CLASS B NORTH 

Colts Neck – head coach: Brett Jankos, 7th season

Matawan – head coach: Ryan O’Steen, 1st season

Middletown North – head coach: Matt Sirchio, 13th season

Neptune – head coach: Tim Jobes, 17th season

Ocean – head coach: Cippy Apicelli, 8th season

Red Bank – head coach: Scott Ferris, 19th season

Wall – head coach: Brian Fischer, 11th season

  

THE FAVORITE: Middletown North

Now that Long Branch has moved into Class A North, there will be a new division champion in Class B North this season. Middletown North won the division crown in 2017 and the Lions are a slight favorite to bring home the title again this season.

Middletown North returns six district medalists and two state qualifiers, led by junior Tyler Klinsky. A 40-match winner last season, Klinsky was third in the Shore Conference Tournament before winning both District 17 and Region 5 titles. He is the big bopper down low at either 106 or 113 pounds. The top half of the lineup is anchored by senior Jacob Anderson, who went 33-3 with a District 17 championship and a third-place finish in Region 5 and will wrestle at 195 and 220 pounds.

Middletown North's Tyler Klinsky defeated Phillipsburg's Cullen Day, 8-1. (Photo by Steve Meyer).

The Lions’ strength is from 106-138 pounds where junior Thomas O’Keefe will be at 106/113, junior Freddy Luchs at 120 and senior Nate Pujols at 138. O’Keefe was 32-12, fourth in the SCT and second in District 17 last season while Luchs was 28-15 and also second at districts. The string of O’Keefe, Klinsky and Luchs from 106-120 is as strong as any in the Shore. Pujols was 24-14 and a third-place finisher at districts and provides a veteran presence.

The lost a big-time upperweight to graduation in the form of state medalist Nicko Cofone, but are hoping talented sophomore Nico Scerbo can fill the void. Scerbo was 21-17 with a third-place district finish last season.

 

MAIN CONTENDER: Ocean 

With six district medalists returning, including state medalist Alex Poniros, it’s a fair argument that Ocean is actually the team to beat in the division. The Spartans have a strong group of lower/middleweights but some question marks up top. If they can fill those holes they will certainly give Middletown North a run for its money.

Poniros is the marquee name at 138/145 pounds after going 33-10 winning a District 24 title, finishing fourth in Region 6 and making a great state tournament run to finish seventh in New Jersey. After two very good seasons, Poniros will be looking to take his game to an elite level. Younger brother Demetri is slotted at 113/120 pounds and is coming off a fine debut season where he went 24-8 and won a district title. Junior Jack Nies (132) went 30-10 and was a district runner-up and senior Will Tisony (120) was 22-14 with a second-place finish at districts. Sophomore Blake Tarnowski was 8-7 in limited action as a freshman and could be in for a larger role at 106/113 pounds. Ocean also has several new freshmen and sophomores in the lower half of the lineup, including Gio Poniros (106), A.J. Benner (126) and Nick Benner (138).

Senior Anthony Esposito at 160 and sophomore Joe Teresi at heavyweight bookend the top half of the lineup. Esposito was 24-14 and a District 24 champ last season while Teresi was 15-12 with a third-place finish at districts. Teresi had some big wins during the season wrestling mostly against upperclassmen and could be in for a breakout season. Esposito and Teresi are the only returns from 152-285 with winning records, but there is some experience with seniors Ryan Moran and Dino Poniros at 182 and 195.

  

DARK HORSE: Colts Neck

The Cougars lost some heft to graduation, including the arguably the program’s G.O.A.T. in Joey King, plus state qualifier Dyon Womack and district medalists Justin Pierre-Louis and Anthony Lombardo. A pair of district medalists and a key transfer gives Colts Neck hope of challenging Middletown North and Ocean.

Junior Luke Rada comes over from Howell and gives Colts Neck a standout presence in the middle of the lineup at 145 pounds. Rada was 26-5 last season for the undefeated Group 5 champion Rebels but did not participate in the individual postseason. As a freshman, Rada was a district champion and a fourth-place finisher in Region 6.

