Terryville Ready to Rumble at BL Wrestling Tournament...By John Torsiello.
Senior Joe Bellmay made it perfectly clear when he said the Terryville High School wrestling team is going into Monday’s Berkshire League Wrestling Tournament at the Gilbert School in Winsted with one goal, “To finish what we have started.”
The Kangaroos won the BL Tournament last year for the first time since 1987 and used that victory as a springboard toward a thus far magical 2012-13 season, during which they won their first BL regular season title since 1989 by going 5-0 and beating arch-rival and longtime ruler of the BL roost, Nonnewaug, in the process. They also posted some nice non-league wins over teams like Canton, Derby, Pomperaug, New Fairfield, Waterford and RHAM, some of those schools Class L or Class LL. The Kangaroos, who have an overall record of 14-3, also want to finish off the BL season in style for another reason.
“We want to win it for our coach (Peter Veleas) and see the smile on his face afterwards,” said senior Dan Folino.
Terryville has been dominant in the BL this season, beating Gilbert, Northwestern, Thomaston and Housatonic and giving those four opponents just 20 points combined, and topping a very good Nonnewaug squad, 46-29.
“Wrestling is a big deal at the school now,” said junior Sam Ferreira. “The kids were always going to basketball and soccer games but now they are coming to the wrestling matches and enjoying it.”
Says senior Avery Ellegard, “Winning the BL Tournament last year gave us a lot of momentum and we have a team that enjoys working together. We’re going into this year’s tournament looking for blood.”
Terryville had a solid core of returning wrestlers to start the season with, led by Ellegard, Ferreria, junior Justin Pronovost and sophomore Elliott Wilion. All four won BL individual titles and finished third at the Class S meet last season; Ellegard at 138, Ferreria at 126, Pronovost at 182 and Wilion at 120. Bellmay wrestles at 145 and Folino at 152, while Tyler Bergeron, a talented sophomore, is a solid 160-pounder. Ellegard, Ferreria, Ballmay and Folino are captains.
The man behind the emergence of Terryville wrestling during the past several years is Veleas, who is in his 14th year at the helm. Terryville has always been competitive but the past few years have seen a deepening of the talent level of the squad and the result has been wins instead of close losses to the better teams.
“In the past we had five or six guys who were good but we didn’t have that depth. Now we do and it shows. Last year we had Scott LaMar, who won the Class S title at 160 and was fourth at the New England meet and was an outstanding wrestler as a senior. We don’t have anybody who is head and shoulders better than other guys but we have a lot of very good wrestlers who work well together as a team and that is why we have been successful.”
He added, “Plus, winning the BL Tournament last year and going on to finish third at Class S was a big boost to the guys who were coming back. They knew they were good and could wrestle at a high level, so it made them work even harder during the off-season and commit to the program totally.”
Veleas said the team’s goal is to win the BL Tournament, cap off a great league season, and finish the top five at Class S.
“I think we can do very well at the tournament and states if everybody wrestles the way they are capable of. We have had a few recent small injuries and nicks but we are in pretty good shape.”
Veleas wrestled at Berlin High School under coach Jim Day and put in one year on the mat at Southern Connecticut State University.
“We had several good wins out of the league this year against Class L and Class LL schools, which showed the kids they can wrestle with the best in the state. Beating Trumbull was big and we lost by only four to a very good Berlin team.”
Folino said Terryville wrestling is back to say.
“We had good teams back in the 1980’s and 1990’s and fell off for awhile but the program is in good shape now. We had 40 guys out for the team this season and wrestling has become an in sport for athletes. Joey and I played football in Bristol as youngsters and when we got to high school we didn’t have a football team so we turned to wrestling. It’s been a great sport for us.”
Terryville will go in as the clear favorite on Monday but the team isn’t taking anything for granted. Like Bellmay said, the Kangaroos will be there trying to finish what they have started.
The BL Tournament begins at 10 a.m.