*Photo gallery by Ray Richardson*

ATLANTIC CITY — The disappointment was obvious, and how could it not be? Brick Memorial’s Gianni Ghione was the No. 1 seed at 132 pounds in the NJSIAA Individual Championships and had his eyes set on closing his career with a state championship, but that dream ended with a loss in the semifinals. What Ghione did next, however, should define his career more than the absence of a state title.

Ghione battled back to place third in the state on Sunday afternoon at Boardwalk Hall, pinning Pope John’s Robert Garcia in 1:50 in his final high school bout. The 135th and final win of his career, which was also his 98th career pin, cemented a career that will go down among the best at one of the Shore Conference’s most storied programs.

“It’s hard to categorize, I’m kind of bummed out,” Ghione said. “It was a long career, a good year and a hell of a way to end it. To finish it off with a win is a really good feeling.”

Brick Memorial's Gianni Ghione placed third in the state at 132 pounds to finish his career as a three-time state medalist. (Photo by Ray Richardson).

Ghione concludes his career as a three-time state medalist, finishing second at 113 as a sophomore and fourth at 120 as a junior. He is also a three-time district champion and a three-time Region 6 champion. His 135 career wins are third in Brick Memorial history behind Steve Santos (149) and Mike Morales (141). He helped Brick Memorial to arguably its best season in history in 2014 when the Mustangs won the Shore Conference Tournament, the NJSIAA Group V title and had four state finalists to finish No. 2 in New Jersey behind only a top-five nationally-ranked Bergen Catholic team.

Ghione’s tournament hit a bump during Saturday night’s semifinals when he lost, 3-2, to New Milford senior John Burger. He had the rest of the night to reflect and get ready for Sunday morning’s wrestleback round six. A win there would vault him into the third-place bout, while another loss would send him tumbling to the fifth-place bout. His brother Joe, a two-time all-state wrestler for the Mustangs who wrestled at Lock Haven and will head to Elizabethtown this fall, helped get him back in the saddle.

“Last year when I lost I wasn’t in the same place mentally as this year, I didn’t care if I won or lost,” Ghione said. “ This was like, ‘dude, just take third. You’re not going to wrestle in high school any more and if you don’t take third you’re going to hate yourself for the next coupe of years. Just do what you have to do to win.'''

In the wrestleback semifinals Ghione defeated Parsippany’s P.J. Gohn, 3-2, to reach the consolation final. It was there he capped his career by doing something he did in 73 percent of his victories: pin. It was vintage Ghione late in the first period when he hip-tossed Garcia to his back, squeezed him to the mat and walked off for the final time as a winner.

 

His final high school memory will be hearing the ref slap the mat and then pointing up to his parents, Amy and Gerard, as they embraced with pride.

“Everything I do, I do for my family, so it was good to end it on a win and see them happy,” Ghione said.

Ghione will head to the Ivy League next fall where he’ll wrestle for the University of Pennsylvania Quakers. His goal remains the same: to be a champion. Whether he gets there or not at the conference or national level, or if he can become an NCAA All-American, remains to be seen. He has a shot because of his skills, but mostly because of his heart.

“I told myself it happens, people lose,” Ghione said. “I had to win out and it felt good to do that. I’m going to be pushing myself a little harder now that I didn’t get what I wanted.”

The great ones always do.

 

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.

 

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