JACKSON -- After being in control for basically the entire bout, Southern senior Gianni Bennett suddenly found himself desperately fighting for a victory.

Up 4-2, Bennett was taken down by Jackson Memorial's Matt McGowan with just two seconds left in regulation to force overtime. But in sudden victory, Bennett was able to re-capture the edge he had over the first two and a half periods to secure the winning takedown 22 seconds into the first overtime. His 6-4 win over McGowan in the opening bout at 132 pounds was the spark Southern needed as the Rams, ranked No. 2 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, put forth a dominating effort to take 10 of 14 bouts from the No. 3 Jaguars in a key 32-13 Class A South victory on Wednesday night inside Joe Perry Gymnasium.

"After regulation I just got my mental focus back together," said Bennett, who was a District 24 runner-up with an 18-10 record last season. "I knew I had to win it for the team. I wanted to set the pace for the rest of the match, and I knew I had to get in there and do my job."

"It absolutely gave us some energy," said Southern head coach John Stout. "I said it to the team before the match that this was going to be won by our seniors. They made sure they set the example."

Bennett's win started a string of three consecutive victories to start the match by the Rams (3-1, 2-0), who won five of the first six bouts to jump put to a commanding 17-3 lead. Senior Teddy Caporino and junior Seon Bowker won by major decision during that stretch, and sophomore Matt Barnett closed the dual with a thrilling 2-0 overtime win over District 21 medalist Mike Spino.

Mike Racanelli, Peyton Blauvelt, Joe Toci, Owen Kretschmer, Dylan Cardell and Nick Pepe also won by decision for Southern.

"Gianni's win set the tone big time, Racanelli getting the win, Teddy got that win and it started flowing," Blauvelt said. "As a team we performed the way we should have. We didn't do as well as we could have against Delsea (33-22 loss), but we got in the practice room and got ready for today. We beat them pretty good."

Tim Hamann outlasted Pat Mooney 3-2 in triple overtime at 152 pounds for the Jaguars' first win. Tanner Kelly made his season debut with an 11-1 major decision victory over Connor Scully at 182 pounds, while Chris Mondello at 220 and Austin Ostrander at heavyweight won by decision for Jackson.

McGowan and Spino each wrestled up a weight class as the Jaguars shuffled their lineup to better match the Rams, but Bennett and Barnett were able to thwart those moves with clutch overtime wins.

"They bumped guys around to try to get the win, and you have to respect that," Stout said. "At 132 and 126 those guys would normally be down a weight class, so who knows what happens if they are. They went for the win. That's part of coaching. You take a chance and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't."

Barnett's win over Spino was the Southern's biggest on paper, as Spino was third in the District 21 Tournament last season.

"He hadn't beaten him before so it's a real big win for him," Stout said. "And it's his dad's birthday on (Thursday) so he got a real nice birthday present for him."

The Rams were the aggressors from the start and finished the match with a 29-11 advantage in takedowns and reversals scored. Southern also did a great job scoring late in periods. Six times Rams wrestlers secured either a takedown or a reversal with less than 10 seconds remaining.

"Scoring late in periods and scoring on the edge is something we work on a lot in practice," Stout said. "Scoring in situations where your opponent doesn't have an opportunity to answer back; those are big, big points and big for momentum, big for attitude and big for the scoreboard. When you don't have blue-chip kids you have to pick apart a wrestling match and try to win in any area you can."

Southern's three state qualifiers, including state third-place finisher Matt Wilhelm, all graduated, but the Rams have a group that will make opponents work for every point. They proved that on Wednesday in the first of two huge matches this week. On Saturday they host No. 1 Howell in what has become an annual night match. Howell won both matches last year, including 25-24 in the South Jersey Group V semifinals.

"I've been looking forward to it since last year," Blauvelt said. "We know what we have to do. We just have to wrestle the way we did tonight."

 

Box Score

No. 2 Southern 32, No. 3 Jackson Memorial 13

132: Gianni Bennett (S) d. Matt McGowan 6-4 OT

138: Mike Racanelli (S) d. Mike Christie 9-4

145: Teddy Caporino (S) md. Jay Epperly 12-4

152: Tim Hamann (J) d. Pat Mooney 3-2 3OT

160: Seon Bowker (S) md. Dan Bergeron 15-6

170: Peyton Blauvelt (S) d. Kyle Johnson 7-2

182: Tanner Kelly (J) md. Connor Scully 11-1

195: Joe Toci (S) d. Adante Davis 1-0

220: Chris Mondello (J) d. Joe Miele 5-1

Hwt: Austin Ostrander (J) d. Dan Lynch 3-0

106: Owen Kretschmer (S) d. Carsten DiGiantomasso 4-1

113: Dylan Cardell (S) d. Brandon Burkert 5-0

120: Nick Pepe (S) d. Tyler Mitrosky 10-4

126: Matt Barnett (S) d. Mike Spino 2-0 OT

Records: at Jackson Memorial (5-1, 2-1); Southern (3-1, 2-0)