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Throop, MarcAurele help Ledyard pin down another title
Groton - Josh Throop, who weighed in at 213 pounds prior to the Eastern Connecticut Conference tournament this weekend, was planning to wrestle for Ledyard High School in the 220-pound division this year.
It's just that the way the Ledyard roster lined up, the Colonels needed a guy to compete at 285 pounds. Throop, a defensive lineman for the football team in his second year wrestling, was the best candidate.
"Sometimes if they get on top of me, it's hard for me to get out," said Throop, a senior. "There's some big guys in the state."
On Sunday, Ledyard won its second straight ECC championship at Fitch High School with 195 points, avenging a one-point loss to Windham in a dual meet on Feb. 8. Windham was second with 182 points, followed by Waterford with 161.5, Montville with 158 and Norwich Free Academy with 135 rounding out the top five.
The Colonels already officially clinched the victory before Throop, the No. 2 seed, took the mat to face top-ranked Trevor Auger of Killingly, but a Throop pin in 1 minute, 47 seconds put the finishing touches on things.
He joined teammate Devon MarcAurele, the 170-pound champ, in winning individual titles. Overall, Ledyard, ranked 10th in the state - Windham is ninth - had 12 wrestlers place out of the 14 weight classes, with four finalists.
Windham led the way with three ECC champions. Bacon Academy's Howie Kilpatrick, the champ at 145, was named the tournament's Outstanding Wrestler.
"They got a pin at 160 and that dropped the lead down to three, I think," Ledyard coach Steve Bilheimer said. "Then Devon got a pin and that brought it back up again. We're in close matches with them pretty much every year, but if I had to pick one (to win), I'd pick this. We wrestled well the last couple days."
"That was tough for the team," MarcAurele said of the 32-31 dual meet loss to the Whippets, calling the Colonels ecstatic to win the championship. "This is what we've been preparing for the last couple of weeks."
MarcAurele pinned Montville's Pat Bogan in 1:39, coming out aggressively and doing what he said he expected of himself.
MarcAurele was the Class M champion at 106 pounds as a sophomore and state runner-up at 120 last season before deciding he was no longer going to cut weight. He moved up seven weight classes and has gone undefeated so far this year, coming into the ECC meet at 32-0, maintaining the speed he had as a lightweight but showing off more power, too.
"He's pretty much a machine at this point," Bilheimer said.
The Colonels, who will be defending their Class M state championship next weekend at Jonathan Law in Milford - looking for their 20th title in program history - also saw Caile Johnson reach the finals at 195 pounds and Daric Johnson at 220.
Windham's Seiji Arzuaga decisioned Caile Johnson 6-1, while Daric Johnson fell 6-4 to NFA's Aaron Hebert.
Other local champions were St. Bernard's Matt Dowler at 106, Waterford's Brentt Smith (120) and Sam Lindblom (132), Montville's Tommy Wynosky (126) and Jake Caskey (138) and Fitch's Jordan Kenyon (182).
Dowler and Caskey won by pin. Smith edged Windham's Sebby Ruffino 7-6, Lindblom took Griswold's Zac Cassidy 8-1, Wynosky decisioned Windham's Dominic Rivera 4-1 and Kenyon defeated NFA's Khaleed Exum-Strong 8-4.
Because the tournament was canceled last year due to weather, it was the first ECC title for several of the wrestlers, even the top seeds such as MarcAurele and Smith.
Smith had a tough match with Ruffino, trailing 6-5 before scoring a takedown with 1:03 to go for the final margin. Smith had Ruffino by the leg, holding on with all his might to prevent an escape which would have tied the score.
"I was thinking, 'I'm 15 seconds away from an ECC title,'" Smith said. "No way I'm letting go of this. If I have to go into overtime, I'm going to die.' I beat him, 4-1 during the season, but meeting in the ECC final is a whole different thing. … I started to doubt myself."
Caskey, one of four Montville wrestlers in the finals, pinned Woodstock's Nick Listro in 5:36. It was the first time he faced Listro this season.
"He came out really hard. He was good on his feet, but my takedowns were better," Caskey said. "My style is definitely aggressive. At one of the tournaments I had seen him wrestle, but it didn't matter as much; I'm always focused on what I'm going to do."