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JACKSON — In 1985, a six-point win over Toms River East signaled the start of a burgeoning dynasty. Thirty years later, the Shore Conference Tournament title is once again coming back to Brick Memorial.

The Mustangs added to their record total on Saturday at Jackson Liberty High School by defeating division rival Jackson Memorial, 33-24, to capture the 2015 Shore Conference Tournament title. Junior Luke Vescovi earned a key major decision at 132 pounds, leading a late surge that resulted in five wins over the final six bouts and delivered the Mustangs their conference-best 15th SCT championship.

"Coach Denver has been preaching to us all year that we have to pick each other up," Vescovi said. "There's going to be close ones we win and close ones we lose, and we just tried to change the momentum when we could and get a couple of the ones from last time turned around."

Brick Memorial defeated Jackson Memorial 33-24 to win the 2015 Shore Conference Tournament, its 15th SCT title in program history. (Photo by Bob Badders).

Brick Memorial (13-1) won eight of 14 bouts just 10 days after an epic one-point win over Jackson in the divisional matchup, including bonus-point producing victories from seniors Cliff Ruggiero, Rob Ruggiero, Jose Bocalman and Alec Donovan, sophomore Gianni Ghione and Vescovi. Senior Connor Owen eked out a one-point win in double overtime at 220 pounds, and senior backup Ricky Davis made the Mustangs’ plan to shift their lineup up a weight class work by not allowing bonus points at 138 pounds. It all added up to Brick Memorial’s third SCT title in the last four seasons.

"The momentum from our lowerweights was huge," Donovan said . "They kept us in the match and everyone who stepped on the mat after that took the momentum with them."

Jackson Memorial (15-4) reached the final and earned a rematch with Brick Memorial by taking down previously undefeated Howell, 27-22, in a thrilling semifinal match. Sophomore Tanner Kelly scored a buzzer-beating takedown at 182 pounds, senior Brody Graham won 1-0 over Nick Rivera at heavyweight and senior Connor Bohringer picked up six team points at 195 pounds. Senior Fred Terranova and sophomore Matt McGowan picked up bonus points in their victories, but the Jaguars finished just short in their quest for a seventh conference crown.

"We tried a different strategy, and it doesn't look like it on paper, but we were one match short," said Jackson Memorial head coach Aaron Gottesman. "We lost one in overtime, they reversed a decision we had on them last time and we lost a close one at 145. We win one of those we can forfeit to Donovan or put someone else out there and have Leahey vs. Ruggiero for an SCT title. Not saying he beats him again, but we'd have a shot."

It was immediately clear things would play out differently in terms of matchups when the Mustangs bumped Cliff Ruggiero up from 160 pounds to face Jarret DiGiantomasso at 170 to open the match. Ruggiero won by 19-6 major decision, but the Jaguars won four of the next five bouts to forge a 17-7 lead. Brick Memorial’s lowerweights closed the gap to three points heading into 132 pounds where they needed Vescovi to turn the tables on Mike Christie.

On Jan. 21 Christie edged Vescovi 4-3 in ultimate tiebreaker, but this time Vescovi picked up the win his team desperately needed by scoring an 11-2 major decision to give Brick Memorial a 22-21 lead with four bouts left. Vescovi turned Christie in the first period for three near-fall points to go ahead 5-0 and scored a reversal and got another turn in the second for a 10-0 lead advantage.

Brick Memorial junior Luke Vescovi won by 11-2 major decision over Jackson Memorial's Mike Christie at 132 pounds, reversing an overtime loss on Jan. 21 for a crucial victory that helped the Mustangs captured the Shore Conference Tournament title. (Photo by Larry Murphy/Sports PIX NJ)

"I'm not making excuses because Christie is a great wrestler, but Luke was sick the first time, and he came back healthy and wrestled very, very well," said Brick Memorial head coach Mike Denver. "We're always confident with Luke because he listens to the coaches and buys into what we want."

