Gymnastics Stays Sharp Despite Snow with Wins
Published February 19, 2013. Last updated 01:58 p.m., February 19, 2013
The Tigers' wrestling squad competed in the Class L State Championship on Feb. 15-16 at Bristol Central High School. Hand placed fifth as a team with 150.5 points. Even with the fifth-place spot, the Tigers had a pair of state champions in Matt Elias (106-pound division) and Ben Onofrio (160-pound winner) while 182-pound contestant Kevin Wivell was a runner-up. In the 170 bracket, Connor Carroll placed third and Justin Dwyer placed fourth at 195.
For Elias, the road to his state crown included wins over Lorenzo Ruglio (pin at 1:21), Taylor Scavetta (16-0 decision), George Wales (8-2), and Halim Bourjeli (6-3) in the final. Onofrio followed it up at 160 with triumphs over Zachary Mitlitsky (pin at 36 seconds), Alex Fern (pin at 3:32), top-seeded Jordan Kenyon (6-5), and Cody Carrillo (5-2) in the championship bout.
"It felt really good to win a championship in Class L, something I have been training for four years now," said Elias. "I mainly went out to do it for my family, because no one in it had won a state title before me. I wanted to do something special for them and the team. Over the break due to the snow, I just practiced with the team and by myself in the gym to maintain my weight. I told Coach [Erik Delehanty] that my coaches in football say 'make your last one your best one' and I had to make that final match my best one to win it."
Wivell, who entered the tournament with an undefeated 32-0 regular season, earned three pinfall wins over Will Parker (33 seconds), Alper Ozdemir (2:56), and Gino Rafaniello (3:44) before suffering his first blemish of the year in the final (3-2) to Jimmy Mcdunnah in overtime.
Carroll placed third thanks to his 4-1 win over Dante Futia in the consolation bracket's final after losing to eventual champion Christop Chorzepa (pin 2:22) in the semifinal round of the main bracket. Dwyer found fourth place after losing a tough bout to Joe Fillian 7-0 in the third-place contest of his weight class.
"It was great winning a state title as a sophomore," said Onofrio. "I knew that if I won my weight class, then we would be able to get some points to keep us in the running as a team. Ooverall though, I was very happy to win it. Going into the season with the seniors we graduated, I knew it would be hard for us to repeat as state champs, but we still had a good shot. Everyone worked so hard this season, and did very good at states, but we just had a couple of matches not go our way."
While the four-time defending SCC champion Tigers' gymnastics squad had to wait another week to defend its crown due to Blizzard Nemo, Hand stayed strong with wins over Valley Regional and Haddam-Killingworth/Old Saybrook/Hale-Ray on Feb. 14. Hand collected 136.8 points as a unit, while Valley Regional earned 126.9 and HK/Old Saybrook/Hale-Ray earned 89.15. Hand moved to 14-1 on the season before it competed at the SCC Championship on Feb. 18 at Law.
On the night, Stefani Taschner (9.3) and Kendall Jerzyk (8.8) took first and second for the vault, while Erin Maxwell finished in a tie for third (8.7). For the bars, Taschner and Jerzyk finished in a tie for the third spot as well (8.8).
Moving to the beam, Jerzyk continued her night, finishing second with a mark of 8.9 before winning the floor event with a 9.2. Taschner was not far behind on floor, sporting a 9.0 and a third-place finish. Finally for the all-around, the duo of Jerzyk (35.7) and Taschner (34.5) finished second and third, respectively.
The Tigers defeated SCC foe Cheshire 48-41 on Feb. 14 at home to close the regular season with a 13-7 record, earning the SCC's No. 3 seed.
It was Senior Night at Hand and the final regular season game for both teams. This one was back and forth the whole way with both teams coming out of the gate a little sluggish. Hand hung on to a slim lead for the majority of the first half despite early foul trouble for Hand's leading scorer in Sophie Joel. Entering the third up 25-21, Cheshire took advantage of Hand's offensive difficulties, outscoring the Tigers 11-4 and taking a 32-29 lead into the final frame. The game stayed tight the rest of the way until it looked like things were going to break Cheshire's way. With 4:40 remaining in the game and Hand clinging to a one-point lead, Joel picked up what was thought to be her fourth foul. After sorting it out with the scorer's table, it would be deemed her fifth, forcing her to sit the rest of the way. Cheshire promptly hit two free throws and taking a one-point lead, but the Tigers would respond. On the ensuing possession, Graceann Kraemer came down and hit one of her four three-pointers on the night. After a stop, Kraemer hit Cassidy Wygonik on the run for a conventional three-point play giving the Tigers a five-point lead they would not relinquish.
Kraemer had a career-high 18 points as well as grabbing five rebounds, while Joel chipped in eight points, including a pair of threes. Wygonik scored five points and grabbed 10 boards.
Unfortunately, the Tigers lost to Sacred Heart Acdemy 58-47 in an SCC Tournament quarterfinal matchup at Sheehan on Feb. 16. Hand now sets its eyes on the Class L State Tournament.
The Tigers were finally back on the court following Winter Storm Nemo, but lost a tough SCC contest to Notre Dame-West Haven 58-57 on the road on Feb. 15. Hand is now 8-9 and has lost five out of its last seven games.
Notre Dame jumped out to a 15-4 first-quarter lead behind four three-pointers on its Senior Night, and the Tigers closed the quarter outscoring the Green Knights 7-4, closing the gap to 19-11 at the break. Ryan Wallack, Sam Jablonski, and Chris Teeling ignited the Tigers' offense in the second quarter with the three combining for 14 points, but ND countered on its end with 15 points of their own, taking a 34-25 lead into the half.
The third quarter was much different for the Tigers, as the defense woke up, holding ND to only two field goals and six free throws. Six different players scored for Hand, helping them cut the deficit to 44-40 after three. Wallack and Teeling led the fourth quarter comeback, combining for 11 points in the quarter. A Wallack three with just over five minutes remaining gave the Tigers their first lead of the game. The Tigers led by as many as four in the quarter, but ND wouldn't fold. An ND three-pointer tied the game with less than two minutes remaining and a Green Knights' steal and a layup broke the tie late, giving ND a 55-53 lead. With the game tied at 55, ND took the lead for good at 58-55 with its seventh three of the game. Hand turned the ball over on its next possession, but didn't go quietly. After almost forcing a turnover on the ensuing inbounds play, ND regained possession before Brendan Bilcheck made a steal and a lay-up as time expired.
Wallack finished with 16 points, while Jablonski added seven and six boards. Brendan Hughes scored seven with five dishes, and Teeling had 10 with six boards.
The Tigers' boys' and girls' indoor track squads competed at the Class L State Championship meet on Feb. 15 held at Floyd Little Athletic Center in New Haven. The boys' squad finished 10th with 15.50 points, while the girls' team finished 16th with six points.
Ian Bergere continued his strong postseason in the pole vault as he finished second in the event (12-6) while Richard Sangster came in a tie for fifth for the same event (10-6). Hugh Whelan found a third-place finish for the 55 dash with a mark of 6.60.
The girls were led by two point-worthy performances in both the 1,600 sprint medley and the 4x400 relay. In the 1,600, the group of Jane Butler, Emily Shafer, Madeline Yaggi, Kathryn Phillips, Julia Thompson, and Alyssa Sullivan finished fourth (4:32.59), while the 4x400 team of Butler, Shafer, Molly Citrin, Justine Griffin, Samantha Schaefer, and Lauren Brady came in fifth with a total team time of 4:23.82.