POINT PLEASANT BEACH – Usually when a wrestling team shows up for weigh-ins the school is a lonely and sometimes desolate place. Everything is different when Point Boro and Point Beach meet in their annual wrestling match, however. Even the minutiae of a regular-season match have their own unique conditions.

“We showed up for weigh-ins around 5:30 and there was a very, very big line waiting to get in, and already it’s like, ‘wow’,” said Point Boro senior Gabe Fattizzi. “The schools really do it for us. They create this great atmosphere that no one in the Shore Conference gets. That’s why this is such a big deal.”

The Battle for Point Pleasant once again drew a crowd that pushed the capacity limits of Point Beach’s modest gym over an hour before the first bout was wrestled. The “Panther Pit” and “Gulls Next” student sections exchanged chants that made having a conversation with the person next to you almost impossible. The bleachers literally shook. When the teams came out for warmups it was like the world’s most popular musical act had walked on stage.

Friday night was, in a word, a spectacle.

“It’s a special night, a special night for two towns but for wrestling itself to have two communities support the kids and put on a show like that,” said Point Boro head coach Pat Brady.

On the mat, Point Boro showed why it is the No. 5 team in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 by blasting Point Beach, 57-6, to remain undefeated and hand the Garnet Gulls their first loss of the season. Five consecutive pins by junior Billy Borowsky, Fattizzi, senior Anthony Bonavito, freshman Nick Torre and senior Ben Sabo from 195 to 113 pounds nearly blew the roof off the place and gave the Panthers an insurmountable 53-6 lead.

The Panthers are expected to contend for the NJSIAA South Jersey Group II state sectional title in early February, while the Garnet Gulls are the favorite to defend their Central Jersey Group I championship. Both have had great seasons so far and hope to continue their winning ways into February, but on this night Point Boro continued to have the upper hand in the rivalry.

The wrestling match is the main attraction, obviously, but what happens on the mat is almost secondary to what occurs around it. The annual Point Boro vs. Point Beach match has become a celebration of wrestling and of the power of high school sports in two communities. There isn’t a ton of crossover given Point Beach is a small Group I school and Point Boro is a Group II school and they play in different divisions, but they do meet in multiple sports. It is the wrestling teams, however, that generate the kind of passionate interest that just isn’t seen elsewhere in the Shore Conference.

“Ain’t it great,” Brady said. “It’s two guys out there battling and I think the communities and the schools respect what we do, the grind we go through every day, and this is a way to show it. It’s exciting for both towns and all the wrestlers.”

Almost everyone on both teams understands what this event is all about, even the freshmen who have been coming to these matches since elementary school. But for Point Boro senior Francis Marshall it was a new experience. A state qualifier at Manasquan last season, Marshall transferred to Point Boro last year.

“I came here last year when it was at Boro and just to watch it then was really cool to see all the people who came out and supported,” said Marshall, who won by 19-8 major decision over Jimmy Sherlock at 152 pounds to improve to 20-3. “All this support just for a wrestling match is great because you really don’t see that anywhere else.”

On the other end of the spectrum is Fattizzi, a senior captain and four-year wrestler for the Panthers who can thank the Boro-Beach rivalry for his wrestling career.

As a freshman, Fattizzi came through with a stunning pin that helped Point Boro rally from a 29-3 deficit and win 34-32 to keep its streak intact. The next day in school he couldn’t walk into class without receiving a standing ovation. Before that moment Fattizzi was just a football player giving wrestling a try, and there was no guarantee he would stick with it.

“I stepped in here freshman year and I got beat up almost every single match. Until this one,” Fattizzi said. “That kind of set the tone and right after that I started to love wrestling, for obvious reasons. “I was a first-year wrestler my freshman year and I had no idea what I was doing. Now I’m a senior and I was selected as captain by my teammates, and that’s very humbling.”

It came full-circle for Fattizzi in his final Boro-Beach match when he pinned Santino Giampa in 1:03 at 220 pounds to give Point Boro a 35-6 lead. He turned to the crowd and let out a roar, and they ate it up just like they did four years ago.

Now Point Boro turns its overall attention to making a run at a sectional title and its immediate focus to Monday’s showdown with No. 3 Southern Regional. The match with the Rams, who are ranked No. 13 in the state by the New Jersey Wrestling Writers Association, is yet another opportunity for Point Boro to showcase its balance.

The best way to describe Point Boro is very solid. The Panthers don’t have any state-ranked wrestlers but they also don’t have any holes in their lineup. They can get the job done from 106 through heavyweight.

“I’m really impressed with the way they go about their business,” Brady said. “I’ve said it before, they are like professionals. They know what they need to do, to warm up, to mentally and physically prepare. They know their job and they go out and get it done, get off the mat and support the next guy. This is another step up the mountain and we need to continue to do it like this to finish the season where we want to.”

The ultimate goal is a state sectional title and a chance to compete for the overall NJSIAA Group 2 championship. Point Boro’s only sectional title came in 2007. This year’s group knows it has what it takes to win title No. 2.

“We believe in each other,” Fattizzi said. “The past three years the state title has been the goal but some people get blinded in big matches like this. But this team knows that we’ll celebrate tonight, we’ll yell in the locker room a little bit, but then we’re right back to work. There’s no rest for us. This team believes it can win a state championship. It’s very attainable for us.”

The stress of winning NJSIAA Tournament matches in early February was on the backburner Friday night, however. On this evening it was about two neighboring towns that share two-thirds of their names and countless more connections uniting to create a scene that is unique.

“What a show,” Brady said. “It’s the best environment to be a part of and I’m just lucky to be the coach and be a part of it. These are the best towns in New Jersey, in my opinion. There’s nowhere I’d rather be than Point Pleasant Boro and that’s mainly because of the people in it.”

 

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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