Greenwich’s Nanai wins 182-pound FCIAC title
Each one of Andrew Nanai’s matches ended the same way at last weekend’s FCIAC wrestling championships — with his arm raised in victory by an officials/
Nanai, a Greenwich High School junior, showed exactly why he was seeded first in the 182-pound weight class at the championships. Registering a record of 3-0 in the tournament, Nanai garnered the first-place medal in the 182-pound division, defeating second-seeded Joe Palmieri of Trumbull in the finals by an 8-4 decision.
With a 24-4 record, Nanai is the rebuilding Cardinals’ most formidable wrestler and Saturday’s triumph in the FCIAC finals was yet another of his highlights.
“I know the FCIAC tournament is a very hard tournament, so winning that last match was a great feeling,” Nanai said. “I wrestled Joe Palmieri from Trumbull two Fridays before the FCIAC tournament and I beat him 8-6, so I knew it was going to be a tough match and that I was going to have to bring my ‘A’ game.”
Following a scoreless first period, Palmieri executed a reversal on Nanai to take a 2-0 second-period lead. An escape by Nanai cut the deficit to 2-1, then as the match progressed he seized the momentum, eventually taking a 6-4 advantage.
During the final seconds of title match, Nanai executed a takedown to seal the win.
“It was a great match and it was very exciting for us to have a champion,” GHS coach Greg Domestico said. “Andrew had to be patient in that match. He (Palmieri) tried to force Andrew to wrestle a style he didn’t want to, but Andrew didn’t take the bait. He just waited it out and he did not put himself in bad spots.”
Receiving a first-round bye at the FCIAC tournament, Nanai pinned ninth-seeded Danny Vilacis of Westhill in the quarterfinal-round in 1:27. Facing fourth-seeded Syrus Bradley of Brien McMahon in the 182-pound semifinals, Nanai pinned Bradley in 4:23 to advance to the championship bout.
Nanai is seeded third in the 182-pound class at the CIAC Class LL Championships, which takes place at Trumbull High School Friday and Saturday. Palmieri is the No.1-seed in the 182-pound bracket and Jackson King of Simsbury is No. 2.
“At the LL tournament my goal is to get to the finals and my ultimate goal would be to win the finals,” Nanai said. “Hopefully, I will fare well. I know I am going to face some great competition.”
In Nanai, Domestico sees a consistent competitor who stays within himself each match.
“He is very strong, which is always a help, he’s aggressive and he pays great attention to detail,” Domestico said. “He has very sound technique and is aggressive when he needs to be, but is also patient when he needs to be. Andrew doesn’t force moves out there, he takes what is given to him and he usually capitalizes on his opportunities.”
Also a member of Greenwich’s rugby team, Nanai also won his weight class title at the Ridgefield Challenge this season and placed third at the competitive Shoreline Tournament in New Rochelle, N.Y. Like his older brother, Alex, Nanai began wrestling as a freshman at GHS. Alex Nanai, also a standout wrestler for the Cardinals, graduated in 2016.
“Having Alex here for two years with Andrew benefited Andrew,” Domestico said. “He showed Andrew the way and was very supportive of him. Even now, Alex will text me and ask me questions about his brother and keep up on everything. Learning from his brother and working out with him, helped him.”
Nanai enters each match hoping to capitalize on his strengths.
“I am very long and tall and I feel I am pretty quick,” Nanai said. “One thing I try to use to my advantage is my endurance — I feel I have better endurance than anyone I wrestled this year. So I’ve tried to work them down and make them get tired.”
The Cardinals’ top wrestler headlined the squad’s competitors who placed at the FCIAC championships. Carlos DeWinter placed fourth in the 113-pound division, Mitchell Grimes finished fifth (126) and Ali Ibrahim was sixth (152).
“Andrew is the model of what we want to see on the mat,” Domestico said. “He handles everything so well and he takes something from every win or loss. He has a mental edge in a lot of his matches and he keeps his poise. Like a sponge, he takes everything in.”