RHAM’s Troy Miller defends an inbounds pass from Bacon Academy’s Jack Holmes during the Raptors 60-48 victory over the Bobcats last Saturday.
Using an up-tempo offense and a ferocious press defense, RHAM boys’ basketball defeated Bacon Academy, 60-48, at RHAM High School on Jan. 21.
It was the Raptors fourth consecutive victory and snapped a three-game winning streak for the Bobcats.
Junior Troy Miller scored a game-high 25 points as RHAM jumped out an eight-point advantage in the early stages and never looked back, ballooning the lead to as many as 20 points in the second half.
RHAM head coach Todd Dean said the quick start allowed his team to do what they do best, which is press on defense and generate transition points on the offensive end.
“When you get out to a little bit of a lead it always helps you out,” added Dean. “I think we always play with passion, hustle and energy.”
Miller scored the game’s first two baskets, scoring on a rebound-putback and then canning a three-pointer from the wing on the following possession.
A triple by senior Ryan Heneghan provided RHAM an 8-0 lead with 4:52 to play in the opening quarter.
Heneghan and fellow senior Matthew Fraleigh are the team’s two captains this season.
“We knew it was important to jump on them early,” said Fraleigh, who has four steals. “They are a good team, so it was good we got off to a hot start.”
Midway through the third quarter, Miller converted an old-fashioned three-point play and then hit a spinning layup as the Raptors took a commanding 43-23 lead.
Dean said Miller has been the team’s primary point producer this season thanks to his range from the outside and ability to attack the cup.
“Troy has a scorer’s mentality and in most cases it helps us out because we need a guy that can score the ball,” added Dean. “He works hard on both ends of the court and he has been a huge asset for us.”
The Bobcats whittled the lead down to ten points early in early stages of the fourth quarter by going on a 12-2 run behind
senior captains Luke Grimord and Elijah Black, who combined to score eight points during the scoring spurt.
With the lead cut in half, Fraleigh said the team talked about finishing strong during a timeout.
“The longer they stick around the more they think they can beat you,” recalled Fraleigh. “We talked about keeping our foot on the gas.”
RHAM responded by scoring 11 of the next 13 points.
Miller drained a three-pointer and a minute later Fraleigh made a contested layup while being fouled to provide RHAM a 54-39 advantage with less than three minutes to play in regulation.
Dean has been impressed with how his players have stepped up this season after graduating seven seniors a year ago.
He credited his captains for helping the team pick up where they left off a year ago when they won 17 of 20 regular season games in Dean’s first season leading the program.
“They are more comfortable with me and they understand what I expect from them, whether it is on the court or things away from the court that helps us prepare,” stated Dean, whose team stands at 7-5 as of publication.
The Raptors has also has balanced scoring this year with seven players scoring the win over Bacon.
Heneghan and Road Trzaskos each netted nine points, while Brady Hulland (seven), Casper Miazga (four), Luke Polowitzer (three) and Fraleigh (three) also scored.
“When we get the ball to everyone and everyone is touching the ball, it’s really good,” said Fraleigh. “As long as we keep moving the ball and getting everyone touches and good shots our offense can be good.”
Fraleigh added that the team is at their best when they are running in transition and his head coach agrees.
“I like to press and run up-tempo,” said Dean. “I want to pressure and I think at this level you can pressure most teams and have success if you do it correctly, and that is what we are trying to do.”
Bacon Academy senior Elijah Black controls the ball at RHAM High School on Jan. 21. The Bobcats lost to the Raptors, yet have won six of their last nine games.
Despite a 12-point loss to RHAM last Saturday, Bacon Academy boys’ basketball showed the resolve of a team that never quits.
The Bobcats trailed by as many as 20 points in the second half before cutting the deficit in half in the fourth quarter and battling until the final whistle.
“I’m proud of them for not giving up because they could have folded and they didn’t,” Bacon Academy head coach Craig Kupper said following the loss.
Trailing 43-23 in the third, senior Luke Grimord led a 12-2 run that bled over into the fourth quarter.
Grimord scored six straight points during the run –– hitting a spinning layup off glass and added two more buckets in transition –– and had a three-quarter-court assist to Troy Johnson to pull the margin to 45-35 with 6:23 to play in regulation.
It was the second time that the Bobcats had to claw their way back into the contest.
