GHS wrestling team wins its third state championship
By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Griswold - posted Mon., Feb. 21, 2011
Griswold High School’s wrestling team closed the season with a bang, racking up its third statewide team championship in the state Class S tournament Feb. 18-19 in Hartford.
“We had already scored the win going into the finals,” said assistant wrestling coach Brandon Strout. “Then we scored more points in the finals.” The team ended the tournament with 175 points, outpacing second-place Old Saybrook-Westbrook, which finished at 167.
Two of the Wolverines - 135-pound junior Brandon Walsh, who was ranked top seed in his weight division, and 103-pound sophomore Dylan Martel - each reached the top of the podium at the end of Saturday’s competition.
Five of Griswold’s other grapplers, including three seniors, also made the podium. Seniors Brandon McNeil, wrestling at 152 pounds, placed second in a heartbreaker; Jacob Bixby, at 112 pounds, placed fourth; and Nick Boots, wrestling at 145 pounds, came in fifth. Dustin Falco, at 119 pounds, and Aaron Wing, at 171 pounds, each earned second place.
Strout said that the town’s active youth wrestling program, coupled with a middle school club that’s aiming for full team status, has helped bring along a tough crop of wrestlers at the high school level. He said that many members of his team also work out with the Silverback Wrestling Club in Windham during the summer. “They put in a lot of time in the off-season, and that paid off for the team, which is huge,” he said.
This year’s crop of graduating seniors will leave behind them a team that’s still solid, including the two state champs, said Strout. “We’ve got a lot of sophomores and a bunch of juniors, and I know we also have some freshmen coming in,” he said. “The rest of the team should be returning.”
Griswold Wrestling Assistant Coach Brandon Strout
Number of years coaching: 4
Working under head wrestling coach Dan Cooke, this is Strout’s first time coaching a State Class S champion team. It’s Griswold’s third Class S title, though; the school won back-to-back championships in 2006 and 2007. “I was there when [some of] these kids started as freshmen, and they’re matured into seniors,” Strout said.
Spotlight on Seniors-
Weight class: 152
Second place, Class S
The 152-pound bracket is “one of the toughest weight classes as far as talent goes,” said Strout. “All [Brandon’s] matches had been close matches. [In the finals] he was winning with about 30 seconds left in the match when [his opponent, two-time state champ Alan Sanford, of Thomaston] got a reversal.”
Weight class: 112
Fourth Place, Class S
Bixby “wrestled really good for us,” Strout said. “He started off as the sixth seed. He wasn’t even supposed to make the podium, and he got fourth” in the State Class S championships.
Weight class: 145
Fifth place, Class S
Boots “fought off injury all year,” said Strout. “He came into States highly motivated and scored us a bunch of points, with extra team points in the wrestleback round. He did what we needed him to do.”