The 2015-2016 Shore Conference wrestling season was one of the most unpredictable in recent years, which made for plenty of drama and excitement throughout the season.

The teams ranked in the top 10 weren't separated by much, and that was evident in the results. Ranking the teams became much more difficult than usual, with plenty of triangles and upsets along the way. The one constant, however, was Southern, which did not lose to a Shore Conference team all season en route to winning the NJSIAA Group V title.

Southern did not enter the Shore Conference Tournament yet again, so we'll be left wondering what would have happened if the Rams met Christian Brothers Academy. CBA won its first ever SCT title in thrilling fashion thanks to a final-bout victory by junior Nick Schutzenhofer.

Southern, Howell and Jackson Memorial secured sectional titles while Wall, Middletown North, Long Branch and Raritan also reached the championship matches in their respective sections. CBA, Howell and Middletown North tied for the Class A North division titles, Raritan won A Central, Southern won A South, Wall won B North, Shore won B Central and Jackson Liberty claimed B South. Howell won District 21, CBA won District 22, Wall won District 23 and Southern won District 24.

Without further adieu, we present the final Shore Sports Network Wrestling Top 10 for the 2015-2016 season.

 

1. Southern (16-1)

The Rams won the NJSIAA Group V championship with a thrilling 27-24 victory over Howell and finished No. 2 in the state in the final NJ.com rankings. The group title is Southern's second and first since 2005. Southern also captured the Class A South division title, their eighth title in program history and second in the last three years, and won the South Jersey Group V title, their 10th sectional title in 12 seasons and 11th overall. The Rams' only defeat came to Group III finalist Delsea. Southern also had wins over Central Jersey Group IV champion Jackson Memorial and Group IV champion Phillipsburg at "The Pit". The Rams then won their 18th district team title by claiming the District 24 championship for the sixth straight year, sending 11 of 14 wrestlers through to the Region VI Tournament. Seniors Teddy Caporrino, Pat Mooney and Peyton Blauvelt, along with sophomore Matt Barnett, qualified for the state tournament. The Rams lose some key contributors to graduation, but will return five region qualifiers next season and have continuously shown an ability to reload and remain among the Shore's elite.

 

2. Christian Brothers Academy (15-5)

The Colts turned in their best season in program history by winning the Shore Conference Tournament for the first time in program history while also claiming a share of the Class A North division title and winning the District 22 team championship. The Colts also reached the South Jersey Non-Public A final where they fell to St. Augustine. CBA's 28-27 win over Howell on criteria during the regular season put an end to the Rebels' 73-match divisional winning streak. CBA beat Howell again in a huge spot when junior Nick Schutzenhofer won in double overtime in the final bout at 106 pounds to clinch a 34-28 win in the SCT final. The Colts also posted wins over Central Jersey Group II finalist Raritan and Central Jersey Group IV champion Jackson Memorial. CBA won their third straight and fourth overall district title with Nick Schutzenhofer (106), Sebastian Rivera (113) and Jack LaCorte (195) winning titles and six others advancing to the Region VI Tournament. Rivera and LaCorte won region championships and sophomore Richie Koehler (120) and seniors Garrett Fitzgerald (160) and William Oxley (heavyweight) also reached the state tournament. In Atlantic City, Rivera captured the 113-pound state title with a sensational victory over Delbarton's Patrick Glory to become CBA's second state champ and first since Pete Black in 1969. LaCorte finished eighth. The Colts will lose eight starters to graduation, so they'll have their work cut out in trying to sustain the success of this season.

 

3. Howell (26-5)

The Rebels turned in another excellent season in claiming at least a share of the Class A North division title for the 11th straight year and reaching both the SCT final and Group V championship match. Howell's 73-match divisional winning streak was snapped in a 28-27 loss to CBA on criteria, but with CBA losing to Middletown North and Howell beating Middletown North, the Rebels were able to clinch a three-way tie for the title. Howell beat Wall 44-25 in the SCT semifinals before falling to CBA in the final. The Rebels won their second sectional title in program history by defeating Old Bridge 44-16 in the Central Jersey Group V final, then downed Bridgewater-Raritan for the second time this season, 48-19, in the Group V semifinals. Howell fell to Southern, 27-24, in the Group V final. The Rebels also owned victories over Hunterdon Central, Central Jersey Group II finalist Raritan and North Jersey Section 2, Group II champion Lenape Valley. Howell won their 11th district championship by taking the District 21 title for the four times in the last five season. Nine Rebels reached the Region VI Tournament, including district champions Darby Diedrich (106), Kyle Slendorn (113), Anthony Gagliano (132), Kris Lindemann (138) and Eric Keosseian (220). Lindemann and Keosseian each won their first region titles while Diedrich, Slendorn and Gagliano also reached the state tournament. Keosseian ended up finishing eighth in the state while Diedrich, Slendorn and Lindemann finished one win short of a state medal. Howell will lose seven starters to graduation but returns several key wrestlers and has one of the deepest feeder programs in the Shore. Expect the Rebels to be at or near the top of the Shore Conference next season, as well.