They fell behind 8-0 within the first few minutes of the game before Grimord drained a three-pointer and Elijah Black hit a pair of free throws on the following possession to cut the deficit to 8-5.
Grimord finished with a game-high 25 points and 10 rebounds, while Black added 16 points and 10 rebounds.
RHAM’s defensive pressure, highlighted by the team’s full court press, gave the Bobcats fits throughout the game.
During the slow start, Kupper used a timeout to remind his team of game plan they designed to break the defensive pressure.
“We started making the extra pass and we got better shot attempts,” added Kupper. “We made more baskets because of it.”
Grimord, Black and senior Keegan Appleby are Kupper’s three court captains.
Kupper said each captain has a different approach, yet they have all been working towards the same goals in practice and in games.
“They all have different leadership styles and lead in different ways, but I think that had helped push the guys to where we are trying to be,” added Kupper.
The team entered the game against RHAM on a three-game winning streak — defeating Plainfield, Waterford, and Stonington within a six-day span.
Grimord had pair of monster games in the win over Waterford and Stonington, combining to score 58 points and grab 25 rebounds in the two-game stretch.
He scored a career-high 30 points against Waterford on Jan. 17 and grabbed 15 rebounds in the win over Stonington on Jan. 19.
After starting the season with four consecutive losses, Kupper said the team was doing all the right things during the three-game winning streak.
“We’ve been working so hard and everyone is sharing the ball,” added Kupper, whose team stands at 6-6.
The fifth year coach hopes to see that same execution as the team enters the stretch run, starting on the road at Griswold this Friday, Jan. 27 at 7 p.m.
Kupper added, “Offensively we have to get a little bit better and get better shot attempts, but everyone is being good teammates from the bottom of the bench all the way up to the starters.”
Here are the Rivereast Standouts of the Week for the week of Jan. 16-22:
Carson Brown - Bacon Academy High School (Wrestling): Brown placed third in the 152-pound bracket, defeating Matt Gish of Cromwell/Portland by decision (8-3) in the consolation match, at the Casey Yates Invitational in Lebanon. Brown and the Bacon Academy wrestling team will next host the Matt Bishel Bobcat Classic, scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 4 at 9 a.m. The multi-school event is in its 12th year and is named after Bishel, a former wrestler and graduate at the high school who passed away in 2011.
Max Czarnecki - RHAM High School (Track): Czarnecki broke his own school record in the 55 meters, running a 6.72, at the East Coast Invitational in Providence, Rhode Island. It was the second time in a matter of weeks that the senior sprinter had set a new mark in the event. Czarnecki also teamed with Sam Fortin, Konrad Jadzinski, and Cam Rhodes to break the record in the 4x800 relay, running 8:33.25 to shatter the previous mark by ten seconds.
Evan LoPresti, Alex Rivard-Lentz, Robert Stanford, Alexander Urban (Track): LoPresti, Rivard-Lentz, Stanford, and Urban combined for a third place finish in the 4x400 relay race at the Shoreline Coaches Invitational. The foursome ran a time of 3:54.65, finishing ahead of eight other teams at the conference meet at the Floyd Athletic Center in New Haven. Next up for the Bellringers is the Shoreline Conference Indoor Track Championship at Hillhouse High School on Friday, Feb. 3, schedule to start at 5:30 p.m.
Harrison Collins - Portland High School (Basketball): Collins scored 22 points as the Highlanders held off East Hampton 64-62 in overtime on Jan. 20. Portland relied on clutch free throw shooting and a strong defense in the extra session to defeat a Bellringers team that entered PHS having won three of their previous four games. Collins, a senior, is the leading scorer for a Highlanders team that is currently 8-4 and will next travel to Haddam-Killingworth for a game on Friday, Jan. 27 (7 p.m.).
With questions or to nominate someone as a Standout Athlete of the Week, email email@example.com
Wethersfield High School junior Ryan McDonough was named an Athlete of the Week after pinning Glastonbury’s Na-Zir McDonough last week at WHS.
Ryan McDonough - Wethersfield High School (Wrestling): McDonough scored an impressive victory in a home meet last week, pinning Glastonbury’s Na-zir Johnson in the third period to win the 170-pound match on Jan. 18. First-year head coach Anthony Piscitello called McDonough’s performance his best all season, crediting him for his growth in the mat and dedication to the sport he entered the program with an extensive background in Jiu-jitsu background and had to learn the nuances of wrestling.
