As one of just a handful of states that wrestle down to only one state champion per weight class, New Jersey remains one of the country's premier concentrations of elite grapplers.

Region VI champion Ben Esposito of Howell and runner-up Zach Hertling of Ocean look to make a run in a tough 132-pound bracket in this weekend's NJSIAA Individual Wrestling Championships in Atlantic City. (Photo by Sport Shots WLB).

This season's state tournament, the 80th in history, begins Friday at Atlantic City's famed Boardwalk Hall and will feature some of the nations top wrestlers. Winning here requires equal parts strength, skill, determination, heart and mental toughness. Upwards of 50,000 people will pack the arena over the course of three days for what year in and year out proves to be the state's most popular championship tournament.

Thirty-two wrestlers in each of the 14 weight classes will begin the day with their dream of a state title firmly intact. All but one will be denied. This is where legends are born and history is made.

Tournament At A Glance

2013 NJSIAA Individual State Tournament
At Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City
Friday March 8-Sunday March 10

Friday: Preliminary round, 5 p.m.; prequarterfinal round, 7 p.m.
Saturday: Wrestleback round 1, 10 a.m.; quarterfinals and wrestleback round 1 noon; wrestling back round 3, 5 p.m.; semifinals and wrestleback quarterfinals, 7 p.m.
Sunday: wrestleback semifinals, 10 a.m.; third-, fifth-, and seventh-place bouts, 11 a.m.; state championship bouts, 3 p.m.

We'll take a look at each weight class and break down who has the best shot to stand atop the medal stand Sunday night and how each of the Shore Conference's 42 representatives may fare.

106

Returning medalists: none

The favorite: Nick Suriano, Fr., Bergen Catholic

Shore Conference wrestlers: Michael Russo (Jackson Liberty), Owen McClave (Toms River South), Denzel Tovar (Wall.)

As usual, 106 is among the most balanced and competitive weight classes. But not at the top. This year's weight looks almost certainly to be a two-horse race between super-freshmen Suriano and Kyle Bierdumpfel of Don Bosco Prep. Suriano has been the No. 1-ranked 106-pounder in the nation since the season began and Bierdumpfel has been ranked among the top-10 during that span. Those two are a level above the rest of the field and Suriano is 3-0 vs. Bierdumpfel this season. Russo has arguably been the next best wrestler and should find himself high on the podium after finishing one win short of the medal round last year. Russo, who is the No. 1 overall seed, wouldn't have to face Suriano until the semifinals. McClave and Tovar are both on the opposite half of the bracket from Russo and have much tougher draws. McClave would run into Region V champ Yasel Corporan of Perth Amboy in the quarterfinals and would then have to wrestle Bierdumpfel in the semifinals. Tovar has a tough bout with Roxbury's Stephen Caserta right off the bat and has both Zach Fireston of Clearview and Bierdumpfel in his path.

Prediction
1st: 
Nick Suriano (Bergen Catholic)

2nd: Kyle Bierdumpfel (Don Bosco Prep)

3rd: Michael Russo (Jackson Liberty)

4th: Yasel Corporan (Perth Amboy)

5th: Zack Firestone (Clearview)

6th: Patrick D'Arcy (Holy Spirit)

7th: Owen McClave (Toms River South)

8th: Ty Agaisse (Delbarton).

113

Returning medalists: Luis Gonzalez (Don Bosco Prep, 4th at 113), Kevin Corrigan (Toms River South, 5th at 113), A.J. Vindici (Randolph, 7th at 106), Tyler McBride (Camden Catholic, 8th at 106).

The favorite: Luis Gonzalez (Don Bosco Prep)

Shore Conference wrestlers: Kevin Corrigan (Toms River South), Nasiyr Brown (Neptune), Nick DePierro (Freehold Township).

