Killingly repeats as ECC champ, but Waterford, New London enjoy success

Groton — Neither New London or Waterford won Saturday’s Eastern Connecticut Conference wrestling team championship.

The Whalers and Lancers were more than happy with their tournament haul, though.

Waterford finished second to defending champion Killingly at Fitch High School, 205.5-186.5, with senior Logan Smith (113 pounds) winning his third ECC title as well as the meet’s Most Outstanding Wrestler honor.

“(It’s) awesome,” Smith said. “We had guys step up. … Everyone wrestled great. Everyone contributed.”

The Whalers had three individual champions, tying Killingly for the most, and also clinched a share of the ECC Division I title with Norwich Free Academy.

“It’s pretty good, right?,” New London head coach Mike Gorton grinned. “It’s awesome. … The guys who stuck around, it’s a nice little reward for them at the end. I’m so happy for them.”

Killingly owned the meet, continuing one of the better seven-day stretches head coach Rich Bowen has ever enjoyed during his 33-year career.

The Redmen went to the Foran Duals on Feb. 2 and knocked off the hosts, 44-30. Foran was ranked in the Connecticut Wrestling Online poll prior to the meet.

That victory also gave Bowen his 600th career win, joining Derby’s Buster Jadach as the only wrestling coaches in state high school history to reach that mark, according to the Connecticut High School Wrestling Record Book.

“I think that actually helped us,” Bowen said about the Foran win. “Coming into here, now we get a little more confidence. ‘Hey, we can go in (to ECCs) and do this again, too.’”

Danny Charron (106), Derek Turner (170) and heavyweight Rene Bernier were Killingly’s individual champions.

New London finished sixth (124 points) as senior Jacob Commander (182) won his third ECC title, and sophomores Naaji Powell-Keyton (120) and Jadien Mackenzie (220) each won their first.

It was the second straight ECC Division I title for the Whalers (they won it outright last season). Winning a share of the title was extra sweet for New London as it finished 5-10 during the regular season.

“It was a down year in terms of our dual (meet) abilities,” Gorton said. “We’ve got a lot of first-and-second year guys, had a few injuries, a couple of kids who went to night school. Every team has those (issues), but this is the most ECC champions since I’ve been coaching (seven seasons).

“We knew we were not a good dual meet team this year, but we have some heavy hitters and can score points in tournaments.”

Commander had one of weekend’s most dominant performances, winning all three of his matches by pin. He took a 10-3 lead over Waterford’s Jackson Harshberger in the first period of their final before pinning Harshberger in 5 minutes, 29 seconds.

Commander never wrestled until he got to New London High School. Now, he’s thinking about continuing it in college.

“That’s actually my plan now,” Commander said. “It was (going to be) football, but it seems like football is not working out.

“I love this sport. I really want to work hard at it.”

It was Smith’s third ECC title as he once again tangled with Killingly’s Mike Charron. Smith led the entire match and won, 12-7, giving up five points on escapes that he gave up to Charron.

Smith beat Charron, 8-5, to win the ECC’s 106-pound title last season. Smith edged Charron in overtime, 9-7, to win the Class M title a week later. Smith won again in December, 3-2.

“He’s a tough kid,” Smith said. “He’s going to keep coming at you regardless of the score. … I should’ve tried to ride him out longer. That’s my fault.”

Ledyard senior Tyler Miller won one of the most tense finals at 132 pounds. He and Dominic Renfree of Norwich Free Academy were scoreless when Miller scored his first points with 35 seconds left and won, 6-0.

Fitch senior Austin Robertson (138) won his second ECC title, while Montville senior Zack Navarrette (160) won his first.

n.griffen@theday.com

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