"To come back healthy, it felt really good to be out there being me again," Vescovi said. "I just went out there like I do every match and didn't really care who I was wrestling. To me, it was just another match. I never get myself too amped. I just try to wrestled how I always do."

At 138 pounds, Brick Memorial just needed Davis to stay off his back against Jackson sophomore Tim Hamann. In the Jaguars' semifinal win over Howell, Hamann provided the match-turning victory when he beat state medalist Kris Lindemann, 6-5, at 138 pounds, so he was coming in hot. Davis did a fantastic job of saving bonus points by stifling Hamann’s offense to lose just 1-0. Even if Hamann would’ve won by a major decision or technical fall, Brick Memorial would still have been in good shape heading to the final three bouts, but in allowing just a decision Davis put the Mustangs firmly in the driver’s seat.

"Ricky just wrestled great, man," Vescovi said. "I wrestle with him every day in practice and he's a key to why me and the Bocalmans have gotten so much better. He is a kid that has stuck with the program for years, and when he got his shot he stepped up to the plate and wrestled great."

"Rick Davis only losing a 1-0 decision, I honestly didn't see that coming," Donovan said. "But he's been working his (butt) off in practice and he deserves that. His whole objective was to not get pinned, but once he took that initial shot in the beginning and almost took Timmy down that's when we realized he had a chance to not only not get pinned, but possibly win which he almost did in the final seconds."

"A 1-0 loss there is a win, especially to Tim Hamann," Denver said. "Those kinds of wrestlers are the unsung heroes. He lost, but he won the match. Going out there and only losing 1-0 was absolutely huge."

Junior Anthony Mitchell followed with a 4-1 victory over Hunter Reese to put Brick Memorial up 25-24 with two bouts left and hammers Alec Donovan and Rob Ruggiero waiting to close out the victory.

Donovan won by 12-4 major decision over Sean Leahey at 152 pounds to give the Mustangs a five-point lead heading into the final bout. All Rob Ruggiero had to do was win, and he stamped SCT title No. 15 with authority in a 9-1 major decision over Kyle Johnson at 160 pounds.

"Mitchell's win over Reese was big, and Robby and I got do do what studs of the team are supposed to do," Donovan said.

The Jaguars gambled from the start by sending out DiGiantomasso at 170 pounds, which eventually left them with only Johnson (1-4) at 160 pounds. They could have bumped up around 138 to 152, but the only other option they had was sophomore Dan Bergeron (0-1) at 145.

Brick Memorial senior Cliff Ruggiero won by 19-6 major decision over Jackson Memorial's Jarret DiGiantomasso at 170 pounds. (Photo by Larry Murphy/Sports PIX NJ).



After Cliff Ruggiero’s major decision to start the match, the Jags got on the board when Kelly edged Mustangs senior Joe Stowers, 9-8 at 182 pounds. A back-and-forth bout that started with Kelly putting Stowers to his back in the first period for a five-point lead before Stowers hit a reversal to make it 5-2. Stowers then got a takedown and two near-fall points in the second to tie the score at six after two, and a reversal in the third put him up 8-6. Kelly escaped with 20 seconds left in the third, however, and secured the winning takedown just before the buzzer to win 9-8.

Things took an interesting turn at 195 pounds when Bohringer won by disqualification against Brick Memorial senior Kyle Angersbach. Angersbach weighed in at 170 pounds, and therefore is not allowed to wrestled up two weight classes. The Jackson Memorial coaching staff noticed this around 45 seconds into the match, called it to the officials’ attention, and after it was confirmed the bout was declared a DQ. The Jaguars were expecting six points from Bohringer anyway, so it didn’t effect the points totals differently than expected.

Owen got the Mustangs’ second victory when he outlasted Adante Davis, 2-1 in double overtime, at 220 pounds. Tied 1-1 after three periods and sudden victory, Owen rode Davis out in the first tiebreaker and escaped with six seconds left in the the second tiebreaker for the win.

