By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – The 2019 Bristol Observer Male Athlete of the Year came down to one warrior who has been tearing it up scholastically since he stepped on the wrestling mats at Bristol Eastern.
You probably already know who I’m talking about.
But narrowing the field in choosing that AOY was tough because the 2018-19 campaign saw so many local highlights by countless athletes.
Pick a track athlete from Bristol Central (track and field’s Jose Ramirez would be a no-brainer).
A few St. Paul Catholic lacrosse players come to mind and Central basketball stud Donavan Clingan had a season for the ages as just a freshman.
In the end, I wanted to highlight a guy with multiple championships – making an impact for both himself and his team – and the 2019 Bristol Observer Male Athlete of the Year is obviously Bristol Eastern’s Trinidad Gonzalez.
I think this year’s pick was a no-brainer.
Let’s be frank about Gonzalez.
The grappler left Bristol Eastern as one of its most prolific scholastic wrestlers ever to come through the program.
Maybe guys like Mikey Barrett won more matches or others had a higher match winning percentage but no one in school history – or the city for that matter – has won three straight scholastic state titles at three different weights.
And the three consecutive Bristol Eastern Class L championships he helped deliver, it’s a tally that’s not going to be matched for a long time.
Currently, three individual titles and three team champions is a legacy no other wrestler can boast about in the Mum City.
Grappling in the 220 pounds division as a senior, Gonzalez waged 48 battles on the mats, coming away victorious in all but two of those.
That’s a 95.8 winning percentage in his final season on the mats.
Overall, Gonzalez left the Bristol Eastern wrestling program with a stellar 136-24 record that included Class L state titles at 170, 195, and 220 pounds.
That individual success also led to an unprecedented run by the Eastern wrestling program as a team.
Over Gonzalez’s four campaigns, the Lancers captured three state titles and as a freshman, Eastern was the runner up in 2016.
That’s all legacy building blocks and a foundation the wrestling program from Bristol Eastern was helped built upon.
But after helping his squad defeat all the competition at the Class L event, including an amazing Simsbury squad, he went to the State Open and New England level and made impacts there as well.
Gonzalez opened the Class L championship as the number one seed at 220 pounds and showed the capacity crowd at Bristol Central why he was the top grappler at that weight class.
In the end, his 7-3 decision over Wethersfield’s Austin Harnish sealed the Lancers third straight Class L championship (204.5 points to 204 over Simsbury) in another amazing team finish.
He actually won his tournament matches in a variety of fashions which included a pin-fall and a major decision – showing plenty of versatility.
Gonzalez later helped the Lancers capture fourth place at the 2019 CIAC State Open event.
And, of course, Gonzalez won the 220-division there too, defeating Shelton’s Ray Weiner by a 2-1 decision for the title.
That finish is usually how his matches went down. And don’t let all those low scoring decisions fool you.
Once Gonzalez got his opponent down on the match, those individuals mostly stayed there.
He’s taken on so many bigger competitors, especially as a senior, but opponents weren’t going to grapple point-for-point against the stud.
However, Gonzalez wasn’t afraid to toss an opponent or two around.
At the New England championships, for instance, he overwhelmed Owen MacMillian from Brookline, N.H. 17-1 that included several takedowns and near-falls before rolling up a technical decision.
Once again, that versatility made Gonzalez one of the best ever scholastically in Bristol.
And to top it all off this year, he placed third at the New England tournament.
The showcase event saw Gonzalez rattle off five straight wins on his way to the third place match where he defeated Noah Gifford of Concord, N.H. by a 3-1 decision.
Again, another close battle with Gonzalez in control from nearly start to finish.
He also accomplished a scholastic trifecta in terms of postseason awards.
Gonzalez earned All-Conference, All-State and All-New England honors to complete his final year as a member of the Bristol Eastern wrestling program.
The Bristol Eastern wrestling team lost just once over the last three years and, in terms of state rankings, Gonzalez helped his squad to a No. 2 ranking in the polls.
The kid is tough and, unfortunately, opposing grapplers have been on the wrong end of several encounters against Gonzalez.
At a meet against Platt of Meriden as a junior, Gonzalez dropped an opponent on the mats so hard, the match had to be stopped to make sure the young man was able to continue.
And against Bristol Central this past year, Gonzalez overwhelmed his opponent in just seven seconds, earning a pinfall win just as the match was unfolding.
Gonzalez conquered the best in the state and, years later, when he brings his kids back to Thomas M. Monahan Gymnasium on the campus of Bristol Eastern, there’s going to be three banners he’s going to be able to brag about.
But he also competed in other sports at Bristol Eastern.
Gonzalez was one of the statistical leaders in football this season despite an early season injury hampering his play.
He still was the top tackler on the football squad while second in tackles for losses, and third in carries offensively.
Again, that versatility made Gonzalez a very special athlete.
He’s also a character on and off the field and he’ll talk to anyone who wants to have a conversation with him.
And after watching Gonzalez nearly German suplex a Wethersfield player out of his cleats on defense this past fall at a Bristol Eastern football game, my dad said he would love to see Trinidad in the WWE one day.
With all that Gonzalez has accomplished at the scholastic level, he might be able to lay the smackdown on a more national level someday.
Bristol Observer Male AOY — Trinidad Gonzalez, Bristol Eastern
- At 220 pounds, Gonzalez went 46-2 for the 2018-19 season, winning the Class L championship in his weight-class and for his team.
- Won three Class L titles, all at different weights (170, 195, 220 pounds).
- Captured the Connecticut Open Championship while placing third at the New England event as a senior.
- His 7-3 decision over Wethersfield’s Austin Harnish sealed the Lancers third straight Class L championship (204.5 points to 204 over Simsbury).
- Career record on the mats: 136-24 (85-percent).
- Against Bristol Central this past year, Gonzalez won his match in seven seconds via pinfall.
- Was named All-State and All-New England in wrestling this past year.
- CCC South All-Conference in 2018-19 (was all-conference as a sophomore and junior, too).
- Leading tackler on the Bristol Eastern football squad in 2018 as a senior.
- Second on the football team in tackles for losses, third in carries.
Comments? Email mletendre@BristolObserver. com.