Ledyard wrestlers take a gamble, win ECC DII showdown with Waterford
Ledyard — One has long come to expect Ledyard High School wrestling to have the ability to grind out close matches and finish with a win.
The Colonels showed Wednesday night that they’re willing to gamble, too.
Ledyard senior Adam Crawford fought his way back to tie Waterford's Jackson Harshberger with over 30 seconds left in a 182-pound, must-win match and the Colonels trailing with two matches left.
Crawford then opted to let Harshberger up, giving up a point in hopes he could take him down to go ahead.
The gambit worked. Crawford scored a takedown with 7.8 seconds left for the win and Tim Dorr followed with a pin at 195 pounds to clinch a 37-27 win for Ledyard in an Eastern Connecticut Conference Division II match.
“Throughout the match, I was able to get my doubles (double-leg takedown) on him,” Crawford said. “He was just good with his hips, rolling me through.
“I was confident in my doubles.”
Ledyard is 9-3, 2-0.
Crawford fell behind with 18 seconds left in the first period. He trailed 8-6 going into the third and tied it with a takedown with 1 minute, 10 seconds left.
Crawford and Ledyard coach Steve Bilheimer decided to surrender a point.
“He has a lot in his gas tank,” Bilheimer said. “I had a feeling he’d be able to take him down.
“It was stressful. As a wrestler myself, I had to do that at the State Open once. It was a quarterfinal match, it was tied up with about the same amount of time left. It was scary, but you have to have confidence at the same time. He got it done.”
Crawford’s late takedown put the Standish Gymnasium crowd on tilt as he held on for a 10-9 win to put Ledyard ahead to stay 28-27.
“I got off a shot (at a takedown) and he blocked it, but I knew I had a chance to get another,” Crawford said. “(Bilheimer) was expecting a pin out of me, but that kid was tough. He was strong.”
Dorr put the match away with a pin.
Crawford’s match was Ledyard’s second white-knuckle win of the night. Senior Cole Dirico scored a takedown with 18 seconds left to turn a two-point deficit into a 4-3 win over Eric Kane.
“Grinding out close matches, I attribute that a lot to our schedule,” Bilheimer said. “We wrestle a really tough schedule. I think we’re going to see every single team in the (Connecticut Wrestling Online) Top 10 (state coaches’) poll except (top-ranked) Danbury.”
Ledyard beat Waterford by a point in four of Wednesday’s matches.
“Waterford does this, too,” Bilheimer continued. “They wrestle a good schedule. Some teams out there, they wrestle the weakest schedule they can, frankly. They’ll win those dual meets, 68-6, but how many of those kids are challenged? So when it gets to be a challenging match, they have a hard time. I like to think our kids are just used to that. … ‘I have to dig deep to win.’ We kind of pride ourselves on that.”
Caden Foote (152) won by pin for the Colonels and Jacob Foster (120) and Ty Miller (132) both won by technical fall. Dirico (132), Mason Barnett (145), Anthony Rose (220) and heavyweight Davin McIver all had decisions, too.
Waterford (10-3, 1-2) won four matches by pin — Mason Concascia (106), Logan Smith (113), Joe Morgan (126) and Jacob Gannotti (170). A.J. Sachatello won a decision at 160.
“We know Ledyard was going to be tough,” Waterford coach Chris Gamble said. “They’re tough every year. We knew that we had to win close matches and we didn’t. They won a lot of the close matches.
“Finish. You’ve got to finish the job.”