Nonnewaug Wrestling Back on the Map with BL Title



The Nonnewaug wrestling team poses after winning the BL championship Feb. 12.

Ben Stewart and Shelby Rushin

WINSTED — In an 11-team wrestling competition held at The Gilbert School on Feb. 12, Nonnewaug won the Berkshire-Valley tournament. For the program, this was a historic achievement as it was the Chiefs’ first Berkshire League title since 2016.

With 12 wrestlers competing, the Chiefs enjoyed a pre-tournament numbers advantage, but numbers were difficult to count on in a year when several seniors graduated and no one else wrestled. Seniors Jacob Marques, who won the 195-pound division, and Peyton Cocchiola, who won the 220-pound division, as well as 170-pound champion Jack Wendel, led the Chiefs to victory. 

“It feels hopeful,” Wendel said. “Wrestling was shut down last year, and to see Nonnewaug come back with more wrestlers after the pandemic made me feel like the team could keep gaining more people in years to come.”

Jeff Bernardi and R.J. Barksdale placed second in their weight classes.

Gilbert, the three-time defending champions, came in second with only five wrestlers on its team this year. Shepaug Valley finished fourth, and all three Spartans were champions in their respective weight classes.

This team put in the effort and attention to their program since the beginning of the season, and it showed in the BL postseason tournament. Then, the team turned its attention to the Class S state tournament.

“Preparing for states is difficult,” Wendel said. “You want to refine your technique while still getting a good workout in. But you don’t want to push yourself to the brink of exhaustion.”

Wendel and Marques had the most success in the state tournaments. Wendel cruised to win the 170-pound division at Class S and then finished third at the State Open to punch a ticket to the New England championships. Marques placed third at 195 in Class S and placed eighth at the State Open.