Woodland’s wrestling team of one grows by two

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Woodland’s Elias Sturdevant battles St. Paul’s Evan Kowalski in the finals of the 113-pound class during the Berkshire Valley Postseason Invitational in February. Sturdevant, a sophomore, will be joined by freshman Peter Dupre and sophomore Noah Omer as a team of one this season. –RA ARCHIVE

BEACON FALLS — Woodland wrestler Elias Sturdevant spent last winter all alone.

He won’t have to do that again this year.

Sturdevant participated as the Hawks’ lone wrestler last season, but he’ll be joined by two friends this winter — freshman Peter Dupre and sophomore Noah Omer.

Technically, Woodland will still compete as what’s called a “team of one” — three athletes per school is the CIAC limit before a school must establish its own co-op program — but Sturdevant says this season already has a different feel.

“It’s a lot better because I feel like I get more support from my school now that I have my friends with me,” said Sturdevant, a sophomore who finished 24-10 with a sixth-place finish in Class S last year as a freshman.

He managed to recruit a pair of teammates, and they nearly had a fourth wrestler join, which would have forced Woodland to consider forming a co-op program with another local school. Staying at three wrestlers allows the Hawks to continue traveling to Thomaston, where they practice and compete as single athletes.

“It started by telling a lot of my friends about wrestling and trying to spread the word around Woodland,” Sturdevant said. “Peter Dupre is a freshman who has jiu-jitsu experience and wanted to try wrestling, and Noah Omer is sophomore who wanted to stay in shape with football. It’s their first time wrestling.”

Although the trio is coached during the winter by Thomaston-Holy Cross co-op coach John Varanelli, Sturdevant has already taken the two rookies under his wing in practice.

“I told them what wrestling was like — it’s a lot of hard work,” said Sturdevant, who competed at 113 pounds last season. “When we got to the practice room, I showed them the moves they had to learn and what they had to do. They were excited — they both love it.”

Plus, there’s an extra benefit from having a few teammates from his own school.

“It’s an easier trip back (from practice in Thomaston) because Peter’s mom or Noah’s mom can bring us home,” Sturdevant said. “It’s a lot less driving for my dad (Brian).”

As for Sturdevant’s wrestling, he looks to improve upon the success he enjoyed as a freshman. He won the Berkshire Valley Invitational in the 113-pound division last year and continued his success at the state level with a top-six finish in Class S and a State Open berth.

He kept up his training regimen in the offseason with sessions in Rocky Hill and Bristol, and he ran cross country in the fall to help improve his endurance.

“Being able to go all three periods without getting tired at all, being able to do overtime (is important),” said Sturdevant, who set goals to repeat as Berkshire Valley champion and improve upon his sixth-place finish in Class S. “That’s how I got sixth place in Class S, losing in overtime. I want to be able to do the full seven minutes when I need to.”

The Hawks are set for their first meet of the season with Thomaston on Wednesday against Gilbert before competing in the Mike O’Keefe Invitational on Saturday at Pomperaug.