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Groton - His teammates refer to Matt Dowler as "grumpy" sometimes.
"He gets in a zone," St. Bernard School coach Tom Dowler said of his son, a sophomore for the Saints. "He's a very intense person. He's on a mission. He's all about wrestling 24-7."
Matt Dowler won the Eastern Connecticut Conference wrestling title at 106 pounds Sunday at Fitch, pinning Norwich Free Academy's Matt Foster in 44 seconds to lead off the championship round.
He was 38-1 entering the tournament. In fact, for December, when he was named ECC Male Athlete of the Month for all sports, Dowler was 10-0 with nine pins, making it to the second period just once. His total wrestling time during those 10 matches was 4 minutes, 22 seconds.
It's for that reason that when Dowler says he wants to wrestle in college for a Division I program and perhaps someday make it to the Olympics, Tom Dowler doesn't doubt his son's sincerity.
"When my dad was first introducing me to wrestling, I looked it up on YouTube and I saw Rulan Gardner (of the U.S.) against Alexander Karelin (of Russia). He's one of favorite wrestlers of all time; he's the one that drove me to want to be in the Olympics. … I know to do it I have to bust my (butt) every day. All I need is the intensity.'
Dowler, who lives in Old Saybrook, trains in West Warwick, R.I., at the Mayo Quanchi Judo and Wrestling Club, where Serge Bouyssou is the owner and head coach. Bouyssou was the coach of the U.S. judo team at the 2010 World Youth Olympics and his daughter Katelyn has competed internationally.
Dowler said being under Bouyssou's instruction has helped him extensively.
"Just with his focus," Tom Dowler said of Bouyssou's influence on his son. "It helps him not to get so wound up about everything."
This is Matt's first season with his dad, a former Southington High heavyweight with a great deal of coaching experience, as head coach. Tom Dowler was third in Class LL in the 1979 state championship meet.
"It's great. I love it," Matt Dowler said. "My dad's been coaching me since I was real young. I'd like to thank my athletic director (Brendan Case) for hiring him. He knows all my moves, how I can wrestle. I don't know what I would do without him."
The St. Bernard program, which is a cooperative with Norwich Tech, bumping the Saints up to compete in Class M at next week's state meet, has doubled its numbers to approximately 24 wrestlers, Tom Dowler said.
Matt started this season with a loss to Ellis Tech's JoJo Gonzalez and since then has reeled off 41 straight victories. The top seed in the ECC meet he won by pin in the quarterfinals before adding a 2-0 decision over Ledyard's Derek Schultz in the semifinals.
Dowler has tournament titles this year at the Eagle Holiday Bash in Turners Falls, Mass., the Knight Hawk Classic in Holyoke, Mass., and the Chad Antoch Memorial tournament in Westerly.