At heavyweight, Jaguars senior Brody Graham exacted revenge on Brick Memorial sophomore Nick Rivera with a crucial 1-0 victory. It was Rivera’s third-period Peterson roll for a 6-2 win over Graham on Jan. 21 that clinched Brick Memorial’s victory, so this was one Jackson knew it had to have this time around. Graham escaped in the second period and rode Rivera out in the third for the win, handing Rivera his first loss of the season.

McGowan followed with a 16-1 technical fall in 4:31 over Matt Wardlaw at 106 pounds to give Jackson a 17-7 lead.

The Mustangs certainly could've panicked after Rivera's loss and the bonus points at 106 put them in a 10-point hole, but a program doesn't win over half a dozen SCT titles by being flustered less than halfway through a match.

"You have to shake it off and try to wrestle even harder after that," Vescovi said. "Getting down on yourself isn't going to help the team. You take it in for a second, shake it off and worry about the next match."

"When Nick lost the kids that were still to wrestle had to step up, and damn well they did," Donovan said.

Ghione got those points right back for Brick Memorial when he teched Mike Spino in 5:39, using 10 takedowns and one reversal in a 24-9 victory that made it 17-12. Terranova won by 11-2 major over Luis Bocalman at 120, finding his favorite tilt in the third period to secure bonus points.

Jose Bocalman picked up his twin brother and the rest of his team when he pinned Jackson freshman Ryan Bohringer in 3:11 at 126 pounds to cut the Jaguars’ lead to 21-18 and set up Vescovi and company to close out another championship.

"Wether it was going to be Howell or Jackson, we were just excited to be in the final," Denver said. "The kids came out and wrestled tough."

"We wrestled sloppy against Jackson the first time, so today was redemption for us in that respect," Donovan said. "We picked ourselves back up and wrestled the way we should have."

"We knew whoever we would wrestled we just had to do what we do," Vescovi said. "This isn't me just making this up, this has been coming from coach Denver all year, him sitting us in the back and telling us to just wrestle like we can and we'll be successful."

Brick Memorial can check off two goals from its list now that it has won the Class A South division title and the Shore Conference Tournament title. The ultimate goal is still the NJSIAA Group V title, and with wins over Jackson (twice), Southern, Toms River South (twice), Group II title contender Hanover Park and Group III title contender Wall, the Mustangs are certainly battle-tested. They will enter the NJSIAA South Jersey Group V sectional tournament on Feb. 9 ready to peak at the perfect time.

"Howell will now have to wrestle Southern in the state sectionals and we'll see one of them in the final," Donovan said. "So that puts Brick Memorial in a great spot."

"I'm definitely happy with the way everything is clicking," Denver said. "Our kids are getting along and responding to adversity. In that respect, we're in a good place right now. We're doing all the right things, and we just have to keep it up until the end of the year."


Shore Conference Tournament


2-Brick Memorial 33, 4-Jackson Memorial 24

170: Cliff Ruggiero (BM) md. Jarret DiGiantomasso 19-6

182: Tanner Kelly (JM) d. Joe Stowers 9-8

195: Connor Bohringer (JM) by disqualification over Kyle Angersbach

220: Connor Owen (BM) d. Adante Davis 2-1 (TB)

Hwt: Brody Graham (JM) d. Nick Rivera 1-0

106: Matt McGowan (JM) tf. Matt Wardlaw 4:31 (16-1)

113: Gianni Ghione (BM) tf. Mike Spino 5:39 (24-9)

120: Fred Terranova (JM) md. Luis Bocalman 11-2

126: Jose Bocalman (BM) p. Ryan Bohringer 3:11

132: Luke Vescovi (BM) md. Mike Christie 11-2

138: Tim Hamann (JM) d. Ricky Davis 1-0

145: Anthony Mitchell (BM) d. Hunter Reese 4-2

152: Alec Donovan (BM) md. Sean Leahey 12-4

160: Rob Ruggiero (BM) md. Kyle Johnson 9-1

Records: Brick Memorial (14-1); Jackson Memorial (15-4).