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New Haven - One thing Devon MarcAurele has found out about himself this season: he needs to be around wrestling.
MarcAurele, a senior at Ledyard High School who previously considered giving up wrestling in college to attend an Ivy League school, announced at Saturday's State Open wrestling tournament at the Floyd Little Athletic Center that he's having too much fun to quit.
MarcAurele lost the 170-pound final to Danbury's Juan Garcia, 5-1, saying it felt like he hit a "brick wall." It was his first loss of the season, heading to next weekend's New England championship meet with 42-1 record.
All three local Eastern Connecticut Conference wrestlers to reach the Open finals lost. St. Bernard/Norwich Tech sophomore Matt Dowler (106) ended a 48-match winning streak with a 7-1 defeat to Danbury's Paulo Freitas, while Montville senior Jake Caskey (132) fell 3-2 against Xavier's Will Chowanec on an escape with three seconds remaining.
Danbury, which finished third in last week's Class LL tournament, won the meet with 141 points, with New Milford second at 114.5. Montville was 10th with 71. Bacon Academy's Howie Kilpatrick (145) was named Outstanding Wrestler.
MarcAurele was undeterred, despite the loss.
"He was a big kid," MarcAurele said. "… That's good for you. You learn more from your losses than you do from your wins. It just makes me hungrier."
MarcAurele, competing in his first State Open final, wrestled at 120 last year, cutting a significant amount of weight to do so before deciding to end that practice this year. He said that constantly trying to lose weight - he ate one protein bar per meal before weigh-ins, he said - was one of the contributing factors to willing his wrestling career to be over.
"The past couple years I was like, 'I want to be done after high school. I want to be done after high school,'" MarcAurele said. "This year, I actually have breakfast sometimes before weigh-ins."
MarcAurele began Saturday with a 5-4 victory over Westhill's Martin Chobanyan in the quarterfinals, using an escape with four seconds remaining. He then pinned Gabe Vega of Cheshire in the semifinals in 1 minute, 46 seconds.
"I'm happy with my day," said MarcAurele, who is still deciding where he'll wrestle in college. "I wrestled well overall."
"Overall he wrestled a lot better this year," Ledyard coach Steve Bilheimer said. "He's had a good year. He's happy, energetic on and off the mat and positive. … I like to see guys want to compete."
Meanwhile, Dowler, who wears the label "Mr. Grumpy" on the back of his warmup jacket due to his intensity, found himself smiling after a 9-2 semifinal victory over Zachary Murillo of Southington. Dowler led 9-0 after two periods.
In the final, however, Dowler (48-2) trailed 4-0 when he was thrown by Freitas and clearly shaken up.
"He's a little stunned," St. Bernard coach Tom Dowler, Matt's dad, said after the match. "But it is what it is. The goal was to get to next week."
As for Caskey, the Outstanding Wrestler at last week's Class S state tournament, he was forced to compete this week with a mask - a black mask, apparently only against regulations in the NBA - after breaking his nose in the state meet. It was more difficult that he anticipated.
"Earlier today, actually, a screw came out. The mask was falling off my face, cutting into my head," Caskey said after his first-period pin of Hand's Ashton Gyenizs in the semifinals.
Caskey (46-2) tied his championship match, the last of the day, on a reverse in the first period which made it 2-2. The second period featured a lot of action, but no points. With Caskey in the top position to start the third period, he had Chowanec in his grasp prior to the escape.
The top four finishers in each weight class are eligible for the New England tournament.
Other local placewinners were Montville's Tommy Wynosky (4th, 126 pounds), Fitch's Jordan Kenyon (5th, 182) and Montville's Joel Morth (6th, 113).