Corrigan was fifth at 113 last season and has a good shot to reach the final. To do so, however, he will likely have to defeat Jefferson's Brian Damon, who handed Corrigan his only loss of the season back in January. DePierro and Brown both have tough roads as they would get Gonzalez early. If DePierro wins his first bout against Perth Amboy's Angel Sanchez he faces Gonzalez in the prequarterfinals. Brown would need to win two matches, likely including one against South Plainfield freshman Dan Hedden, before meeting Gonzalez in the quarterfinals. Corrigan's road won't be easy even before a potential meeting with Damon. Randolph's A.J. Vindici, 7th at 106 last season, Bergen Catholic's Tyler Casamenti and Delbarton's Nick Farro are all possible opponents.

Prediction
1st: 
Luis Gonzalez (Don Bosco Prep)

2nd: Kevin Corrigan (Toms River South)

3rd: Brian Damon (Jefferson)

4th: Max Nauta (Warren Hills)

5th: Nick Farro (Delbarton)

6th: Tyler Casamenti (Bergen Catholic)

7th: Dan Hedden (South Plainfield)

8th: Nick DePierro (Freehold Township).

120

Returning medalists: Brenden Calas (Seton Hall Prep, 1st at 113), Craig De La Cruz (Bound Brook, 4th at 106), Joe Trovato (Paramus, 5th at 106), Joe Ghione (Brick Memorial, 6th at 106), Christian Innarella (Delbarton, 6th at 113), Robert Trombetta (Nutley, 6th at 120), Ryan Pomrinca (North Hunterdon, 7th at 113), Marc Mastropietro (Hasbrouck Heights, 8th at 113).

The favorite: Brenden Calas (Seton Hall Prep).

Shore Conference wrestlers: Joe Ghione (Brick Memorial), Pete Ottaviano (Colts Neck), Matt Russo (Jackson Liberty).

With eight returning medalists in the field, 120 is undoubtedly the toughest weight in the entire tournament. Consider this: Hanover Park's Anthony Cefolo, the 106-pound state champ last season, JFK-Iselin's Carl Buttitta, who was second at 106 and Bishop Ahr's Kyle Brady, 3rd at 113, did not even make it our of their respective regions tournaments. The eventual state champ will have done some serious work over the course of three days. Ghione is a two-time state medalist but is looking at a very tough prequarterfinal bout with Delbarton's Christian Innarella, also a two-time medalist. Ottaviano will get Calas if he wins his first bout while Russo has Trovato right off the bat. The wrestleback rounds will be even more unforgiving than the championship bracket. More than a few deserving wrestlers will be left off the medal stand..

Prediction

1st: Craig De La Cruz (Bound Brook)

2nd: Brenden Calas (Seton Hall Prep)

3rd: Ryan Pomrinca (North Hunterdon)

4th: Christian Innarella (Delbarton)

5th: Joe Ghione (Brick Memorial)

6th: John Mele (Gov. Livingston)

7th: Sal Profaci (Monroe)

8th: Robert Trombetta (Nutley).

 

126

Returning medalists: Mike Magaldo (Watchung Hills, 1st at 120), Dave McFadden (DePaul, 2nd at 113), Anthony Giraldo (North Bergen, 5th at 120), Mike Pongracz (Delaware Valley, 5th at 126), Corey Stasenko (South Plainfield, 6th at 145).

The favorite: Corey Stasenko (South Plainfield)

Shore Conference wrestlers: Ryan Budzek (Point Boro), Alec Huxford (Jackson Memorial), Marcus Iwama (Rumson-Fair Haven).

Although not quite as deep as 120, 126 bouts some heavy hitters at the top as well as some wrestlers that are more than capable of pulling some upsets along the way. Magaldo is a returning state champ but Stasenko is 3-0 against him this season. All three of our area wrestlers are looking at uphill battles to reach the medal stand. Budzek has a prequarterfinal bout with Buena's Billy Ward and if Huxford wins he gets Stasenko Friday night. Iwama will meet Paulsboro's Sam Morina in the first round. Budzek and Iwama would meet in the wrestleback round if they lose their first bout. Huxford will have a very tough wrestleback bracket on the opposite half.

