New London wrestlers finish ECC Division I regular season unbeaten

New London's Naaji Powell-Keyton takes Fitch's Aiden Robertson to his back during their 113-pound match on Monday night at Conway Gymnasium. Powell-Keyton earned a 14-7 decision as the Whalers beat Fitch 57-24 and East Lyme 82-0 to complete an unbeaten ECC Division I season. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
New London's Naaji Powell-Keyton takes Fitch's Aiden Robertson to his back during their 113-pound match on Monday night at Conway Gymnasium. Powell-Keyton earned a 14-7 decision as the Whalers beat Fitch 57-24 and East Lyme 82-0 to complete an unbeaten ECC Division I season. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

New London — The top wrestling team in the Eastern Connecticut Conference's Division I wrestles in a pool.

Okay, to be more specific, New London's wrestling team practices in the school's empty pool.

"It's awesome," Whalers head coach Mike Gorton said. "It's better than the cafeteria. … We've got to be the only team that wrestles in a pool. That's what I keep saying (to the team), that they're going to remember one day, 'Oh, yeah, in high school, we wrestled in a pool.' Every now and then, I stop and am like, 'Oh, yeah — we're in a pool right now.' It's strange, but it's really cool.

"It's got kind of an appeal to it. It has character."

New London has more than made the Spartan arrangement work, apropos for a program that has clawed its way out of the bottom of the ECC and become a force during Gorton's six years as head coach. It beat Fitch (57-24) and East Lyme (82-0) at Conway Gymnasium on Monday night to finish the Division I dual meet season unbeaten (4-0). The Whalers also put themselves in position to win the division at the ECC tournament Friday and Saturday at Fitch.

A team gets one point for every division opponent it beats during the regular season and again at the ECC tournament. Defending champion Ledyard (3-1 in the division) is currently second.

"It's pretty awesome," New London senior co-captain Luis Rodriguez-Veras said. "Wrestling in New London is unknown because we're all about football and basketball, and nobody really cares about the wrestling team.

"This year, we've finally peaked. We showed what we've got, and we showed people not to sleep on us anymore because we're a team that came to compete. Before, we were just a small team, not really the best competitors."

New London is 9-6 overall.

"We have so many people out (for the team)," Whalers senior co-captain Taren Robledo Thompson said. "That just shows how positive this program is and how it's just getting better.

"Unbeaten, it's just a great, great thing to have, but I don't think we're going to stop there. We want to keep going. What would be mind-blowing would to be getting past that, keeping working hard, and continue to blow other's minds."

Fitch is 6-9, 1-3.

"I was nervous about this all day because Fitch is good now," Gorton said. "They've been rising, too."

Senior co-captain Noah Kimball, who wrestled at both 220 pounds and heavyweight, Robledo Thompson (120) and Rodriguez-Veras (170) won twice by pin for the Whalers.

New London's Teshua Williams (160), Adam Garcia (138), Jacob Commander (195) and Max Commander (132) all won by pin against Fitch. Naaji Powell-Keyton won a decision at 113, and senior co-captain Xavier Alvarez (182) and Daniella Rodriguez (106) both won by forfeit.

The Whalers' Brayden Rodriguez (152) won by pin against East Lyme (3-11, 0-4), which wrestled just four matches against New London.

Jarod Kosman (120), Austin Robertson (145), Keith McDonald (152) and Dakota Grover (220) all won by pin for Fitch. Sam Light of Stonington, who wrestles with Fitch, won a decision at 140 pounds.

"We had a small group of kids (six years ago)," Gorton said. "They were getting hyped about getting top 15 at states. It's kind of the same feeling now (the excitement), just higher expectations. It is crazy."

n.griffen@theday.com

New London’s Adam Garcia puts a pinning combination on Fitch’s Vincent Trento during their 138 lb match on Monday night. Garcia’s pin helped the Whalers beat the Falcons 57-24. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
New London’s Adam Garcia puts a pinning combination on Fitch’s Vincent Trento during their 138 lb match on Monday night. Garcia’s pin helped the Whalers beat the Falcons 57-24. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Fitch's Dakota Grover putsa pinning combination onf New London's David Class-Carbonella during their 220 pound match on Monday night. Grover completed the pin, but the Falcons lost to the Whalers 57-24. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Fitch's Dakota Grover putsa pinning combination onf New London's David Class-Carbonella during their 220 pound match on Monday night. Grover completed the pin, but the Falcons lost to the Whalers 57-24. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

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