The town wrestling teams put their best foot forward when Stratford High defeated Bunnell High, 39-33, at the Ray Needham Gymnasium on Monday night.
Coach Dan German’s Red Devils built up a 20-0 lead before coach Brian Kearney’s Bulldogs battled back.
Stratford’s Mike Lapia (in 3:09 at 113 pounds) and Lance Jamison (5:35 at 220 pounds, and Bunnell’s Alton Guglielmoni (3:16 at 138 pounds), Chris LaConte (3:00 at 152 pounds), Mike Gentile (1:25 at 195 pounds) and Anthony Gentile (1:37 at heavyweight) were the only grapplers able to finish off bouts in a timely manner.
The chase began for Bunnell on Senior Night after the Bulldogs forfeited the 106-pound weight class.
Stratford’s Alex Gordon took a 6-2 lead after one period and earned a fall at 3:09 over Matt Paternostro.
Lapia, Stratford’s outstanding 120-pounder, won a 17-0 technical fall, as Bunnell’s Syed Saud fought off his back on four occasions to save his the Bulldogs a team point.
Fundamentals took a back seat to adrenalin in a classic roll-around at 126 pounds.
Neither Stratford’s Mike Butler or Bunnell’s Dante Gierula took a step back, and the points came in quick bunches.
It was 8-6 Butler after one, and after a switch, he turned the tables on Gierula and posted five more points to go ahead 15-8 after two periods.
Gierula wasn’t done, however. Butler stretched his advantage to 17-8 before Gierula reversed him to his back by the edge of the circle, before the Red Devil regained his base.
Off the restart, the tandem switched up twice before Butler let Gierula up with three seconds remaining and fended off his charge to leave the mat with a draining 19-17 decision.
Stratford’s 20-0 advantage was lessened by three after Christian Perez defeated Brian Evans in another thriller, this time 9-7.
Perez had three back points late in the second period to erase a 2-0 lead forged by Evans in the opening stanza.
Perez caught Evans in a roll to extend his lead to 7-2, before the Red Devil bounced back to tie things at 7 with 1:08 remaining.
Off the restart, Perez garnered two back points and sprawled away from a late reversal attempt to take the win.
Guglielmoni didn’t need much time to draw Bunnell closer, as the 138-pounder took an 8-0 lead after one period and pinned Anthony Alvarez in 3:16 to bring the Bulldogs within 20-9.
Stratford’s Richard Francois and Bunnell’s Eric Ross banged heads at 145, with the duo going into the third period tied at 6.
Francois hit a switch midway through the final frame and hooked a leg to earn a three-point tilt for an 11-6 victory.
Bunnell’s LaConte scored a three-minute fall at 152 pounds, as he took a 4-2 lead over Kyle Kubic into the second period, where he doubled on an outside arm to reverse the Red Devil to his back.
Stratford’s Dariel Diaz and Bunnell’s Ben Nwaohuocha went tooth and nail at 160 with Stratford’s lead down to 23-15.
Diaz led 2-0 after one period and extended it to 4-1 in the second, despite the best efforts of the determined Nwaohuocha.
Diaz won a throw from the neutral position to start the third and added points to win an 11-3 major decision.
Bunnell’s second forfeit, this time at 170 pounds, boosted Stratford’s advantage to 35-15, but Bunnell would win three of the next four matches.
Stratford’s James Jackson, the Red Devils’ lone senior who was honored prior to the match, took on Bunnell’s Jack Heiden, who was originally slated to grapple with Brandon Murphy at 170.
Heiden took a 2-0 lead with a takedown 30 seconds in, which forced the first of four injury timeouts by Jackson, who eventually used up the 1:30 allotted time.
That gave Heiden, who was leading 3-2 at the time, a win by injury default at 1:21 of the second period.
Bunnell 195-pounder Mike Gentile came from 2-0 behind to pin Jack Branco in 1:25.
At 220 pounds, the Red Devils’ Jamison outlasted Evan Whalen in a wearing bout that saw Jamison get the pin with a 2-1 lead and 25 seconds remaining.
Bunnell heavyweight Anthony Gentile and Stratford Kylani Walker were tied at 2 when the Bulldog tightened his grip to turn a near-fall into a pin at the 1:37 mark.