Prediction

1st: Dave McFadden (DePaul)

2nd: Mike Magaldo (Watchung Hills)

3rd: Corey Stasenko (South Plainfield)

4th: Anthony Giraldo (North Bergen)

5th: Mike Pongracz (Delaware Valley)

6th: Billy Ward (Buena)

7th: Joe Olivia (Ridgwood)

8th: Collin Farley (JFK-Iselin).

132

Returning medalists: Scott DelVecchio (South Plainfield, 1st at 132), Zach Hertling (Ocean, 3rd at 120), Jason Estevez (Livingston, 3rd at 132), Nick Anderson (Delbarton, 7th at 126).

The favorite: Scott DelVecchio (South Plainfield).

Shore Conference wrestlers: Ben Esposito (Howell), Zach Hertling (Ocean), Kyle Wojtaszek (Brick).

DelVecchio enters as a heavy favorite after winning last season's state title at 132 and remaining undefeated through this season's region tournament. His main threat looks to be Estevez, but don't count out Hertling or Anderson from making a run from the bottom bracket. Esposito has a tough draw because he will be matched up with DelVecchio in the quarterfinals should he win his first bout. Hertling has the talent to beat anyone in his half of the bracket but will have a tough prequarterfinal bout with East Brunswick's Sean Glasgow assuming he wins his prelim bout. He would then have to go through both Anderson and Estevez to reach the final, a tall task to say the least. Wojtaszek is in the bottom bracket with Hertling and would need to beat similar opponents.

Prediction

1st: Scott DelVecchio (South Plainfield)

2nd: Jason Estevez (Livingston)

3rd: Nick Anderson (Delbarton)

4th: Zach Hertling (Ocean)

5th: Ron Gentile (Paulsboro)

6th: Connor Burkert (St. Peter's Prep)

7th: Mike Derin (High Point)

8th: Ben Esposito (Howell).

138

Returning medalists: Anthony Ashnault (South Plainfield, 1st at 126), Gary Dinmore (Hunterdon Central, 2nd at 126), Brandon Keller (Timber Creek, 2nd at 132), Brian Hamann (Jackson Memorial, 4th at 126), Rich Lewis (Toms River East, 5th at 126).

The favorite: Anthony Ashnault (South Plainfield).

Shore Conference wrestlers: Rich Lewis (Toms River East), Brian Hamann (Jackson Memorial), Alec Donovan (Brick Memorial).

There is a good amount of star power here, but this weight is all about Ashnault and his quest for history. The South Plainfield senior is looking to cap his legendary career with a fourth state title, which would make him New Jersey's only four-time, undefeated state champion. Lewis is set up to face Ashnault in the semifinals while Hamann will likely have to deal with Dinmore in the quarterfinals. Donovan will get Keller in the prequarterfinals if he can get past Becton's Roy Forys. If he can win his first bout, Donovan sets himself up well for a spot in the medal round. As good as Hamann, Lewis, Dinmore and Keller are, it's almost impossible to imagine anyone but Ashnault winning this weight.

Prediction

1st: Anthony Ashnault (South Plainfield)

2nd: Gary Dinmore (Hunterdon Central)

3rd: Rich Lewis (Toms River East)

4th: Brandon Keller (Timber Creek)

5th: Brian Hamann (Jackson Memorial)

6th: Laurien Anghelina (Bergen Catholic)

7th: Alec Donovan (Brick Memorial)

8th: Matt Benvenuto (Lenape Valley).

145

Returning medalists: B.J. Clagon (Toms River South, 1st at 138), Troy Heilmann (South Plainfield, 2nd at 120), T.J. Miller (3rd at 145), Maaziah Bethea (Trenton, 7th at 132).

The favorite: B.J. Clagon (Toms River South).

Shore Conference wrestlers: Clagon, Spencer Young (Jackson Memorial), Ashanti Maurice (Howell).

Where the trio of Clagon, Miller and Heilmann will place has been one of the most talked about topics of the entire season. As the No. 1 overall seed, Clagon has the easier path to the final because Heilmann and Miller are in the same half of the bracket. The two have spilt a pair of bouts this season. Clagon has been basically untouchable over the last two seasons but will get arguably the biggest test of his career in his final bout. Young and Maurice have the ability to place, but navigating the wrestlebacks will be very difficult in this weight. Both have tough opening-round bouts as Young meets Bound Brook's Emmanuel Soto and Maurice takes on Hunterdon Central's Tim Higginson.

