Howell Gets Revenge, Continues Fantastic Start With A Win Over No. 3 Southern
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FARMINGDALE — Match after match, the elite teams have come for Howell, and every time they’ve been turned away in a fashion that gets more impressive with every victory. The Rebels are on some kind of roll to begin this season, and the ride continued on Saturday night.
Howell, ranked No. 1 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, exacted a measure of revenge on No. 3 Southern with a 29-21 Shore Conference nondivisional victory to improve to 10-0 and open the eyes of fans around the Shore and state just a little wider.
Southern defeated Howell twice last season, once in the regular season and again in the NJSIAA Group IV semifinals. Soon after a big win over Christian Brothers Academy on Friday night, the focus immediately shifted to the prestigious and always-dangerous Rams.
“Right after CBA we turned the page over,” said senior Austin Silverstein. “We knew what we had to do. This was a big one.”
The Rebels stayed perfect and beat yet another top team by winning eight of 14 bouts and getting bonus points from freshman Kyle Slendorn at 106 pounds and juniors Peter Dee (120) and Kris Lindemann (138). What stood out was the Rebels’ calm and fortitude in close matches. Howell won a pair of overtime bouts and three more decided by two points or less.
“As coach always says, ‘Gas isn’t cheap,' so we work on it every day to make sure we have the gas tank for bouts like that,” Austin Silverstein said.
Silverstein was victorious in one of those grueling bouts, defeating Southern’s Joe Toci 3-2 in the ultimate tiebreaker at 182 pounds. His victory gave Howell a 9-3 lead through four bouts.
“I really believe it’s the way we work in the room, I really do,” said Howell head coach John Gagliano on his team’s success in overtime. “It’s their conditioning and work ethic in the room.”
Senior David Nocks began the match with a 3-1 win in sudden victory over Seon Bowker at 152 pounds and senior Anthony Pozsonyi followed by holding off Rams sophomore Nick Suriano, 3-2, at 160 pounds. Southern bumped up Region VI champion Matt Wilhelm to 170 pounds looking for bonus points, but senior Nick Lurski was able to hold him to a 9-2 decision to keep Howell in the lead, 6-3.
Silverstein followed with his 3-2 win over Toci, escaping in the final overtime period for the victory. Southern got one back at 195 pounds when Peyton Blauvelt scored a reversal in the second tiebreaker period to defeat Howell sophomore Eric Keosseian, 3-2. Sean Silverstein scored takedowns in the first, second and third periods to defeat Connor Skully 8-6 at 220 pounds, but Southern responded by winning at heavyweight, 5-4 in the second tiebreaker, as Pat Ferraro outlasted Ryan Demian. Demian took a 4-2 lead in the third period with the bout’s only takedown, but was hit for his second and third stalling calls that helped tie the bout at four and send it to overtime.
From 152 through heavyweight, Howell had won four of seven and handed the match to its talented group of lowerweights with a 12-9 lead. It wasn’t the outright domination seen during Friday’s win over CBA, but the group got the job done once again. That has been one of the biggest reasons for Howell’s success this season. Its upperweights, unheralded when the season began, have gone above and beyond in winning crucial matches while gaining and saving critical bonus points.
“They are working hard in the room and they’re grinding on each other every day,” Gagliano said. “You watch them every day and you can see them get better off each other. Everyone knows our lowerweights, but now everyone is starting to see that our upperweights are doing a great job, too.”
“We knew going into the match that if we started in the middle and we gave the lowerweights the lead there was no way we would lose it,” Silverstein said. “Coach Gags always says if we can keep it close going into the little guys we’ll be okay. We have a couple of studs downstairs, and it’s great knowing you have those guys on your back in a tough match like this.”
The Rebels have one of New Jersey’s best groups from 106 to 145 pounds, and it showed against the Rams. Southern has a very solid group of lowerweights also, but what was a close match quickly turned into a comfortable lead for the Rebels once the lineup turned over.
Slendorn remained undefeated with a 9-0 major decision over Owen Kretschmer at 106 pounds to stretch the Rebels’ lead to 16-9, and senior Mikey Sisolak used three takedowns over the first two periods and an escape in the third to edge Matt Barnett, 7-6 at 113 pounds, and make it 19-9 with five bouts left. There was still time for the Rams to mount a comeback, especially with seniors Chris Crane and James Knoeller still left to wrestle, but Howell would have none of it.
Dee held a 4-0 lead heading into the third period against Southern’s Frank Amiano, and Amiano chose bottom to begin the third. Dee never let him up, eventually pinning him in 5:08 to elicit a thunderous roar from the home crowd and give the Rebels an insurmountable 25-9 lead with four bouts left.
“It’s nice to see the middle- and upper-weights make a name for themselves, and that takes the pressure off of us,” Dee said. “We can just go out and wrestle free-flow and do our jobs.”
Southern won the next two bouts as Crane build a 4-1 lead and held on to win 4-3 over Nick Ciaccia at 126 pounds, and Knoeller clipped Anthony Gagliano, 4-3, at 132 pounds to cut Howell’s lead to 25-15. The Rams could still win with bonus points in the final two bouts, but Howell’s biggest hammer was waiting at 138 pounds.
Lindemann won by 14-1 major decision over Mike Racanelli in the second to last bout of the match, giving the Rebels a 29-15 lead and clinching another impressive victory. Pat Mooney won by fall over Jake Esposito at 145 pounds for Southern for the final score of 29-21.
“It was one of those matches we knew we could win,” Dee said. “We have the gas tank and everyone is so closely knit together; we’ve all been friends for so long. Everyone is trying to knock us off, but our momentum keeps building and building.”
There is still plenty of wrestling left to do, but these Rebels have been as impressive as any team in the state over the season’s first three weeks. They’re doing everything championship teams do in winning duals - winning close bouts, limiting bonus points and getting bonus of their own.
They have also wrestled with a different aura surrounding them. It started last season when Howell won the Shore Conference Tournament for the first time and captured its first state sectional title in program history. An early-season win over Phillipsburg cemented a team-wide confidence the Rebels have taken with them into every match, and it’s obvious they believe they can beat every team on their schedule.
With the way the first half of the season has gone, it’s hard to argue they won’t.
No. 1 Howell 29, No. 3 Southern 21
152: David Nocks (H) d. Seon Bowker 3-1 (SV)
160: Anthony Pozsonyi (H) d. Nick Suriano 3-2
170: Matt Wilhelm (S) d. Nick Lurski 9-2
182: Austin Silverstein (H) d. Joe Toci 3-2 (UTB)
195: Peyton Blauvelt (S) d. Eric Keosseian 3-2 (TB-2)
220: Sean Silverstein (H) d. Connor Skully 8-6
Hwt: Pat Ferraro (S) d. Ryan Demian 5-4 (TB-2)
106: Kyle Slendorn (H) md. Owen Kretschmer 9-0
113: Mikey Sisolak (H) d. Matt Barnett 7-6
120: Peter Dee (H) p. Frank Amiano 5:08
126: Chris Crane (S) d. Nick Ciaccia 4-3
132: James Knoeller (S) d. Anthony Gagliano 4-3
138: Kris Lindemann (H) md. Mike Racanelli 14-1
145: Pat Mooney (S) p. Jake Esposito 3:29
Records: at Howell (10-0); Southern (5-2).