Bela Cucuta - Newington High School (Basketball): Cucuta scored a team-high 16 points as the Nor’easters defeated Glastonbury 38-32 in a pivotal Central Connecticut Conference clash on Jan. 20. The win was Newington ninth victory this season and snapped Glastonbury’s 10-game winning streak. Brianna Gadarowski (nine points, six rebounds), Kendall Miller (six points, nine rebounds), and Selah Prignano (five points, ten rebounds) also helped pace Newington, who improved to 9-3 with the win. Next up is a road test at Ledyard High School (tonight) Thursday, Jan. 26 at 6 p.m. before returning home for a pair of games against Simsbury (Jan. 30) and Southington (Feb. 3). Both games at NHS tip at 6:45 p.m.
Bayden Bayek - Rocky Hill High School (Track & Field): Bayek had a pair of wins, winning the 3,000 meters at the 8th Wintergreen Invitational 9:13.88 Jan. 5 and the 1,600 meters Hillhouse Varsity Meet Night 4:28.50 on Jan. 13. Both times were personal-bests for Bayek, who has committed to keep running and continue his education at George Washington University starting in the fall. Bayek and the Terriers team will next compete at the Central Connecticut Conference (CCC) championships at the Floyd Athletic Center in New Haven on Saturday, Jan. 28, starting at 9 a.m.
Jessica Grodzicki - Cromwell High School (Basketball): Grodzicki continued her terrific all-around season last week with three more stat-stuffing games in wins over Westbrook, Canton, and Hale Ray. Grodzicki, a senior, combined for 21 points, 24 assists, 15 rebounds, and 17 steals in the three games. Her eight steals in the win over Hale Ray on Jan. 20 was a season-high and helped the team win their fourth straight game and improve to 10-3 overall this season. The Panthers are on the road this Friday, visiting Coginchaug Regional High School, before returning to CHS for a bout with Morgan on Tuesday, Jan. 31. Both games tip at 7 p.m.
Sophia Hedge - Mercy High School (Basketball): Hedge scored a team-high 16 points as the Tigers defeated Hillhouse 75-56 on Jan. 17, improving the team to 8-2 this season. Hedge, senior, was one of four Mercy players to score in double figures, joining junior Winnie Ciccarello (13), senior Ava Giansiracusa (12), and freshman Maddie Benigni (12). Next up for the Tigers is a home bout with Norwich Free Academy this Saturday, Jan. 28. Tip-off is 3 p.m.
Michael Alessandra, a 2017 graduate of Wethersfield High School, has always had football in his blood.
When other kids were watching cartoons and coloring, Alessandra was studying football on television and dreaming of a career on the field.
“I told myself that this is what I wanted to do,” said Alessandra, who started playing the game at the age of six.
A decade and a half later, Alessandra’s dedication to the gridiron has landed him a college coaching job in Massachusetts where he will serve as an assistant coach –– coaching the running backs –– at Anna Maria College this fall.
His latest destination marks the second time that Alessandra’s football journey has come full circle.
After four seasons playing at WHS — culminating with a standout senior season when he led the team in receptions as a tight end and starred as a versatile defense end — Alessandra then played a season at Anna Maria, starting nine games at tight end before he made the difficult decision to step away from playing the game because of a series of injuries.
Upon his return to Connecticut, Alessandra began coaching youth football in Wethersfield while attending Central Connecticut University as he worked on a degree in education.
He eventually reunited with his former defensive coordinator at Wethersfield, Matt McKinnon, who had taken over as the head coach at WHS and brought Alessandra on as an assistant coach.
McKinnon said he could see Alessandra’s potential when he first started coaching him nearly a decade ago.
“Mike has a true passion for the game of football. He was a great player who understood how to play the game,” added McKinnon. “It was no surprise to me when he reached out to be a part of the coaching staff.”
In his first year back at WHS, Alessandra coached the Eagles freshman team an undefeated season.
He spent the last two years working as the offensive coordinator for the varsity team, joining fellow WHS-graduates Jimmy Malizia and Johnny Orsini as former players that have returned to the school to become part of McKinnon’s current coaching staff.
During his two seasons leading the Eagles’ offensive attack, the team average over 22 points per game and produce multiple all-state athletes. This past season, the team made the playoffs behind a punishing run game that churched out 235 yards per game on the ground.
