By the time Saturdayâ€™s State Open and CIAC Girls Wrestling Invitational championship matches were completed, the Southington wrestling team had two grapplers atop the podium.
Two upperclassmen showed their veteran poise on Saturday in New Haven, proving themselves as the best in the state while continuing what have been two successful high school careers.
Billy Carr and Ashley Reed are this weekâ€™s Athletes of the Week for coming out on top when faced up against the top competition in Connecticut.
Carr started his State Open march with a bit of history, picking up the 100th victory of his varsity career when he edged Norwalkâ€™s Brendan Gilchrist with a 5-3 decision in the round of 16 of the 182-pound tournament. Carr needed a takedown with just 23 seconds left in the match to seal the win on Friday and finish his quest for history, but for the senior, there was much more winning and history to be made.
Carr followed up his 100th win with a dominant 13-6 decision over Bacon Academyâ€™s Damen Burger in the quarterfinals, then willed his way through another thriller in the semifinals, just getting by John Summers of Fairfield Warde with a 3-2 decision after leading 3-0 after two rounds. That win set up a dramatic bout in the final, where Carr matched up with Amityâ€™s Simon Flaherty, who Carr had beaten in the past. But as Southington head coach Derek Dion said, Flaherty had put in extra work in the offseason and was now in as strong a position as ever to get revenge on Carr and grab the State Open title.
For the first 5:54 of the championship bout, it looked like Flaherty would do just that.
Flaherty led 3-1 after two rounds and 3-2 with 10 seconds left in the match, as Carr continued to search for the right time to make his final move to try and steal the match and the tournament championship. After multiple failed attempts for a takedown, Carr finally got the window he was looking for and took down Flaherty with six seconds left in the match, and the two were quickly forced out of bounds after the dramatic two points by Carr. With five seconds left on the clock, Carr hung on and prevented an escape from Flaherty, sealing what was a thrilling comeback.
Carr, after laying on his back and raising his arms to the sky, hurled himself to his feet in celebration while his corner jumped up and down, celebrating the most memorable win of Carrâ€™s wrestling career, which now continues at New Englands.
Reedâ€™s championship bout carried much less drama, but that only served as a reflection of just how dominant the junior was through the first-ever CIAC Girls Wrestling Invitational. After shutting out NFAâ€™s Mayiki Plainbull 4-0 in the first round, Reed came out on top in the semifinals, winning 5-2 over Berlinâ€™s Natalia Chorzepa in a battle of local wrestlers. In the final, Reed built a 4-0 lead over Baylee Gagneir of Montville before finishing her title quest with a pin late in the second round, finishing a tournament where only two points were scored against her in the 160-pound bracket.
The success is nothing new for Reed, who has been dominant at the high school level. Last spring, at the National High School Coaches Associationâ€™s national tournament, Reed finished in third place as a sophomore in the 144-pound tournament to earn All-American honors. In that tournament, Reed lost in the first round before rattling off four straight wins in the consolation bracket to grab third place and solidify herself as one of the top grapplers in the nation. One of those wins came in a dramatic overtime victory over California resident Lauren Camp to keep Reedâ€™s hopes being an All-American alive.
Reed appeared to make quick of her opponents in New Haven this past weekend, but the season as a whole was a difficult one. Reed had Tommy John surgery over the summer and reaggravated the injury early in the season, then injured her thumb soon after. Still, she pushed on and can now call herself one of the best wrestlers in Connecticut. The Blue Knights now boast two such grapplers after Saturdayâ€™s action.