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State Title Caps Year for Young Norwalk Wrestlers

NORWALK, Conn. – Jakari Walker of the Norwalk Mad Bull youth wrestling team won the state championship and several teammates also had strong showings last weekend in the Connecticut State Championships in New Haven.

Jeff Cocchia, Koy Price, Angel Nieves and Jeff Capone also qualified for the state tournament, which was at Hillhouse High School. Cocchia, a fourth-grader, took second in his weight class and Price, a third-grader, finished fourth. Nieves, an eighth-grader, finished second and seventh-grade student Capone upset the No. 2 seed before getting eliminated in the consolation rounds.

Walker, a fourth-grader and one of the stars on the Norwalk Packers football team that won the New England championship in the fall, showed his prowess on the mat as well. He pinned three opponents to reach the final, where he earned a 2-1 win versus Kody Talento of Meriden. Talento edged Walker for the state championship last year.

“Jakari was all business and showed some great poise out there,” coach Randy Haus said. “He has really helped put us on the map, as far as a youth wrestling program goes, we couldn't be happier for Jakari.”

Cocchia pinned three opponents to reach the final before dropping a 7-2 decision to Shaine Luzzetti of Newtown. Cocchia also was a teammate of Walker's on the Packers' football team.

Price had an impressive day as well, winning three matches in one of the toughest weight classes in the tournament.

“Koy continues to impress us with his work ethic," said assistant coach Art Schad. "He’s a first-year wrestler who is winning against some of the best kids in this state. His opponents have a tremendous amount of experience over Koy, but he’s a gamer and he proved it today”

Nieves, a first-year wrestler, took a lead into the third period of his championship match before losing. Capone showed his promise by beating the No. 2 seed in his first-round match.

“Jeff Capone could quite possibly be the hardest worker in practice” coach David Slapin said. “We’re excited to have Jeff back next year as he continues to improve dramatically week to week.”

Combined with its performance at the Bantam state championships earlier in the month, the second-year wrestling program finished with four state champions, three second-place finishes and a fourth-place finish.

“Next year, we are looking to fill the wrestling room with even more kids eager to learn about this sport,’’ Haus said. “This year, the kids took away a few good lessons from the season, teamwork being at the top of the list.”

Haus, a former wrestler in Minnesota, is encouraged by the program’s quick growth and the support of the community as he attempts to lay the foundation for a strong program.

“The Norwalk High and Brien McMahon head wrestling coaches Job Fernandez and Joe Santalucia were a constant presence in the room,’’ Haus said. “They were able to see first hand how hard these kids worked; I think the kids appreciated the fact that they’ll be part of their programs a few years down the road.”

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