Walsh repeats state title, heads to Nationals again

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Griswold - posted Mon., Mar. 12, 2012
Brandon Walsh on his way to the State Class S championship in Hartford on Feb. 12. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.
Brandon Walsh on his way to the State Class S championship in Hartford on Feb. 12. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.

One glance at the clock was all it took. Griswold’s Brandon Walsh, this year's ECC, State Class S and State Open champion, was on the mat at the New England wrestling championship, defending the first-place title he’d won last year one weight class down. This time he was in the quarterfinals, squared off against James Smith of Natick, Mass. “I knew who the kid was,” Walsh said. “We were the two best kids in the bracket.”

Walsh was ahead by one point, and the third period was winding down. He glanced up at the clock, and in a couple of heartbeats his unbroken two-year winning streak was over.

“Usually if you’re winning by a point with eight seconds, you just circle around the mat,” said Walsh. “But he grabbed my foot going out of bounds as time was running out… and the kid took me down for two [points] at the buzzer.

”That loss by a single point to the wrestler who would go on to win the 138-pound championship took the wind out of Walsh’s sails. “When I got to the third-fourth finals I was just physically drained,” he said. “I didn’t wrestle with heart since I’d lost in the semis.” That match was also won by Walsh’s opponent, Christian LaBrie of Exeter, R.I., who placed third to Walsh’s fourth.

Walsh still qualified for the national championships, slated for later this month in Virginia Beach. So he’ll have a couple of weeks to shake the dust off and put his experience at the New Englands in perspective. “I wasn’t too disappointed with the way that I wrestled [overall],” he said. “There was nothing wrong with my wrestling. I definitely outwrestled [Smith], just not in the last eight seconds. It’s just that example of wrestling to the end.”

Walsh, who started wrestling in first grade, has a legitimate shot at the national podium - it's a place he's been before. He was a national champion in eighth grade; as a sophomore he placed fourth in the Nationals. Last year he had to injury-default his last two matches at the Nationals, so a top-of-his-game performance this year could cap his high school career nicely.

Though wrestling season is over for the rest of his team, Walsh continues to work out with the Silverback Wrestling Club in Windham five days a week to prepare for Nationals. He’s also finalizing plans for after graduation. He’s been accepted into the six-year physical therapy program at the American International College in Springfield, Mass., where he'll wrestle for the Division 2 Yellow Jackets. He’s taking with him a spectacular resume: three Eastern Connecticut Conference championships, three State Class S championships, two State Opens championships and a New England championship.

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