Wrestling: Speed bump served as wake up call

By MICHAEL LETENDRE

STAFF WRITER

BRISTOL – On its way to yet another Class L state championship, the Bristol Eastern wrestling squad hit a late-season bump in the road.

And over the last three campaigns, it was pretty smooth sailing for the Lancers.

But on that fateful, Saturday, Feb. 2, the Bristol Eastern wrestling program cruised into the finals of the New Fairfield Duels – defeating New Fairfield and Bethel by a combined 144-12 score – to take on Simsbury in the finals of the event.

Little did anyone know how Eastern and Simsbury would be so intertwined to finish out the 2018-19 campaign.

It was an excellent battle between the programs but in the end, the Trojans snuck out a 36-30 upset – handing the Bristol program its first loss since the 2016-17 season and ending one of the state’s best ever duel match win streaks.

Simsbury came into the New Fairfield Duels on one of the biggest hot streaks in the state, fresh off a huge upset of Southington.

The Trojans victory over the Lancers put a bigger light on the program and its Class L championship aspirations.

“That was a good match, a good meet,” said Lishness of Simsbury encounter at the New Fairfield Duels. “We had a couple kids underperform there. And part of that was on the coaches not keeping them on point emotionally as hard as you try.”

But there wasn’t any panic by the Lancers’ squad as the team simply got back to work.

Eastern turned away Central four days later and there wasn’t much time in between because the Lancers and Trojans were right in the state championship mix over Feb. 15-16 from Bristol Central High School.

And in the end, only half a point separated the two schools in the final standings, 204.5-204, for the Class L title.

That victory saw Eastern go 3-for-3 in state championship wins over the last three years.

There might have been a little edge to Eastern that weekend in those showdowns against Simsbury.

One such battle was a third-place bout at 113 pounds between Eastern’s Mason Lishness and Simsbury’s Alex Kasson – a rematch from the New Fairfield Duels.

At the Duels, Lishness was a 2-1 winner via decision but when the duo got together at the Class L event, the Bristol Eastern grappler was even more lethal – racking up a bigger 7-1 decision for the victory.

And Alex Marshall, who lost at the Fairfield Duels, got a measure of revenge with a pin-fall victory over Simbury’s Aiden Brown.

At 170 pounds, Joe Morelli was a winner with a pin in 5:12 against the Trojans’ Will Henry so there were important bouts – and wins – by the Lancers over the Trojans who was able to win the biggest prize of them all.

Sometimes, a loss – at the right time of the year – is an invaluable learning tool for the right program.

It’s called a good loss though the record books may not reflect it as such.

When the Bristol Eastern volleyball team took an undefeated streak into the second round of the Central Connecticut Conference Volleyball Tournament 2005, the program finally lost a match.

The Lancers ended up losing that contest to Maloney 3-1 for their first setback of the campaign.

At the time, Eastern coach Gail Ericson wasn’t pleased with the loss but used the defeat to motivate her squad going into state tournament play.

The Lancers turned it into another championship for the program – the first of two consecutive titles.

The loss ended up being a good one in the end.

And Lishness saw what the defeat in the finals of the New Fairfield Duels truly meant.

It was a tool for motivation, for understanding, and a guide to show his troops what could happen if Eastern didn’t perform at its best.

Losses can be used as wake up calls and an occasional setback isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

A third consecutive Class L championship proved the point that losses aren’t always negative.

“I think sometimes, coaches say there’s no such thing as a good loss,” said Lishness. “Well, there is. There is such a thing as a good loss especially if it kind of allows you to reset and refocus.”

“And I hoping that’s what the team [will be] doing from that [loss].”

And look what happened from there, after that good loss.

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Michael Letendre, email him at MLetendre@BristolObserver.com.