Fairfield Ludlowe's wrestling team -- the two-time champions of its annual invitational tournament -- was looking for a little more competition this winter. The Falcons got just that, in fact settling for a runner-up finish behind one of the tourney's new additions, Newtown. The host team, even so, had plenty of standout performances on the mats during the Ludlowe Invitational on Dec. 21.
The Falcons scored 207 points to easily beat out third-place Bethel -- another of the tougher competition additions -- which scored 158.5. Newtown, with 286, won the 12-team tourney. Fairfield Prep came in sixth with 119 points.
Ludlowe, which placed eighth in the 2013 CIAC Class L championships, unrolled the mats for eight other schools last year and, this winter, added Newtown (11th in Class LL), Bethel (13th Class L), and New Britain (13th LL), the latter of which came in fifth with 129 points behind fourth-place finisher Brien McMahon of Norwalk (147).
The Falcons were led by 120-pound division wrestler Ben Batulanon, a senior, who won his bracket in the tourney for the fourth time, and also captured the Most Outstanding Wrestler Award for the invitational. Batulanon used a third-period reversal to defeat Ed Lovely, of Newtown, 2-0 in the finals
Ludlowe's two other champions were sophomore Austin Sherman at 106 pounds and sophomore Marcus Sherrod at 126. Second-place Ludlowe winners were junior George Wales at 113, sophomore Bobby Clark at 132 and sophomore Chase Lind at 152. Other place winners for Ludlowe were third-place junior Konstantin Suvorov at 145, fourth-place senior Eric Kirchgasser at 113 and sixth-place finisher Austin Reid at 138.
Sherman dominated his weight class and won 7-4 over Thomas Leuci, of Newton. Sherrod also had a very strong performance in winning 6-3 against Mike Calvo of New Britain in the finals.
Prep had one champion as Nicholas Crowle, only two days removed as a star on Prep's Class LL runner-up football team, earned top honors in the 285 bracket by pinning New Britain's Patrick Malchar in 1:00. The Jesuits also had five other top-five finishers: Kevin Zenter was third at 106, Michael Russo placed fourth at 120, Matthew Freed was fifth at 132, Jack Bosken came in fifth at 152 and Robert Fumai finished fourth at 195.
"We're trying to make the tournament more competitive, so our guys have good matches," Ludlowe coach Nick Garoffolo said of adding those solid programs from around the state.
Ludlowe already had its invitational and the annual tourney at cross-town rival Fairfield Warde on the schedule, and Garoffolo added two more tournaments this year: The Danbury Tournament and the East Windsor Rodney Smith Classic.
"I did that to give our good kids a chance to wrestle good competition," Garoffolo said. "You need to wrestle other good kids to learn to wrestle against good kids."
"I was very pleased with my team's performance. I was glad we had Newtown there. Some of my best guys got some tough matches from the Newtown boys and that's why we wrestle -- we want to have the best competition we can get. That's we are going to the Danbury Invitational this Saturday and to the Warde Invitational next Saturday."
These tournaments make for a long day of competition -- as many as four matches in a day for those who wrestle all the way to the final round. The invitational began in the morning and finished after nightfall
"It's definitely fun, but it's always tough because there's always somebody better than you out there. You just have to fight for it," Ludlowe 152-pound wrestler Lee Stenild-Johanson said.