Wrestling: Wilton tops Bethel, falls to Warde

Going into the season, coach John Foldeak knew the Wilton High wrestling team lacked the depth to be a strong dual meet team, but he thought it was talented enough to make some noise in tournaments.

His prediction proved correct in the first week of competition. The Warriors lost two of three dual meets but had two wrestlers reach the finals in their weight brackets at the very competitive Guilford Tournament on Saturday.

On Tuesday, the Warriors split two matches at home. Against Fairfield Warde they had to forfeit six weight classes in a 60-21 defeat. They forfeited five weight classes against Bethel, but pulled out a 36-27 win as the Wildcats had forfeits in eight weight classes (three weight classes were double forfeits).

On Saturday, sophomores Nick Rende and Zach Zeyher both won their first three matches to reach the finals at the Guilford tourney, with Rende winning the championship at 113 pounds and Zeyher losing in the finals in a 3-1 overtime decision at 160.

“They both wrestled really well. That was a hammer of a tournament,” said Foldeak.

The tourney featured four of the state’s top 10 teams in Fairfield Warde, Newtown, Xavier and Ledyard, plus a top New York team in Ward Melville from Long Island.

Rende advanced to the finals at 113 pounds with a bye and two pins, before dominating Bo Nguyen of Ledyard by major decision in the championship match, 12-0.

“He was in control from start to finish. He was dominant the entire tournament, ” said Foldeak, adding that Rende — coming off a 33-win season — is even better this year. “That was the best I’ve seen him wrestle.”

Rende finished the first week with a 7-0 record and four pins. It was second tournament win of Rende’s high school career. Last year he won the New Milford tournament as a freshman.

Zeyher also had a pair of pins to get to the championship match at 160 pounds, where he lost in overtime to Matt O’Brien, a senior from Ward Melville.

Zeyher’s freshman year was frustrated by an injury that kept him sidelined for the first three-quarters of the season. This year, he’s come in healthy and strong, and thus far has a 6-1 record (with four pins) in a weight bracket generally dominated by upperclassmen.

“Last year he was playing catch-up. Now he’s starting fresh. He’s not injured. He’s at the weight he wants to be. He’s in condition,” Foldeak said. “His one loss is an overtime loss to a senior from New York. Hopefully he’ll keep the ball rolling. It’s good that he wrestles those seniors, those tough kids, because he’s going to see them all season long.”

Two other Warriors placed at Saturday’s tournament.

Sophomore Finn McGovern was sixth at 106 pounds, falling to Nick Accousti of Newtown in the fifth-place match, 5-2; and senior Jared Gladstein was sixth at 182 pounds, losing a 9-7 decision to Matt Cuoco of Fairfield Warde in the fifth-place match.

Gladstein finished the first week with a 5-2 record.

Wilton finished seventh out of nine teams at the tournament, which was won by Ward Melville.

Notes: The Warriors opened the season with a 42-33 loss at Stamford last Wednesday. Wilton got wins via pin from Rende, Gladstein and Alec Favarolo (138 pounds), while Zeyher won a 9-2 decision and James Arbisi won by forfeit at 195 pounds.

On Tuesday, the Warriors fell to Warde at home, 60-21. Wins by pin were recorded by Rende, Zeyher and Gladstein, while Matt Beck won by decision, 5-0, at 170 pounds.

Wilton also wrestled Bethel on Tuesday and scored a 36-27 win. All but three of the 14 matches were decided by forfeit. Winning by forfeit for the Warriors were Travis Longo (113 pounds), Rende (120), Zeyher (160), Arbisi (182), Gladstein (195) and Tyler Warren (285).