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Senior Ben Falivene finished his wrestling career representing Valley Regional by taking second place in the 285-pound weight class at the Class S State Championship this year. During his four seasons, Ben practiced with and competed alongside the Morgan wrestling team, becoming a leader for the squad. (Photo courtesy of Ben Falivene )
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After representing Valley Regional for the past four years, Ben Falivene finished up his high school wrestling career with great senior season this winter. Ben claimed a second-place finish in the 285-pound division at the Class S State Championship to earn a spot at the State Open, where he picked up a victory competing among Connecticut’s best. Ben finished with a record of 23-10 on the year, winning 22 of those bouts via pinfall.
Since Valley Regional doesn’t have a wrestling program, Ben practices and travels with the team at Morgan. In postseason meets, he scores points on behalf of the Warriors. Ben experienced some great moments on the mat over the years, but nothing topped reaching the championship match at the Class S meet.
“Winning my state semifinal match, that was a big win for me. It doesn’t get much better than that,” Ben says. “I don’t think I’ve ever had so much energy after I’ve won a match. I was really excited.”
To earn his big victories, Ben’s strategy is to be methodical in his movements. One false move can easily lead to the wrong end of a pinfall, so Ben has to exercise caution every step of the way.
“When I’m in a match, I usually try to take it slow and work my moves. Don’t rush. That’s how I make mistakes,” says Ben, an Essex resident. “The smallest mistake can make you lose a match. Also, if I have a chance to watch a match of who I’m wrestling against, I can see what they do and try to counter it.”
Ben is considered a team-of-one when he wrestles side-by-side with Morgan at the Huskies’ meets. However, Ben doesn’t feel separate from any of the athletes on the Morgan squad.
“I’ve never felt like I was a team-of-one. I always felt like I was part of their team. I just wore a different uniform,” says Ben. “They cheered for me, and I cheered for them. It was a great experience.”
In his senior season, Ben decided that he would take a proactive role as a leader for Morgan. With plenty of experience under his belt, many of Ben’s compatriots looked to him for guidance.
“The first day of practice this season, we were warming up, and I put myself in the middle of the circle,” Ben says. “I decided I was going to be a leader and be an influence on the younger kids.”
First-year Head Coach Darren Hicks appreciates what Ben brought to the Huskies both on and off the mat this season. Hicks says that Ben was essentially a senior captain after taking on such a big leadership role.
“Ben’s a good wrestler. He went the distance. Heavyweight is a tough class. One move can be critical. The kids looked up to him and rooted for him,” Hicks says. “Ben was here for four years. He was a Morgan wrestler other than his uniform. I could see it with the other kids. He was right in the middle of the mat with the Morgan captains. All the kids looked up to him, and he was as much a leader as the other three captains.”
Ben also had a nice career with the Valley Regional-Old Lyme football team. Ben was versatile player for the Warriors who filled multiple positions on the offensive and defensive lines. Ben believes that his time with the Valley coaching staff was invaluable, especially Head Coach Tim King and defensive coordinator Bobby Sanchez.
“Coach King really pushed me. He was our offensive line coach. He did an amazing job,” says Ben. “Coach King and the rest of the staff, especially Coach Sanchez, really pushed me in the weight room. They helped me achieve my goals and made me a lot stronger and faster. Everyone on our coaching staff is great at pushing guys to be strong and fast to be a successful football team.”
Ben found that the skills he learned on the football field proved quite useful in the wrestling ring.
“In football, you need to be explosive on the line. That helped me in wrestling. When you take a shot, you have to drive with power, and you have to be quick,” Ben says. “You need similar skills in both. You need to be strong and aggressive, and you need to be smart. There’s a lot of technique in both.”
Ben plans to wrestle in college and is pursuing an opportunity at Western New England University in Springfield, Massachusetts. Ben knows what it takes to pin down victories, and wants to continue doing that at the collegiate level.
“In wrestling, everyone has a chance to win. You just have to go out there and wrestle, know what you have to do, and do what you need to do,” says Ben, who thanks his father Joe Falivene, the rest of his family, and all of his coaches. “I want to wrestle in college. I’m talking to Western New England. That’s where I would like to end up. They seem to think I can be something special there.”
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