Nobody would have blamed Justin Mastroianni for burying the memories of the 2020 New England Prep School wrestling championships. Despite his best intentions and efforts, Mastroianni failed to make weight before the championships meet in Hartford. When it appeared the COVID-19 pandemic would wipe out his senior season, Mastroianni’s last New England championship meet could have haunted him forever.
Instead, given the chance to compete one more time on the regional level, Mastroianni made the most of his second chance by claiming the 145-pound championship in New Hampshire last weekend.
“I definitely felt like I had something to prove,” Mastroianni said. “My missing weight last year, I had to show myself and others who I was this year. Something was missing, and I fulfilled it.”
Doing so, though, meant he had to wrestle a friend and GFA teammate to win the championship.
Mastroianni, a senior at GFA, found himself matched up against junior Peter Kane for the title and pulled out a 4-0 decision for the title.
“Peter’s a tough opponent,” Mastroianni said. “In practice, he gives me good challenges and he makes me a better wrestler. He’s helped me become the wrestler I am. It’s never good or fun wrestling somebody you know so well like that.”
The Mastroianni-Kane finale was just one of the highlights for GFA wrestlers on the day.
“They both pinned their opponents in the semifinals,” GFA coach Jack Conroy said. “They were the two most dominant guys when you talk about the level in the [wrestling] room.”
While the Dragons were wrestling under the banner of the Southside Wrestling Club, where Conroy is also the head coach, they proved their talent was amongst the best in the State of Connecticut and New England region.
“The coolest thing about what happened over the weekend is we finally got a chance to showcase our abilities,” Conroy said. “We were competing as an outside organization, but we were by far the most successful high school there. If we had kept team scores, GFA would have had the highest score by a lot.”
Mastroianni’s effort was just the highest of highs.
“He’s a super motivated kid,” Conroy said. “He has it. I don’t know what ‘it’ is, but he has it.”
There were plenty of other success stories, though.
In addition to Kane’s second-place showing, GFA junior Mikey Bartush also placed second at 195 pounds; Caleb Seyfried was third at 120; senior Aiden Hebert was third at 132; freshman Nate Taylor was fourth at 160; and CJ Shea was fifth at 132.
The GFA wrestlers are not done yet. There are two national meets on their radar, including a trip to the National Prep School Championships in Wilkes-Barre, PA, in early May. First, however, is a trip to Virginia for the National High School Coaches Association’s National Championship meet from April 22-25.
“Our goal has always been to be a national relevant program,” Conroy said. “The reality of it is the New England championships are just a step in the process.”
For Mastroianni, though, a New England championship was just what he needed at this point of his career.