Prediction

1st: B.J. Clagon (Toms River South)

2nd: T.J. Miller (Camden Catholic)

3rd: Troy Heilmann (South Plainfield)

4th: John Vanbrill (Clearview)

5th: Maaziah Bethea (Trenton)

6th: Emmanuel Soto (Bound Brook)

7th: Rhys Weinberger (Hillsborough)

8th: Tim Higginson (Hunterdon Central)

 

152

Returning medalists: Nick Gravina (Northern Highlands, 4th at 145), Chad Walsh (Camden Catholic, 5th at 138).

The favorite: Chad Walsh (Camden Catholic).

Shore Conference wrestlers: Chris Serpico (Southern), Jake George (Long Branch), Brett Donner (Wall).

This should be a fun battle for the two spots in the final with six wrestlers who could legitimately be wrestling for a state championship. Gravina, Walsh and Northern Burlington's Wayne Stinson have all been nationally ranked during the season. South Plainfield's Dylan Painton could place high, as could Bound Brook's Josh Ugalde and Phillipsburg's Jimmy Schuitema. Serpico, George and Donner did not receive favorable draws. Serpico should be matched up with Stinson in Friday's prequarterfinal round while Donner will get Walsh in the same round. George has a very tough first bout against Delsea's John Hennelly that will probably determine whether he medals or not.

Prediction

1st: Chad Walsh (Camden Catholic)

2nd: Nick Gravina (Northern Highlands)

3rd: Wayne Stinson (Northern Burlington)

4th: Dylan Painton (South Plainfield)

5th: Jimmy Schuitema (Phillipsburg)

6th: Josh Ugalde (Bound Brook)

7th: Dom Ruggierrio (Timber Creek)

8th: John Hennelly (Delsea).

 

160

Returning medalists: Jonathan Schleifer (East Brunswick, 3rd at 152), Dillon Artigliere (Roxbury, 5th at 152), John Balboni (Brearley, 8th at 160).

The favorite: Jonathan Schleifer (East Brunswick)

Shore Conference wrestlers: Dan Wojtaszek (Brick), Joey Schultz (Howell), Nick Pappayliou (Long Branch).

Schleifer and Artigliere appear to be on a collision course to meet in the final. Schleifer has been ranked in the nation throughout the season with his only loss coming up at 170 pounds while Artigliere is 39-0. Look out for Clearview senior Connor Donahue, who is 36-1 on the season. Wojtaszek could reach the semifinals without facing any of the big guns. He will be going for win No. 100 in the prequarterfinal round. Schultz and Pappayliou have decidedly more difficult paths. Schultz will face Hunterdon Central's Tyler Cote in his first match while Pappayliou with Franklin's Mike Fagg-Daves.

Prediction

1st: Jonathan Schleifer (East Brunswick)

2nd: Dillon Artigliere (Roxbury)

3rd: Connor Donahue (Clearview)

4th: John Balboni (Brearley)

5th: Josef Johnson (Delbarton)

6th: Dan Wojtaszek (Brick)

7th: Bryce Shade (Timber Creek)

8th: Sam Button (Mendham).

170

Returning medalists: Ethan Ramos (Hawthorne, 4th at 170), Jadaen Bernstein (Voorhees, 7th at 160), Jeff Farina (St. Joseph-Montvale, 7th at 170).

The favorite: Ethan Ramos (Hawthorne)

Shore Conference wresters: Dae'Sean Brown (Neptune), Tyler Richardson (Brick Memorial), Luke Fernandez (Lacey).

