Locals take on best Class M has to offer

Stratford High’s Brandon Murphy blocks a shot by Foran High’s Beau Garcia during the third-place match at 160 pounds in Milford on Saturday.
(Photo by Mike Suppe)

Brandon Murphy finished third at 160 pounds, while Mike LaPia placed sixth at 120, to lead the way for the Stratford High wrestling team at the Class M state tournament.
With their top-six finishes at Jonathan Law’s Richetelli Gymnasium on Saturday, the duo qualified for the State Open which begins on Friday at 4:30 p.m. at the Floyd Little Athletic Center in New Haven.
Murphy, a junior with a record of 29-6, earned the ninth seed at the Open, while LaPia (25-10) is seeded No. 21.
Overall, the Red Devils finished tied for 20th at the state tournament, garnering 39 team points. Ledyard High ran away with the team title with 252.5 points, followed by Foran (153), New Fairfield (143), Avon (142) and Branford (132.5).
“It was a good tournament, the competition was really good,” Stratford coach Dan German said.
Murphy, who was seeded second in his bracket, beat Foran’s Beau Garcia, 5-1, in a grueling overtime bout to place third.
“I was exhausted from the lack of practice,” said Murphy, who got in some valuable mat time on Thursday practicing with the Milford Indians youth squad.
“It feels good. I wish I could’ve gotten first or second, but I did my thing. I wrestled tough.”
Starting down at the beginning of the second period, Murphy escaped for a 1-0 edge. He was then called for stalling with 57 seconds left in the match, giving Garcia a point to tie it at 1.
It stayed that way until the first overtime, when Murphy took down Garcia, notching a two-point nearfall for good measure.
“He wrestled well,” German said of his standout junior. “Missing that week off (from the blizzard) was big as far as his conditioning.
“I think that showed a little bit, but he stuck it out, dug deep and pulled it out when he needed it.”
After pinning No. 15 seed Russell Wade of Waterford in the second round, Murphy outlasted No. 10 seed Victor Viera of Bethel, 10-9, in the quarterfinals.
He then tangled with third-seeded Caile Johnson of Ledyard, with the junior Colonel advanced to the final via a fall over Murphy in 2:52.
Dropping down into the consolation bracket, Murphy maneuvered a throw into a pin at 1:36 against Avon’s No. 11 seed C.J. Delgrosse, setting up his third-place bout with Garcia.
Seeded sixth, LaPia also made a run through the losers’ bracket after falling to eventual champion Taylor Shay of New Fairfield, 18-6, in the quarterfinals.
The Red Devil sophomore then edged No. 12 seed Phil Manes of Law, 3-2, before eliminating Suffield’s Matt Guilmette, the seventh seed, with a 3-1 decision.
In the consolation semifinals, LaPia lost a 5-1 decision to No. 4 seed Ethan Grieder of Berlin to set up a fifth-place match with No. 5 seed Colin Rook of Guilford.
Rook took home fifth place, winning a 6-1 decision.
Alex Gordon (113) and Brian Evan (132) also picked up team points for the Red Devils, who missed out on crucial practice time, as well as the South-West Conference tournament, due to the Blizzard of 2013.
“That’s a killer for them,” German said. “The whole week prior to state championships, no practice, because we couldn’t get into the school.
“That hurts, especially at a critical time.”
Said Murphy:
“We’re going to come back better next year and we’ll have more guys ready to place.”
Bunnell roundup
The Bulldogs finished in a tie for 25th at the Class M tournament, accumulating 17 team points.
Allon Guglielmoni won two matches via fall for Bunnell at 138, but fell to No. 12 seed Daniel Maranda of New London in the consolation quarterfinals.
Eric Rossi (145), Mike Gentile (195) and Anthony Gentile (285) also won matches for the Bulldogs.

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