pouliot said. “I was being safe.”

Hubler dropped a 7-2 decision to Noah Cruz of Xavier High in the final at 195. The No. 1 seed, Hubler received a bye into the semifinals, where he blanked Lyman Hall of Wallingford’s Clayton Ahearn.

Esposito, at 106, won a 7-5 decision over Noah Pantani of Branford in the consolation final. Prior to that, the Lion freshman beat Shelton’s John Rosa, 14-2, and dropped a 6-0 decision to Hand’s Connor Sakmar in the semis.

In wrestlebacks, Esposito took down Sean Black of Cheshire, 15-8, to advance to the third-place bout.

Kratzer, Woodford and Croll advanced to the consolation final as well.

At 152, Kratzer lost to Jack Bosken of Fairfield Prep 17-1 to finish fourth. Bosken beat him, 15-0, in the quarterfinals, before Kratzer pinned his way through the consolation bracket to set up the rematch.

Woodford at 182 lost a 5-4 decision to Guilford’s Colin Scarfo in their third-place match. Scarfo had pinned Woodford in 3:46 in their quarterfinal round match and Woodford wrestled back past Artem Samiannin of Cheshire (pin in 4:32) and second-seeded Jevaughn Brodie of New Haven Co-op (8-2 minor decision).

Croll advanced to the semifinals at 220, failing to New Haven’s Gabriel Stiles in 1:28. In wrestlebacks, Croll pinned Hun Jin Lim of Branford in 2:01, before losing via fall to Prep’s David Martens in 3:37 in the third-place bout.

Jubilee Witte, Pat Fitzgerald and Luke Edmonson picked up valuable team points for the Lions, helping them beat out Shelton, Amity and sixth-place Guilford (80.5).

“It’s good, especially for guys who don’t quite understand tournament seeding, to really see the little things that make the difference in a tournament,” Peters said. “It’s our guys getting pins, our guys getting majors.”

Foran will compete in the Class M state tournament on Friday night and all day Saturday at Jonathan Law.

Pouliot has his sights set on more hardware.

“It definitely was goal to win this [SCCs],” he said. “It wasn’t the be all end all, I really want to win Class Ms next week. That’s what I’m focusing on.”