Another very deep weight that hasn't got as much attention as some of the lower weights but is quietly a top-three weight in the tournament. Bernstein was a finalist three years ago while Ramos has been nationally-ranked all season and enters with a 36-0 record. Brearley's Joey Balboni will be a tough out for him in the bottom bracket. In the top bracket, Bernstein will have to contend with either Montville's Parker Meytrott or St. Joseph-Montvale's Jeff Farina, and then either Don Bosco Prep's Luke Farinaro or Delsea's Dylan Dobzanksi. There are no easy roads to the title here. Fernandez will get Bernstein in the prequarterfinals if he wins his opening match, while Richardson has to contend with Dobzanski in his second bout. Brown's road is slightly easier since he wouldn't see Ramos until the quarterfinals, but the trio will have to battle in the wrestlebacks to earn a spot on the medal stand. In this weight, that will be quite an accomplishment. Even though there are just three wrestlers in the bracket that have previously placed, it seems there are many that have developed into top-eight grapplers.

Prediction

1st: Ethan Ramos (Hawthorne)

2nd: Jadaen Bernstein (Voorhees)

3rd: Joey Balboni (Brearley)

4th: Dylan Dobzanski (Delsea)

5th: Luke Farinaro (Don Bosco Prep)

6th: Kieran Gerrity (Kittatinny)

7th: Parker Meytrott (Montville)

8th: Jeff Farina (St. Joseph-Montvale).

182

Returning medalists: Johnny Sebastian (Bergen Catholic, 1st at 160), Nick Zak (Jackson Liberty, 6th at 170).

The favorite: Johnny Sebastian (Bergen Catholic).

Shore Conference wrestlers: Nick Zak (Jackson Liberty), Nick Costa (Brick Memorial), Glenn Cross (Matawan).

The 182-pound weight class is the Sebastian's to lose. Last year's 160-pound champ is nationally-ranked and has lost only at the Beast of the East. It's hard to see anyone beating him to take the title. The bottom bracket looks like a battle between Zak and Hammonton's David Williams, who enters undefeated. Bound Brook's Isaiah Soto and South Brunswick's Ali Yildiz could make some noise, but they'll likely have to do so in the wrestlebacks. Costa actually has a very good shot at medaling with his draw. He's a bit underrated in this bracket. Cross would match up with Yildiz in the prequarterfinals where a loss would give him a tough road to the medal round.

Prediction

1st: Johnny Sebastian (Bergen Catholic)

2nd: Nick Zak (Jackson Liberty)

3rd: David Williams (Hammonton)

4th: Nick Costa (Brick Memorial)

5th: Ali Yildiz (South Brunswick)

6th: Brian Bulger (Westfield)

7th: Josh Sibblies (Newton)

8th: Frank Greco (Verona).

195

Returning medalists: Razohnn Gross (Don Bosco Prep, 1st at 195), Rory Bonner (West Deptford, 5th at 182), Dominic Carfagno (St. Joseph-Montvale, 6th at 195), Matt Moore (Brick Memorial, 7th at 195).

The favorite: Razohnn Gross (Don Bosco Prep).

Shore Conference wrestlers: Mike Oxley (CBA), Matt Moore (Brick Memorial), Ken Bradley (Jackson Memorial).

A very interesting weight because a few worthy wrestlers will be left off the medal stand because of how the seeds fell. Gross is the defending state champ at the weight and has looked better each week since returning from an ankle injury in January. Bonner is undefeated and in the bottom bracket with the likes of Hawthorne's Evan Ramos, Franklin's Anthony Messner, St. Peter's Prep's Christian Colucci, Carfagno and Moore. Oxley has a tough draw since he's lined up to face Gross in the quarterfinals, but should have a manageable path to a top-eight finish. If Moore can shake off his stunning loss to Oxley in the region final he certainly has the goods to place high. Entering the region tournament he was talked about as a potential title contender, and one loss shouldn't drastically change that. With  that being said, he has one of the toughest preliminary-round bouts in the entire tournament against Carfagno. Bradley would face Ramos in the prequarterfinals and would have Bonner waiting if here were to win. Bradley will have to ramp up his offensive output to make a run.

