BRISTOL - As one of the premier wrestling invitational tournaments throughout the state, the Bristol Central Invitational won’t be short on talent.
“It’s one of the longest running individual tournaments in the state,” Bristol Central head coach Matthew Boissonneault said. “I’d say it’s been running 35 years. We also host Class Ls. We pride ourselves on running these tournaments. Every year we have a full slate and we have to turn down four or five teams. People love how it’s run but also love the competition.”
This year’s field consists of 18 full teams including two out of state teams with Salem, N.H. and Mohonasen, N.Y. making the trip to compete.
The Rams cross-town rival Bristol Eastern enters the tournament as the back-to-back defending champions of it and will look to continue its dominance.
But it will look to do so with stiff challenge.
“This is a great tournament as far as individual talent goes,” Lancers head coach Bryant Lishness said. “I want to see [my guys] all last and do well, we got a real deep team and some experienced kids. It’s a really tough field. There are a lot of New England place finishers and State Open place finishers. It’s a good barometer of where we are with all of the individual talent.”
Along with Bristol Central and Bristol Eastern are Berlin, Terryville and Plainville rounding out the local area teams competing.
Below is a closer look at the area teams and their expectations in the tournament:
The Redcoats (2-5) bring the Veleas brothers to the Invitational.
Dan (132 pound junior) and Josh (170 pound senior) headline the Berlin lineup.
Josh is undefeated and a retuning state champion. Dan, meanwhile, is 8-1 and a two-time state place finisher. His only loss this season came to an out of state opponent in the Berlin tournament.
The Redcoats will not bring a full lineup due to injuries. Just five total wrestlers are expected to compete.
Max Schlein is a 9-1 junior to watch. Schlein won the Berlin tournament at 182 pounds.
“We’re really excited to have this opportunity,” Redcoats head coach Jim Day said. “Our older guys are going to be up for the test and our younger guys are going to gain valuable experience.”
The Blue Devils (5-5) are a young team and are excited to compete in this caliber of a tournament.
“We look pretty good,” head coach Rusty Smith said. “We have such a young team so it’s been a bit rough stretch losing our last three.”
Smith is bringing 10 wrestlers to the tournament and believes he has five specific wrestlers who are capable of making a competitive run for Plainville.
Sebby Soli leads the way for the Blue Devils as a junior captain.
At 126 pounds, Soli has yet to be beaten this year. He placed fourth at Bristol Central last season and has high self-expectations looking to finish undefeated this year. Soli will have a chance to show his talent.
Dominic Pedrolini, 113-pound junior captain has three losses coming in. Kyle Voisine, a 145-pound freshman, also has three losses and placed second at the Plainville Invitational.
Alex Hernandez, a 152-pound junior in his first year wrestling at the high school level, wrestled in a youth club with Smith and hopes to make a run.
Rounding out the Blue Devils five wrestlers to watch is Esteban Torres, a 138-pound sophomore.
The Rams enter the tournament with a record of 4-3 on the season.
“We’re looking to compete, it’s definitely our toughest test to date,” Boissonneault said. “We’re gonna see where we’re at.”
Bristol Central is expecting its seniors to show up big, specifically Christopher Trelli (120 pounds), Mike Guzman (220 pounds), John Duncan (Heavyweight) and Joey Frechette (138 pounds).
Frechette is competing in one of the deepest brackets in the tournament so his performance in it will be one to watch.
Some other wrestlers to watch that could surprise are Adam Ward (113 pounds), Jake Aldi (106 pounds) and Caleb Buden (152 pounds).
Bristol Central alum, Russ Angers, will be in attendance as his two kids (Ryan and Michael) will be attending the invitational as individuals from Tolland, which doesn’t have a team.
The Rams are looking to build off the 4-3 start to the season, but realistically, aren’t the best Bristol team in the tournament.
“Bristol Eastern obviously has depth that a lot of other teams don’t have,” Boissonneault said.
The Lancers (4-0) enter the tournament as back-to-back defending champions and Lishness once again has his expectations for his team set high.
Bryce Beebe (106 pounds), Jordon Champagne (113) and Thomas Nichols (120) are three specific wrestlers that Lishness is hoping to see compete for a medal. Though, Lishness described the medal round to be comparable to a class tournament in terms of individual wrestling talent.
Wrestling at 120 as a freshman, Nichols has been impressive for Bristol Eastern thus far and has handled his two losses well. Nichols wrestled Danbury’s Ryan Jack tough but fell just short. Jack was second in New Englands as a freshman last year.
“He didn’t leave the mat dejected he left the mat angry,” Lishness said. “He expects a lot of himself out there.”
Nichols could see the two other top wrestlers in the state in that weight class including Terryville’s Cayleb Leclerc.
Mike Barrett, Justin Marshall and Trinidad Gonzalez are always three wrestlers to watch out for and will again be spotlighted.
But one wrestler for the Lancers who could surprise is Diego Fernandez (145 pound junior). Fernandez took third at Danbury in the tournament last weekend.
The Kangaroos bring a younger team to the table but one that features a defended state champion as well.
“Terryville is a very young team, and that will show tomorrow,” Terryville head coach Pete Veleas said. “The Bristol Central tournament is always a challenge, even when Terryville is a competitive class S team. The field is always deep with top teams from CT and surrounding states.
Cayleb Leclerc is expected to be a Kangaroos wrestler that could make a deep run.
“He’s someone that could make some noise tomorrow,” Veleas said. “He is a returning Class S state champion at 106, but this year he is competing at 120.”
Dan Orencole can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or email@example.com