BRISTOL - With a majority of its wrestlers in their first year, the Terryville wrestling team entered the Bristol Central Invitational with few expectations.
“We look forward to this competition every year,” Kangaroos head coach Pete Veleas said. “It’s a little unfortunate when you’re young because you don’t get as much experience on the mat as you would like.”
The Kangaroos struggled outside of Cayleb Leclerc’s run to the finals in the 120-pound weight class.
However, coach Veleas knows it’s going to be a process for his group.
“We’re getting a little tougher,” Veleas said. “We don’t just give up right away. That’s the biggest improvement that I’ve seen so far. If they stick around and stick with it, then they’ll be very good, but it’s going to take a year or two.”
Leclerc, a defending Class S state champion for Terryville, faced a pair of quality opponents in the semifinal bout against Bristol Eastern’s Tom Nichols and the final against Bristol Central’s Christopher Trelli.
Against Nichols, Leclerc won via a 5-2 decision.
“It started off good with a big win over Tommy Nicholas, who’s very good,” Leclerc said. “Which is really what I wanted to do - get that match out of the way to get to the finals.”
The final bout against Trelli started off well, but Trelli outlasted Leclerc, eventually pinning him at 3:09.
“Chris is an All-American,” Veleas said. “That’s why he struggled. Chris is a senior and has wrestled all four years. He’s an absolute stud. He’s been wrestling longer than Cayleb.
“By the time Cayleb is a senior, maybe he can wrestle like him. I thought he wrestled well for a period and a half and then he kind of relaxed.”
With the loss to Trelli, Leclerc now sits at 6-2 on the season as the premier wrestler Terryville has to offer.
Disappointed following the loss, Leclerc is capable of more and is expected to be able to win matches against opponents of Trelli’s quality.
“If he keeps wrestling in the offseason he can be my first State Open champion,” Veleas said. “I’ve never had one. I’ve had a State Open finalist and a guy that’s placed at New Englands, but I’ve never had a State Open champion. That’s the goal.”
Nonetheless, the experience gained in the tournament for Terryville was a positive as a smaller school.
“This is a good competition for us, especially because we see a lot of Class L schools and bigger schools than us,” Veleas said. “It’s good to come to this competition for us.”