Prediction

1st: Razohnn Gross (Don Bosco Prep)

2nd: Evan Ramos (Hawthorne)

3rd: Rory Bonner (West Deptford)

4th: Matt Moore (Brick Memorial)

5th: Mike Oxley (CBA)

6th: Eric DeJonge (Old Bridge)

7th: Anthony Messner (Franklin)

8th: Christian Colucci (St. Peter's Prep)

220

Returning medalists: Bryan Dobzanski (Delsea, 3rd at 195), Mauro Correnti (Holy Cross, 5th at 220), Zack Chakonis (Don Bosco Prep, 6th at 220).

The favorite: Bryan Dobzanski (Delsea).

Shore Conference wrestlers: John Seidle (Neptune), Tyler Poling (Brick Memorial), Pat Schinder (Lacey).

Three wrestlers stand out as potential champions: Dobzanski, Correnti and Chakonis, who, not surprisingly, are the only returning medalists among the group. Dobzanski has been downright scary this season and his 38-0 record backs that up. Correnti returns as a medalist at the same weight and would meet Dobzanski in what would be an explosive semifinal bout. Chakonis, who was sixth as a freshman and is nationally-ranked, looks like a good bet to reach the final. To do so, he'll have to beat Summit's A.J. Iarussi (42-0) and Franklin's Ralph Normandia (38-2). The Shore Conference triumvirate will have to battle even to reach the seventh-place bout. Seidle has Correnti right off the bat, which isn't exactly a perk of winning a region title. Poling has Mt. Olive's Pete Andrich in the preliminary round. Andrich was fourth in Region I and was added after a wrestler dropped out, but is capable of stringing some wins together. Schinder would face Chakonis on Friday if he wins his opening bout. Poling and Seidle could potentially wrestle for a third time this season in the second round of wrestlebacks. Schinder will likely run into Bergen Catholic's Christian Jenco and St. Peter's Prep's Armond Cox in the consolation bracket.

Prediction

1st: Bryan Dobzanski (Delsea)

2nd: Zack Chakonis (Don Bosco Prep)

3rd: Mauro Correnti (Holy Cross)

4th: Christian Jenco (Bergen Catholic)

5th: A.J. Iarussi (Summit)

6th: Ralph Normandia (Franklin)

7th: Tory Russell (South Plainfield)

8th: Tyler Poling (Brick Memorial)

Hwt

Returning medalists: Roy Lucas (St. Joseph-Hammonton, 3rd at 220), John Appice (Manalapan, 7th at Hwt), Antony Tufaro (Scotch Plains-Fanwood, 8th at Hwt).

The favorite: Roy Lucas (St. Joseph-Hammonton)

Shore Conference wrestlers: John Appice (Manalapan), Trevor Finn (Middletown South), Marvin Hayden.

Heavyweight is usually one of the more unpredictable weights and this season is no different. There are just three returning medalists in the field and Appice and Tufaro are the only returning heavyweights. Lucas has quietly been one of the state's more dominant wrestlers over the last two seasons and is a strong bet to make the final. St. Joseph-Montvale's Kevin Wilkins, Warren Hill's Andrew Pacheco or Tufaro could pick him off before then, howeer. The bottom bracket feature's Appice, Haddon Heights' Alex Thompson, Bound Brook's Stephen Michael Johnson, Belvidere's Ryan Appleby, Hanover Park's Nick LaShell and Bergen Catholic's Carmine Goldsack as realistic threats to reach the final. Appice's only loss this season is to Thompson, and he would have a chance to avenge that loss in the semifinals. He would likely have to get past Appleby and Goldsack to do so. Finn would meet Tufaro in the prequarterfinals should he win his opening bout. Hayden meets Miller in his first bout, which is a very tough draw for the first-time qualifier.

Prediction

1st: Roy Lucas (St. Joseph-Hammonton)

2nd: John Appice (Manalapan)

3rd: Alex Thompson (Haddon Heights)

4th: Carmine Goldsack (Bergen Catholic)

5th: Kevin Wilkins (St. Joseph-Montvale)

6th: Anthony Tufaro (Scotch Plains-Fanwood)

7th: Stephen Michael Johnson (Bound Brook)

8th: Ryan Appleby (Belvidere).