Wrestling preview: Depth a plus for Ridgefield

Ridgefield's Nate Blaha controls an opponent during a match last season.

Ridgefield's Nate Blaha controls an opponent during a match last season.

Andy Hutchison / For Hearst Connecticut Media

Coming off a pair of top-10 postseason finishes last winter, the Ridgefield wrestling team enters the 2019-20 season with a roster deep in competitors but relatively shallow in experience.

“The positive is that we have a large team ... there are 30 kids,” said assistant coach Gary Tiger. “But we also have a lot of newbies. Nearly half the team is first-year wrestlers.”

Ridgefield finished seventh at the FCIAC championships and ninth in Class LL last season before tying for 47th at the State Open.

The graduation losses were small in number but large in impact. Gone are Lazar Agoev, who won the 160-pound title at both the FCIAC and Class LL championships, and Ben Smart, a four-year starter who was the runner-up at 126 pounds in both the conference and Class LL meets.

Several other starters either moved or opted not to compete this season, leaving the Tigers untested at several weight classes.

Ridgefield’s top returnees include sophomores Alex Blaha (106 pounds), Nate Blaha (120) and Lucas Ferreira (132), senior Phil Ferreira (145), and junior Liam Keppler (170). At last year’s FCIAC championship, Alex Blaha was the runner-up in the 99-pound exhibition class and Nate Blaha finished fourth at 106 pounds. Keppler also might have placed in the top six at the conference meet if not for a season-ending injury suffered during his second-round contest.

Junior Lexani Pagan (113 pounds), junior Spencer Carlson (126), senior Cooper Rivera (132 or 138), senior Stefan Sigurdsson (182), and sophomore James Nightingale (285) also started matches for the Tigers last season.

Freshman Andrey Kosygin (138 pounds), junior Max Alisanov (152), senior Stephen Chen (160), and junior Ethan Hall (182) are among the first-year wrestlers who could join the starting lineup.

“Those guys are all in,” Tiger said. “Even though they lack experience, some of them might hold their own this year.”

Several other wrestlers — senior Gunnar Karlson (132 pounds), junior Tiger DeFranco (138 or 145), sophomore Donald Williams (138 or 145) and freshman Matt Nightingale (152 or 160) — could also get some varsity time.

“We have pretty good depth,” Tiger said. “We have two or three guys at most of the weight classes.”

Notes: Gary Tiger’s son, Travis, a former RHS standout, is the team’s head coach.

Ridgefield opens the season this Wednesday (Dec. 18) at home at 6 p.m. against perennial power Danbury, which is the reigning FCIAC, Class LL and State Open champion.