Willimantic - It's been four years since Ledyard High School hoisted a state championship wrestling trophy, which for most programs doesn't seem like a very long time.
Ledyard, however, isn't like most wrestling programs.
The Colonels, who already own more class championships than any team in Connecticut history, added to their lore on Saturday night by securing title No. 18 for their trophy case with an impressive showing in the Class M tournament at Windham High School.
In what turned into another show of power by the Eastern Connecticut Conference, Ledyard led a 1-2-3-4-5 finish by ECC schools, finishing with 260 points to outdistance the host Whippets (232), two-time defending champion Bacon Academy (148), Montville (134) and Waterford (115).
"We definitely wanted to get No. 18, especially after Ansonia got to 17 in football," said Ledyard senior Alex Manwaring, who won the 160-pound title with a 10-6 win over Windham's Devyn Petsa. Ansonia, you might remember, beat Ledyard in the Class M football final in December. "This is a storied program with lots of tradition. Wrestling is a huge part of the Ledyard community. Everywhere we go we run into people who know about us and former wrestlers who have stories to tell."
Unlike a week ago, when Ledyard blew away Windham and the rest of the field in the ECC tournament, this time the Colonels were challenged by the Whippets, who actually had more finalists (six) than Ledyard (five).
But Colonels won both head-to-head meetings - Manwaring decisioned Devyn Petsa 10-6 and Devon MarcAurele (106) pinned Sebby Ruffino in just 55 seconds in the final match of the night - and also picked up a win from Josh Lawrence at 220. Lawrence beat Bacon's P.J. Sawicki 15-3 in a rematch of last week's ECC final.
"I was very worried in the morning," Ledyard coach Steve Bilheimer said. "Windham's a tough team, so I had a lot of concerns … but the kids pulled through. This is not only a very talented group, but a motivated one, too. They're definitely deserving of this."
Added Lawrence: "If your personal goals can be accomplished, then the team accomplishments take care of themselves. That's what makes this so satisfying."
Brandon Finney (138) and Mike Spellman (182) were Ledyard's other finalists, and the Colonels will bring 12 of their 14 wrestlers to next week's State Open.
"Winning No. 18 was our goal from the beginning," said Spellman, a senior who lost to top-seeded Joel Wamser of Brookfield, 5-2. "I knew we had so much talent on this team, I really wanted this to be the year."
Bacon had a solid tournament, despite suffering huge graduation losses from a year ago when the Bobcats won the ECC, Class M and State Open titles. Bacon placed four underclassmen in the finals - junior Matt McAllister (113), sophomore Chris Elrod (120), sophomore Howie Kilpatrick (126) and junior Sawicki (220). Elrod was the only champion, defeating Alex Heston of Avon 6-4.
Waterford had a pair of finalists, but top-seeded Tom Millaras lost to Foran's Clay Callahan 6-1 at 145 and fourth-seeded Matt Tulba was beaten by No. 2 Joe Murphy of Avon 10-4 at 182. And the region's other finalist, Lyman Memorial/Windham Tech's Darick Orange, lost to Windham's Wolfgang Fiascanaro 4-2 at 285.
Windham junior Miguel Calixto (132), who won his third straight class title by pinning Brookfield's Blaise Boulliane in 1:44, was named the meet's Outstanding Wrestler.