Senior Michael Jannucci was 22-9 and a District 21 champion last season and will anchor the upperweights at 182 pounds. Sophomore Logan Waller is the leading returner down low after going 20-6 and finishing second at districts as a freshman. Sophomore Joe Barsky at 152, sophomore Nick Moldaver at 126, junior Kenny Koenig at 170, senior Jovani Velasquez-Ruiz at 195 and junior Thomas Lidondici at 220 are all returning starters.

 

Wrestlers to Watch 

Jacob Anderson, Sr., 195/220, Middletown North: 33-3, 1st D17, 3rd R5

Daniel Brewton, So., 152/160, Neptune: 19-11, 3rd D24

Tucker Cochrane, Jr., 120, Red Bank: 16-10, 3rd D18

Michael Jannucci, Sr., 182, Colts Neck: 22-9, 1st D21

Rob Kanniard, Sr., 160/170, Wall: 45-1, 1st SCT, 1st D23, 1st R6, 2nd NJ

Tyler Klinsky, Jr., 106/113, Middletown North: 40-6, 3rd SCT, 1st D17, 1st R5

Jack Nies, Jr., 132, Ocean: 30-10, 2nd D24

Kamrin O’Neill, So., 120, Matawan: 26-9, 2nd D20

Alex Poniros, Jr., 138/145, Ocean: 33-10, 1st D24, 4th R6, 7th NJ 

Luke Rada, Jr., 145, Colts Neck: 26-5 at Howell; district champ in 2017.

Logan Waller, So., 120, Colts Neck: 20-6, 2nd D21

Jake Whitworth, So., 182, Wall: 28-6, 1st D23

Wall senior Rob Kanniard. (Photo by Ray Richardson).

  

Key Dates

Dec. 15

Colts Neck at Blue Devils Invitational (Ewing)

Matawan at Old Bridge Icebreaker

Middletown North at Battle at the Bay (Bayonne)

Neptune at Neptune Classic

Ocean at Wendy Pandy-Leh Invitational (Delaware Valley)

Red Bank at Edison Classic

Wall at Colt Classic (CBA)

Dec. 21

Ocean vs. Point Boro

Dec. 22

Colts Neck at Point Boro

Middletown North vs. Hunterdon Central

Dec. 27

Red Bank at Patriot Invitational (Secaucus)

Dec. 28

Colts Neck, Middletown North, Ocean, Wall at Mustang Classic (Brick Memorial)

Matawan at Bear Invitational (East Brunswick)

Jan. 3

Ocean at Colts Neck

Jan. 4

Middletown North vs. Howell

Jan. 5

Wall at Minutemen Tournament (Elizabeth)

Middletown North vs. Ocean at Roxbury

Jan. 8

Colts Neck at Manalapan

Jan. 9

Ocean vs. Long Branch

Jan. 12

Red Bank at Buc Classic (Red Bank)

Middletown North at Southern

Ocean at CBA/Raritan

Jan. 18

Middletown North at Colts Neck

Jan. 19

Middletown North at Raritan

Jan. 23

Middletown North vs. Point Boro

Jan. 25-26

Shore Conference Tournament at Red Bank Regional HS

Jan. 30

Wall at Colts Neck

Jan. 31

Wall at Manasquan

Feb. 1

Middletown North at Middletown South

Feb. 2

Phillipsburg at Ocean

Feb. 4

NJSIAA sectional quarterfinals

Feb. 6

NJSIAA sectional semifinals

Feb. 8

NJSIAA sectional finals

Feb. 10

NJSIAA state semifinals and finals at RWJ Barnabas Arena (Toms River North)

Feb. 16

NJSIAA district tournaments

Feb. 20, 22-23

NJSIAA region tournaments

Feb. 28-March 2

NJSIAA state tournament at Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City

 

Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at bob.badders@townsquaremedia.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.

 

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