Christian Zotti (160) got the Indians off to a 6-0 lead. Photo: Dave Burnham.
Zotti Brothers Inspire Newington Wrestling by Example
NEWINGTON - In dramatic come-from-behind fashion, the host Newington wrestling team won eight bouts en route to securing a 37-31 CCC West victory over the Hall Warriors Jan. 29.

       The evening began in the capable hands of NHS senior captain Christian Zotti, who normally wrestles at 152. He proved to be a man on a mission and responded to a step up in weight class (160) by pinning Farukh Tashmuhamedov just 0:52 into the first period.

       As the match progressed, the Indians received wins from Alex Skonieczny (6-2), Andres Del Valle (pin, 1:23 second period), Joe Briganti (pin, 30.5 first period), Jon Montalvo (5-4) and Greg Zydanowicz (8-2).

       And with just two matches left, tension hung heavy in Richard E. Rogalski Gymnasium as Newington junior Brendan Zotti strode confidently to the mat for his match at 145, ready to bridge the 31-27 deficit the Indians were looking up from

       “I’m thinking that Brendan’s going to do what he always does, get a pin and lead us to a victory,” said second-year head coach Eric Soucy, “and we absolutely expected Christian to start things off with a win.”

       The younger Zotti didn’t let his coach, his teammates, the fans or himself down as he scored an inspiring pin with just over 14 seconds left in the first period. A convincing 13-2 victory by Marlon Gonzalez at 152 pushed the Indians to victory and a 10-2 record.

       “We bumped up Christian and our 160-pounder. We don’t have anyone at 170 and 182 so sometimes we bump up like that. I’d rather have Christian wrestle more weight and get better competition than sometimes wrestle his weight class, but during tournaments and the states, Christian will be at 152,” said Soucy.

       Christian’s career record stands at an eye-popping 136-22 (.861) while Brendan’s is no less impressive at 88-21 (.807), illustrating just how vital the pair have been to the success of the Indians’ wrestling program.

       “A few more Christian and Brenda Zottis on the team would be awesome,” said Soucy. “Christian is an all-around leader. He is one of the hardest working kids ever to come through the Newington wrestling program. He leads by example--he shows kids on and off the mat what it means to work hard and what you can accomplish when you work hard.

       “Brendan is one of the smartest kids I’ve ever coached. You can tell how intelligent he is by the way he wrestles. He uses the clock and his opponent to his advantage. He’s also a hard worker just like his brother. A package deal like Christian and Brendan Zotti is a coach’s dream,” added Soucy.

       “Christian is in his fourth year as a varsity wrestler and Brendan is in his third,” continued Soucy. “They came out of the Newington Blackhawks program, where the coaches push the kids to get them ready for high school wrestling. As a result, Christian and Brendan came in ready to wrestle at the varsity level.

       “It’s a treat to watch them wrestle each other in practice. You wouldn’t guess they were brothers. They go at each other so hard and push each other to the limit. They absolutely help each other be the best they can,” according to Soucy, who wrestled for Newington High before joining the Air Force. “One thing that really touches me is that no matter how hard they go at each other in practice, no matter how tough they are on each other, they always support each other during matches and individual tournaments.”

       Christian capped a highly successful junior campaign, where he earned CCC West All-Conference and All-State honors, with the 2012-13 State Championship title at 138.

       It’s a match Brendan vividly remembers.

       “Christian wrestled Dillon Bender from Fairfield-Warde. It was close and came down to the end. I was getting pretty excited. I was yelling and I had a lot of emotions going on. I was cheering Christian on and I was probably the loudest one there,” Brendan said of his brother’s 2-1 victory.

       “I took third at the states when I was a sophomore,” Christian added. “As I was watching the finals, [then-head] coach Marco Tirillo said that I should have been wrestling in the finals. I knew I didn’t want to be on the sidelines watching the championship match in 2012"13, so I used what he said as motivation.”

       Besides excelling on the mat, the brothers are also strong students and standout members of the Indians’ football team, where they anchored the defense for head coach Roy Roberts. Christian, a free safety, was the team’s 2013 Defensive MVP; Brendan lined up at strong safety.

       “Both sports give us the opportunity to do well in our academics. coach Roberts and coach Soucy check our grades and make sure we manage our time well, so we have time to be students and athletes. I like playing the same fall and winter sports as Brendan. We wrestle each other every day in the room. We’re very competitive, even at home. We get after it sometimes. I don’t want to be on the losing end and hear it from Brendan or the rest of my family. I always want to come out on top,” Christian said of the good-natured, intense rivalry

       “We’ve always been competitive with each other in every sport,” Brendan was quick to add. “We have a partner to work with and get better with and that has helped us, especially with wrestling. It’s always better to beat Christian than to beat another teammate, because there’s a lot of smack talk.”

       “Our dad was a big wrestler in high school in Florida and wrestled a bit in college, too,” said Christian. “We already played football and baseball, so we were looking for a winter sport to play when we were six or seven years old. Dad introduced us to wrestling and Brendan and I both got into it.”