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Montville - Gary Wilcox plans to gather his Montville High School wrestling team before practice this afternoon and offer a simple message.
"We're 19-2, we're still a very good team and we've still got a lot of season left," Wilcox said.
"We just had a bad night."
Unfortunately, the Indians also caught Windham on a good night ... a very good night.
In a matchup of the Eastern Connecticut Conference's best Small Division teams, Windham needed just 16 minutes and 17 seconds of mat time to assume a quick 27-0 lead, and the Whippets were able to ride that early momentum to a surprisingly easy 44-14 victory over the Indians on Wednesday night.
"That's my fault," Wilcox said of Montville's sub-par effort. "And I take the blame for that, but we'll get back on track."
The good news for Montville (19-2, 5-1) is it will get two more chances to beat the Whippets (12-3, 5-0). The rivals will wrestle in the ECC tournament on Feb. 14-15 at Fitch before squaring off again in the Class S state tournament the following weekend at Windham, where the Whippets will attempt to defend their state championship.
But on this night, Windham was just the better team. The Whippets sandwiched a pair of pins by Hector Alvarado (220 pounds) and Julio Flores (106) around a forfeit at 285 to take an 18-0 lead, then kept the momentum when unbeaten Jacob Martin secured a two-point reversal just before the final horn sounded to defeat Joel Morth 5-4 and make it 21-0.
Windham's Sebby Ruffino followed with a third-period pin at 120 to make it 27-0 and Montville never recovered.
"For the most part we couldn't get the momentum back," Wilcox said. "It should have been a much closer match, and congratulations to them, but I will tell you this. We will not have a performance like that again because they will work harder and will come back. Sometimes it's good to lose this time of year. They've been winning and winning and winning, and sometimes a loss sets you right."
The Indians' only victories - save a forfeit win at 170 - were decisions by Tommy Wynosky (9-3 at 126), Jacob Caskey (4-1 at 145) and Jacob Schmalz (3-2 at 152).
The Whippets, who wound up winning 11 matches, earned three close decisions of their own - Michael Rivera (9-7 in overtime at 138), Elijah Sanchez (11-7 at 182) and Seiji Arzuaga (5-2 at 195).
"They're a good team," Windham coach Pat Risley said of Montville. "I knew there would be a lot of closes matches and we ended up winning a lot of those close matches that made the score the way it is. There were several toss-up matches and if (Montville) had pulled those out it was going to be a much tougher meet.
"I give Joel Morth a lot of credit. My kid (Martin) is undefeated and wrestling at a very high level and Morth really took it to him tonight. Fortunately, we were able to pull it out at the buzzer."
And Montville would never get back into the match.
"Momentum was huge in this match," Wilcox said. "When you get off to the kind of start (Windham) did, their kids are going to wrestler harder and it makes us wrestle more desperate because we want to get pins and it makes us do things we don't want to do ... We'll see them at the ECCs and will see them at the state meet, and hopefully we'll avenge some of those close losses."