Vedrani Has Fond Parting Words for Guilford’s Seniors
Senior captain Kyle Putnam (left) and his fellow members of the Guilford wrestling squad were denied the opportunity to compete this year after the CIAC canceled the winter season for all of Connecticut’s wrestling teams. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier)
Aiden Ghiroli (right) is one of five seniors who was slated to compete for the Grizzlies’ wrestling team until the season was called off by the CIAC. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier)
The contributions of senior athletes like Zach Halas will always be appreciated by Guilford wrestling Head Coach Craig Vedrani. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier)
At the start of 2021, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) was faced with a difficult decision regarding whether there would be a winter season and, if there was, which sports would be allowed to compete. While several sports are slated to be played beginning this week, the Guilford wrestling team will not get a chance to hit the mat this winter.
With the Connecticut Department of Health (DPH) having classified wrestling as a high-risk sport prior to the season, the CIAC canceled the campaigns for all wrestling teams across the state. The news came as a tough blow for Grizzlies’ Head Coach Craig Vedrani and his athletes.
“I understand why it’s been canceled, but it’s disheartening to all of the wrestlers and the coaches,” said Vedrani. “We were excited to compete. We had a lot of guys who were ready to roll. We were disappointed, but we understand.”
Guilford was coming off of a successful 2019-’20 season that saw the squad finish with an overall record of 20-6. Guilford took first place as a team as the Whippet Duals and the Cougar Duals and also saw then-sophomores John Fernandes and Chris Murphy advance to the finals of their respective tournaments at the SCC Championship.
Also last year, then-freshman Brianna Seixas made history for Guilford by competing at the inaugural Girls’ Wrestling Invitational and taking fourth place for her division.
This year would have marked Vedrani’s 18th season as Guilford’s head coach. Following last year’s achievements, Vedrani felt that the team was primed for another solid year in 2021.
“We had a really good season last year,” Vedrani said. “We only graduated two seniors from that class and we had a strong lineup returning. I don’t think we had a weak spot at any weight class.”
Guilford’s captains for this season were slated to be senior Kyle Putnam, who wrestles in the 138-pound weight class; Robert Masotti, who competes in the 152-pound division; and junior Murphy, a 195-pound grappler. Putnam posted a record of 29-22 last year and finished in fourth place for the 132-pound division at the SCC Championship, where Guilford came in fifth place as a team. Masotti finished with a mark of 22-17 and took home a third-place finish at 152 pounds in the SCC meet. Murphy went 19-9 overall and claimed second place in the 170-pound weight class at SCCs.
Coach Vedrani was looking forward to seeing his captains lead Guilford both on and off the mat during the 2021 season.
“Kyle is an A-plus kid. He was voted captain because he will do anything you ask. He’s a great role model for all of the other athletes,” Vedrani said. “Robert really turned it on the last couple of years and became one of our most consistent wrestlers. Chris is a really intense athlete, and he’s always trying to do the right thing. He worked extremely hard during the offseason, and I’m looking forward to having him back next year.”
Vedrani felt the most disappointed for Guilford’s seniors and its team managers when he found out about the cancellation of the season. Guilford’s other senior wrestlers are Aiden Ghiroli, Zach Halas, and Joey Conover. The team’s managers are Londyn LaRose, Nataccia Christian, Connor Bono, and Ethan Felix.
“My heart goes out to all our seniors who will not be able to chase their dreams on the mat in their final year,” said Vedrani. “I thank all of them for their hard work and dedication to the program for the past four years and wish them luck moving forward. All four of our managers are also seniors and will be hard to replace next year.”
This winter will mark the first time in 34 years that Vedrani has neither competed for nor coached a wrestling team. Vedrani never thought that the COVID-19 pandemic would last as long as it has.
“I thought we’d be back at it and in school in two weeks. It was initially about flattening the curve, but this turned into something way more serious than anyone ever anticipated,” Vedrani said. “We kept rolling with the punches during the offseason. It’s been hard to train, but kids were working out in their basement on their own time and stayed productive.”
One of Vedrani’s questions about the cancellation of the season was in regards to the DPH’s delineation between basketball and wrestling being medium-risk and high-risk sports, respectively. The CIAC is allowing basketball to be played this winter, provided that athletes wear masks during games.
“I don’t understand how basketball could be considered medium-risk when you have 10 kids on a court at all times with two referees, and they’re all touching a ball throughout the game,” said Vedrani. “With wrestling, at least it’s limited to two people on a mat with one referee.”
With the 2021 campaign canceled, Coach Vedrani and the Grizzlies only have one goal in mind: Get ready for next season.
“Our goal now is for the rest of us to prepare as much as we can this offseason and be ready to compete next year,” Vedrani said. “We have an experienced group coming back next year and can’t wait to get started.”