SOUTHINGTON - The Southington wrestling team ended Saturday with a fourth-place finish in the MASS-CONNfusion wrestling tournament thanks in part to the performances of two of the Blue Knights’ standouts - senior Shaun Wagner and junior Paul Calo.
But the dynamic duo does more than score points, they help to shape and grow the Blue Knights.
“[Wagner]’s been tremendous,” Southington head coach Derek Dion said. “Every tournament he doesn’t fail to show up. It’s as good of a season as we could’ve hoped for for him. Hopefully he could finish it off strong and finish with good results in the state tournament.
“Him and Pauly are leading are leading the team, and the other seniors are getting better and hopefully making the kids around them better.”
They certainly put on a display Saturday.
Wagner, the fifth seed in the 138-pound bracket, finished in first place.
“I’m not used to being that [low of a seed] in my own tournament,” Wagner said. “But I put my mind to it - seed didn’t matter - that I was going to wrestle no matter what.”
Wagner made sure to come out strong from the beginning.
After pinning Berlin’s Jacob Sparks in just 1:06 in the first round, the senior won his next three matches by decision, including the final against Ponaganset’s Richard Andrews - from the team that won the overall tournament - 11-3.
And it wasn’t just the way he wrestled, but who he wrestled against that impressed his coach.
“[Shaun] had a loaded weight class,” Dion said, “He had to go through the fourth seed, who was the LL finalist, and then had to go through the one seed and the two seed. He wrestled really well, it was battles all day, so I’m happy with his performance. It was really impressive. And he wrestled the best match of the day in the finals.”
Calo was also able to win his bracket, but he had a little bit of a different experience than Wagner.
With the junior seeing little competition in his normal 173-pound weight class, Dion decided to bump his up just a few weight classes. Calo was put in the 182-pound weight class, 10 pounds heavier than what he weighs.
“Overall, it was a good day for me, even though I was bumped up two weight classes,” Calo said.
It certainly didn’t have a negative impact on the grappler.
After earning first- and second-round byes to begin the tournament, Calo went out and, like he has most of the season, beat the opposition handily.
Calo pinned his three opponents in under three minutes each. In the third round, he won in just 58 seconds and then proceeded to win by pins in 2:40 and 1:11 to take the bracket.
It was just another day on the mat for last year’s New England champion.
“Pauly’s on the level,” Dion said. “I think he’s on the national level. When it comes to tournaments like this, it’s hard to get a real good workout on him, so we tried to bump him up to compete against bigger, stronger kids and he did well.”
Southington will once again be a tough team for others to compete against come state tournament time. Wagner and Calo will make it that much more difficult.
Shelby Iava can be reached at (860) 801-5096 or