Alessandra credited McKinnon with building a winning and welcoming culture at WHS that gives the team, the coaches, and the players the best chance to succeed
“I owe that man everything. He builds his staff up like he does his players.” Alessandra said of McKinnon. “He holds us to high expectations, but he wants what is best for us and what is best for the program.”
Alessandra added that the experience he gained under McKinnon, both as a player and coach, made his drive to continue a career in football even greater, saying, “Matt puts in more time and does more for his players and coaches than anyone that I’ve seen in Connecticut High School football.”
Because of that, Alessandra said his decision to leave his hometown was a tough one.
“That conversation with Matt was hard. He is my brother and those guys are my brother,” added Alessandra. “Matt does everything the right way and Wethersfield Athletics does everything the right way. I give them a lot of credit for where I am now. They support their coaches and support their kids, and they have the community behind them.”
Alessandra also noted that he couldn't have asked for a better group of kids to coach during his time in Wethersfield, coaching many of the players their entire football lives from the youth ranks through high school.
His experience in Wethersfield is a great springboard for his next challenge, where he will be joining another mentor in Massachusetts, working under head coach Steven Croce.
Croce was the offensive coordinator the season that Alessandra played, serving as an assistant for four year and earning the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) Assistant Coach of the Year in 2021 before taking over the program in 2022.
Croce also has several ties to Connecticut, living in Cheshire and having coached football around the state including a pair of seasons as the head coach at Coginchaug Regional.
In his first season leading the Amcats football program at Anna Maria, Croce led the team to winning record, the team’s second straight.
Alessandra will start his new coaching position in the fall as he begins working on his master’s degree in counseling and psychology in Paxton, Mass.
McKinnon believes that Alessandra has the drive it takes at the college level.
“The sport of football has a lot of demands to coach it the right way; it is a 12-month job with the program. Mike knows the commitment and time it takes to coach football. He has the intrinsic motivation to continue to grow as a coach, learning each year to make teams better,” added McKinnon. “He will be very loyal to the staff at Anna Maria and give the players his best every single day. He is ready to take on any challenges that come his way. I am very proud of him.”
For Alessandra, the next step is another chance to further the football flame.
“I’ve learned so much under Matt and I think I am ahead of the game but at the same time you can never learn too much, there is always something else you can learn,” stated Alessandra. “I’m excited to see what the overall college experience is like and what else I can learn and take to the next step. I just want to keep growing as a coach.”
Glastonbury High School senior Brooke Sowka said she wouldn’t know what to do without swimming.
So, Sowka decided to follow Dory’s advice from Finding Nemo to ‘just keep swimming’ by committing to compete with the Friars of Providence College for the next four years.
“I’ve always known I wanted to swim collegiately,” stated Sowka. “I couldn't imagine not swimming in college because I have done it for so long and it’s such a big part of my life.”
Despite always knowing she wanted to swim at the next level, Providence wasn’t on her radar until she visited the campus.
“I liked the coaches and the atmosphere of the school,” said Sowka. “On my official visit, I met the whole team and it just felt really right.”
During her time at GHS, Sowka was a versatile swimmer that head coach Suzie Hoyt praised for her work ethic, calling her “incredibly coachable.”
“When she’s in the pool she is working her hardest to get to where she wants to be,” added Hoyt, who recalled seeing
Sowka’s passion for the sport as early as her freshman year. “She has always had that drive and she is very encouraging to the other girls.”
During her time at GHS, Sowka excelled at both mid and long distances, recently placing 4th overall at the Class LL state finals in the 500 freestyle this past fall.
She was also part of a pair of record-breaking relay teams at GHS, teaming with Avery Kudlac, Riley Kudlac, and Annika Paluska to break the GHS pool record in the 200 Medley Relay with a time of 1:51.30 in 2020. This past fall, she joined the same trio to break the school record in the 400 Freestyle Relay with a time of 3:28.00.
Sowka said the 400 free relay event was her favorite because it had “the best energy.”
“It is the last event at the meet and everyone is so tired,” stated Sowka. “You have to give all that you can and there is so much adrenaline because everyone is so excited.”
Sowka and the 4x4 relay team peaked in their final conference finals, winning the Central Connecticut Conference (CCC) East title in the event, beating the runner-up from East Catholic High School by over 30 seconds. As a team, the Guardians would win the conference for an 11th straight season.
