After wrapping up its season last Tuesday night against Norwalk, the New Canaan wrestling team is now onto the FCIAC tournament.
Beginning today at 4:30 p.m., the conference showdown will feature a 16-person bracket for each weight class, comprised of competitors from schools from all over Fairfield County. Over their year, the Rams have battled both rugged competition and their own inexperience, finishing with a 5-15 overall record.
"We're very inexperienced," coach Paul Gallo said. "But we're starting to understand what it takes to wrestle over a full season. How wrestling works, what we have to do to win, what it takes. They have to go hard the whole time. If you relax, you end up losing. It's a tough adjustment to make."
Led by seniors Kenny Philipson and Brandon Pak, New Canaan hopes to break into the final rounds of the FCIACs this weekend, after last year's tournament was canceled due to snow. Philipson and Pak are joined by junior heavyweight Malakai Holan as the team's top wrestlers. Philipson, who finished third in Class L a year ago, wrestles in the 145-pound class, while Pak competes at the 195-pound level and Holan at 285 pounds.
Entering Tuesday, Philipson had compiled an impressive 19-4 regular season record. Pak notched an 12-5 mark and Holan owned a 22-5 record. The toughest tests that the Rams figure to face this weekend will come from Danbury, Warde and Trumbull, each of which reside in the state's top 10. Though, Gallo stressed that while the tournament will boil down to the best of the best, it is also very much about timing and matchups.
"It comes down to so many things," Gallo said. "And then sometimes it's just a matter of who's ready. Overall, it's all about matchups, which can make it difficult to figure out as a coach."
According to Gallo, Holan appears to be ready to step in as the captain for next year's team, a group that the coach is very excited about. In the meantime, the junior is shooting to make his way into the heavyweight semifinals and finals on Saturday. Once there, he would likely take on either Fairfield Warde's Ahmed Hourani or Wilton's Joey Fraccaroli.
All FCIAC wrestling matches will take place at New Canaan High School. Saturday's action begins at 10 a.m., and the winners of each class will likely be determined by 4 p.m.
"It's probably the best tournament in the state," Gallo declared. "You've got good wrestling and great teams. It's just a very good wrestling tournament."
Or, put more succinctly--
"The FCIACs are brutal."
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