 

4. Wall (18-4)

No team walked such a fine line as Wall, which had problems with depth but was very strong at several weights. The numbers game prevented the Crimson Knights from getting to the top, but they still turned in a tremendous season. Wall won the Class B North title with an undefeated division record, including a win over Central Jersey Group IV finalist Long Branch, and advanced to the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals where it fell to Howell, 44-25. The Crimson Knights then reached the South Jersey Group III sectional final where they were defeated by Delsea, 36-24. Wall's collection of hammers made it a great tournament team, and the Knights had six champions and two runners-up en route to winning the District 23 team title, their first since 2005. Joe Demuner (126), Nick Wagner (132), Rob Kanniard (145), Josh Glantzman (160), Brett Donner (170) and Matt McKenzie (195) advanced to the Region VI Tournament as champions, and Glantzman and Donner each won their respective region titles. For Donner the title was the third. Kanniard and McKenzie also reached the state tournament. In Atlantic City, Donner and McKenzie each finished third while Glantzman reached the second round of wrestlebacks and Kanniard made it to the second round of wrestlebacks. The Knights lose the Rutgers-bound Donner, who is the program's all-time wins leader, plus Glantzman and Demuner to graduation, but return 11 starters, including five region qualifiers, for what should be another strong season in 2017.

 

5. Middletown North (19-5)

The Lions are another team that turned in one of the program's better seasons in 2016. Middletown North set a program record for wins in a season, recorded the program's 500th win and claimed a share of the Class A North division title. The Lions also reached the North Jersey Section 2, Group IV final where they lost to Group IV champion Phillipsburg in the final match at "The Pit". The season's signature win was a 34-29 win over CBA on Jan. 27 that helped force a three-way tie for the A North crown. The Lions won a thriller, 33-32 over Ocean, to advance to the Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals where they fell to Wall, 37-34. Sophomore Stanley Wojdylak (138) and senior Anthony Vetrano (182) each won District 22 titles as the Lions finished third as a team and sent six wrestlers to the Region VI Tournament. Vetrano won a region title and finished third in the state, reaching the state semifinals in the process. The Lions lose Vetrano and Chad Freshnock to graduation, but will return nine starters.

 

6. Jackson Memorial (15-6)

The Jaguars captured the Central Jersey Group IV championship for their eighth sectional title in program history and reached the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals. Jackson finished third at the District 21 Tournament with seniors Mike Spino (120) and Tanner Kelly (182) winning titles and junior Matt McGowan (126) and senior Adante Davis (195) finishing second. McGowan went on to win the Region VI title as the No. 6 seed while Spino battled back to finish third and also reach the state tournament. Eight starters will be lost to graduation, but the Jags will return region champ McGowan to lead the team in 2017.

 

7. Long Branch (16-4)

The Green Wave reached the Central Jersey Group IV final while finishing second in Class B North and the District 22 Tournament. Their top victory during the season was a 37-24 win over Central Jersey Group II finalist Raritan. Long Branch nearly upended favorite CBA in the District 22 Tournament with five individual champions and nine total region qualifiers. Seniors Danny Mullan (145), Mike Shohet (152), Lamont Reid (160), Joey Jasio (220) and John Tomlinson (heavyweight) were crowned district champs. Jasio reached the Region VI final where he finished second via a 3-1 loss in sudden victory to Howell's Eric Keosseian. Jasio would reach the third round of wrestlebacks in the state tournament where he was defeated by Hunterdon Central's Victor Lacombe, 2-1 in double overtime, to finish one win short of a state medal. Eight starters will be lost to graduation, including six region qualifiers. Sophomores Chris Dean and Pete Wersinger and junior Carlos Irizzary lead the group of returners next season.

 

8. Raritan (17-5)

The Rockets reached the Central Jersey Group II final and won the Class A Central division title for the sixth straight season. The division crown was their 14th all-time and 12th in the last 13 seasons. Raritan boasts wins over Central Jersey Group V finalist Old Bridge and South Jersey Group III finalist Wall. The Rockets finished fourth at the District 22 Tournament with four region qualifiers. Sophomore Russell Benson won the 126-pound district title and finished second in the Region VI Tournament to qualify for the state tournament. He reached the third round of wrestlebacks in Atlantic City, falling one win short of a top-eight medal. Raritan will say goodbye to seniors Jared Lonnay, Nick Bohal, Adam Bryant, Joe Stabile and Aaron Daniels, but have a great nucleus of sophomores led by Benson to take another crack at a sectional title next season.

 

9. Colts Neck (19-5)

It was a breakout year for the Cougars under fourth-year head coach Brett Jankos. Colts Neck set a program single-season record for wins and won their first state tournament match in history with a 42-31 victory over Brick Memorial in the Central Jersey Group IV quarterfinals. Third-place finishers Joey King (106), Liam Hoagland (138), Steven Barsky (195) and Vincent Gargiulo (220) led the Cougars to a sixth-place finish at the District 21 Tournament. Big things could be in store for Colts Neck as the Cougars return all 14 starters and lose just one senior who saw varsity action.

 

10. St. John Vianney (18-8)

It was an up and down season for the Lancers, but a late-seaon win over Jackson Memorial and a second-place finish at the District 21 Tournament gave them the nod for the final spot in the top 10. Senior Calvin Beaty (195) and junior Micah Clark (heavyweight) each claimed individual district titles while five others Lancers wrestlers reached the Region VI Tournament. At regions, junior Luke Ecklof became St. John Vianney's first region champion since 2004, and Clark finished third. Ecklof went on to reach the state quarterfinals before finishing eighth, which also made him the Lancers' first state medalist since 2004. Clark reached the third round of wrestlebacks. Five starters will graduate, but a solid core including Ecklof, Clark, junior Jack McLafferty and sophomores Nick Caracappa and Steven Giannios will return.

 

Wrestling editor Bob Badders can be reached at badders@allshoremedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.