Sowka, who also swam for Laurel East Hartford YMCA (LEHY) club team in the offseason, said the unique, welcoming nature of the team at GHS is what she will miss the most.
“It’s a different environment. We are all so close and we would motivate each other to get through practice and in meets,” added Sowka, who has embraced the year-round commitment to the sport.
“When I was really little it was something to do for fun and I didn't want to do it as my main sport, but I’ve grown to love it,” said Sowka, who first started swimming at age six. ”Now that I have been doing it for so long, even if I have a two-week break between seasons or if I can’t practice because I’m sick, it feels weird. I’m always excited to go back and I don’t like being away for that long.”
Sowka will have plenty of time to devote to the sport in Rhode Island when she joins a program at Providence that competes in the Big East Conference, featuring powerhouse Villanova, who have won nine straight conference titles.
The Friars are led by head coach John O’Neill, who has been leading the swimming and diving program for over three decades, and assistant coach Margaret Howe, who recruited Sowka to the school.
“I’m excited to put more focus on swimming, I will be practicing so much more and there are so many more resources I can use as a college athlete,” said Sowka, who will study finance. “It will be a lot more intense than I’m used to, but I can’t wait.”
GHS wrestling captains, from left; Andrew De La Rosa, Andi Jano, and Nathaniel Post are leading a resurgence for a Guardians’ program that has seen an increase in number of wrestlers.
Two years removed from the Covid-cancelation, Glastonbury High School wrestling is nearly back to full force.
Head coach Jake Jones is thrilled with the increased number of wrestlers coming into the program, which includes eight freshmen this winter.
“We only lost one senior last year and came back with most of our team,” stated Jones. “We’re working hard and we wrestled a ton over winter break, so these guys haven’t stopped much.”
Last Wednesday, the Guardians visited Wethersfield High School and soundly defeated a short-handed Eagles team 60-18, highlighted by a half dozen wins –– all by the way of a pin.
Junior captain Andrew De La Rosa started the pin parade, downing Marcello Alcala just 13 seconds into the match.
De La Rosa, who is coming off an all-conference season and a top-five finish as a sophomore at the Class LL state finals a year ago, said he believes the team can be contenders at both the conference and class finals.
“The team has gotten a lot better and our numbers are better than last year. A lot of new guys are getting better a lot faster,” added the confident De La Rosa, whose goal is nothing short of a Class LL state title in the 145-pound division this winter.
Captaining the team with De La Rosa are seniors Andi Jano and Nathaniel Post.
Jano wrestles at 195 pounds and has embraced the leadership role, saying, “I love being a captain of this team. Everyone is super energetic and we all want to win and work hard.”
“Honestly I love seeing everyone improve. Every dual meet and every tournament, I’m constantly seeing them improving,” Jano said of the development of the younger wrestlers.
Post, who wrestles at 132 pounds, said the biggest aspect of mentoring the next generation of Guardians is making sure they are mentally ready to compete every day.
“We’re trying to introduce them to the sport as quickly as possible,” added Post, who says the team is now facing a crossroads in the season. “This is a point where a lot of teams reach a wall and they either break through it or they stay where they are. I think we have a potential to break through it.”
Jones said all three of his captains have embraced the leadership role, crediting them for being his eyes and ears in the school.
“I don’t work at Glastonbury High School, so I need to lean on those guys,” said Jones, who is in his third season leading the program. “Overall they are extremely responsible and great young men. I can really rely on them.”
Other wrestlers scoring wins by pin against Wethersfield were Ryan Ouellette (120), Chris Ouellette (126), Kyle Amirault (152), and Sidrit Ferizaj (220).
After struggling through the regular season a year ago because of a lack of wrestlers, Jones said the biggest difference this season is having enough wrestlers to fill the weight slots.
“I love filling all the weights. That is half the battle in wrestling,” added Jones. “If you don’t have enough guys and you’re giving up six points in a forfeit, it’s hard to make that up.”
Between last season and this season, Jones has only had four total seniors in two years. 2022-graduate Michael Maciolek captained the team a year ago, while Jano, Post, and Na-zir Johnson are the team’s only three seniors this season.
With over 20 wrestlers slated to return next season and what looks to be another strong incoming freshman class, the program is nearly back to pre-Covid numbers.
The uptick in numbers is a good sign for a program that is seeking to get back to the status of two decades ago when they finished as the runner-up at the class finals in consecutive seasons in 2003 and 2004.
Jones believes one of the team’s biggest strengths is this season is conditioning, which allows them to battle deep into matches.
He added that he’d like to see the team show a little more fight when their backs are against the wall.
“It’s a tough sport. If you’re not tough you’re not going to last and that is kind of the biggest show of toughness when you’re at their mercy and you’re on your back,” said Jones. “You’re either going to fight them off or the match is over. I’d like to see us show more of that fight.”
The Guardians have one remaining home dual meet on Wednesday, Feb. 1 when they welcome East Hartford to GHS for a match at 6 p.m.
GHS will also host the Central Connecticut Conference championships, scheduled for Feb. 3 and 4.
Here are the Rivereast Standout Athletes of the week for the week of Jan. 9-15:
Jackie Russell - East Hampton High School (Basketball): Russell, a junior, scored 19 points, knocking down three shots from beyond the arc as the Bellringers earned a convincing 51-19 road victory over Old Saybrook on Jan. 13. Sophomore Liana Salamone, the team’s leading scorer this season, did her usual damage by added 20 points. Next up for the 10-1 Bellringers is a Shoreline Conference clash against Portland at East Hampton High School (today) Friday, Jan. 20 at 7 p.m.
Lily Tabellione - Portland High School (Track & Field): Tabellione won both the 1,000 meters and the 3,200 meters at the Shoreline League Meet on Jan. 12 at the Floyd Athletic Center in New Haven. Tabellione, a junior, ran a personal-best 3.12.16 to win the 1,000m by more than a second and then ran a blistering personal-best 12:00.57 in the 3,200m to easily win the distance event by over 12 seconds. The Highlanders finished 3rd overall as a team at the multi-school conference competition.
Dani Poudrier - RHAM High School (Cheerleading): Poudrier has been a great leader and role model on the Raptors cheer squad, which cheers at all the home basketball games and will compete in conference and state meets in the coming months. Poudrier, a senior, also helps out with the middle school cheer squad, mentoring the next generation of Raptors cheerleaders. Poudier and her cheer squad will next be performing when the girls’ basketball team welcomes Rocky Hill to RHAM High School (tonight) Friday, Jan. 20 at 6:45 p.m.
Skyelyn Schoen-Rene - Bacon Academy High School (Basketball): Schoen-Rene, a freshman, scored a career-high 12 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter, as the Bobcats held off Killingly 48-40 on Jan. 13 to remain undefeated. The game was tied heading into the fourth quarter before Bacon’s defense clamped down, holding Killingly to a mere four points over the final eight minutes. Katelyn Novak led the four quarter charge, scoring five straight points as the Bobcats took the lead early in the final frame and never looked back. Next up for the 11-0 Bobcats is a road test at Waterford High School (tonight) Friday, Jan. 20. Tip-off is 7 p.m.
Portland High School wrestlers (from left) Spencer Rosado, Andrew Johnson, and Tyler Quinn following the Casey Yates Annual Memorial Wrestling Invitational on Jan 8. Rosado and Quinn placed 2nd and Johnson placed 3rd in their respective weight classes.
Mark Favale is on his second go-around as the head coach of the Portland High School wrestling team.
After coaching the team for a decade, Favale stepped away in 2013 before returning to be the face of the program three years ago.
“It’s nice to be back in the wrestling room,” Favale said of his second stint. .
His first year back with the team was a trying one as high school wrestling was canceled for the 2021-2022 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, causing a dip in the number of wrestlers that came back across the state the following season.
But that dip didn’t hurt the team’s production a year ago as the team finished 11th overall at the Class S state championships last winter.
Standouts Spencer Rosado and Andrew Johnson are back after placing 3rd and 5th in their respective weight classes at the state finals a season ago.
After serving as team captains as juniors, Rosado and Johnson have also returned to that leadership role as seniors.
“We set the example that if you want to be on this team you’ll be joining something that has to do with excellence, hard work, and passion,” said Rosado, who wrestles at 138 lbs. “The younger guys want to be part of that and they want to put that hard work in and do what it takes.”
Johnson, who wrestles at 182 lbs., added, “We started the season off with a lot of new faces, but at the same time we had that culture in the room from the returning wrestlers. We are a hard working team and the new kids are learning.”
The team’s third captain, senior Jacob Maruschock, suffered a season-ending knee injury prior to the meets starting, yet
Favale said he has not wavered from his captain duties.
Favale called Maruschock his “coach in the school.”
“He has stepped up a lot and basically been a third coach on the team,” added Favale. “He comes to every practice and he helps the young kids a lot. He’s my go-to whenever I need anything done.”
Coaching the team with Favale is assistant coach Dan Harding, who previously wrestled at State University of New York College (SUNY).
Favale said Harding does a lot of the heavy lifting in the weight room and practice room, getting the team ready for competition. He added that the head coach and assistant coach labels are “in title only” and that the two work in unison to help the wrestlers in whatever way they can.
According to Favale, it is also a balanced lineup on the mat this season.
“We fill up all the weight classes and we’re deep in a lot of them,” added Favale.
The results are reflecting that depth as the Highlanders won 12 of their first 15 contests this winter.
“The captains have set the tone; they set a good example in practice,” said Favale. “It’s a nice balance between working hard and having fun.”
The team recently took fifth overall at the Casey Yates Annual Memorial.
Rosado and junior Tyler Johnson each made the championship match, finishing 2nd in their respective weight classes. Johnson placed 3rd, while Ethan Dean, Ethan Krasniewski, and Matt Gish, who is one of three wrestlers from Cromwell High School that competes with the Highlanders, also finished 4th.
Both Rosado and Johnson said they set lofty goals prior to the season and each eye a state title individually, yet it’s the team aspect that they say has carried the team this season.
“We were connected friendship wise-before we even started wrestling, so it’s a tight bond,” said Rosado, whose younger brother Joshua Rosado is a freshman on the team. “I see a lot of similarity in myself because I started wrestling as a freshman and it’s kind of nice being able to show him things so he didn’t have to learn the hard way.”
Johnson called the team a “brotherhood.”
“We’ve been in the same friend group since kindergarten, so the chemistry is there,” added Johnson. “Wrestling is a lifestyle and we’re all a family here.”
The Highlanders will host consecutive multi-school meets over the next two weekends, starting this Saturday, Jan. 21 when they welcome teams to Portland High School for the Arrigoni Classic, starting at 10 a.m.
On Saturday, Jan. 28 the program will hold their annual Highlander Invitational, starting at 9 a.m.
East Hampton’s 5th grade travel basketball team won one of the three tournaments as the MLK Day Basketball Tournament in Portland on Jan. 16. By winning the tournament, the team received an invitation to the New England Championships in March. Pictured below are Coaches Pat Zabroski, Brendan Hines, and Peter Kellogg. Back row players, from left to right; Ian Aiello, Noah Salamone, Trevor Philbrick, Keegan King, Joseph Ploszay, Elijah Kramer, Cole McCarthy-Nowak. Kneeling, left to right; Bryson Rall, Callahan Hines, Tommy Kellogg, and Zachary Zabroski.
To honor Martin Luther King Jr., Portland High School hosted the MLK Day Youth Basketball Tournament on Monday.
Basketball programs from around Connecticut gathered for a day of reflection, remembrance, and roundball.
PHS senior and basketball star Harrison Collins organized the event as part of his Capstone Project, saying that putting on the event was both challenging and rewarding.
“I thought it was a success; it was a really fun event,” added Collins.
Over 100 young basketball players from grades 5-8 gathered inside the gymnasium at Portland High School for a series of round-robin tournaments.
Six boys’ teams and four girls’ teams participated in the daylong festivities, with local teams from Portland, East Hampton, and Colchester in attendance. Teams from Branford, Coginchaug, Gilford, Groton, and Milford also traveled from far and wide to participate.
The boys’ team from East Hampton won the 5th grade tourney and the boys’ team from Coginchaug won the 7th grade tournament, while the girls’ team from Milford took home the trophy in the 8th grade tourney.
Collins, who is averaging 20 points per game for the Highlanders this season, said it was difficult to balance his time between his high school obligations and planning the tourney, but was glad that he could help bring an event like this to the local community.
“I think it was really important that it’s not just a day of remembrance, but to truly understand why we celebrate,” added Collins.
Collins gave a speech in between the boys and girls championship games, connecting the legacies of Dr. King with the professional basketball players that paved the way for equality in the sport.
The event was free to the public; however donations were made by attendees. Monies received will benefit The King Center, a non-profit memorial and exhibit in Atlanta, Georgia established by King’s wife Coretta Scott King in 1968.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin