Jack LaCorte’s Stunning Upset of Wall’s Matt McKenzie Leads CBA to Team Title at Colt Classic
MIDDLETOWN -- Just hours into the 2015-2016 wrestling season, Christian Brothers Academy senior Jack LaCorte got his signature win.
LaCorte stunned Wall state medalist Matt McKenzie, 3-2 in ultimate tiebreaker, to win the 195-pound title at the Colts Classic and lead host CBA to the team championship on Saturday afternoon. LaCorte dragged the talented Wall junior, who finished sixth in the state tournament last season, into deep water and picked up the winning point on a stalling call midway thought he final 30-second overtime period.
"When I (escaped) in the second period I knew I was going to win," said LaCorte, who was voted the tournament's Most Outstanding Wrestler. "The only way I was going to win was conditioning, I knew that from the beginning. If I could out-condition him I was going to win the match. He's tough, and I had to have a little bit of luck, but I got it."
Tied 1-1 in the third period with both wrestlers having earned escape points, it was visibly noticeable that McKenzie had tired significantly while LaCorte had plenty of gas left in the tank.
"From the beginning I wanted to go into overtime with him," LaCorte said. "Before the match I was thinking overtime, or at least third period to get him tired. I new I had the conditioning. Hard work pays off. I'm excited."
McKenzie was called for three stallings altogether, two of which came during the overtime periods to gave LaCorte two points. He rode LaCorte out in the tiebreaker period, but was called for stalling with just a few seconds remaining to give LaCorte a 2-1 lead. McKenzie escaped quickly in the second tiebreaker to tie the bout 2-2, but with LaCorte having choice in ultimate tiebreaker because he scored the first points of the bout, he chose defense. He knew McKenzie couldn't hold him down again, at least without stalling. When the two went out of bounds in overtime, LaCorte basically did a full sprint back to the center for the restart.
"I was just trying to push the pace the whole match, and that's what I did," LaCorte said.
"Jack wrestled awesome, you could just feel him gaining confidence as the match went on," said CBA head coach Russ Witt. "He's a workhorse. He's in great shape and he just, mentally, had that advantage. You saw McKenzie get a little tired and Jack saw blood in the water and went for it. I think that's the biggest gain he made this year: mental toughness."
LaCorte had a breakout season as a junior in going 24-9 and finishing second in the District 22 Tournament at 182 pounds. Saturday's win could be the start of an even bigger senior season.
"It's definitely a confidence booster," LaCorte said. "I'm just so happy right now."
LaCorte was one of four champions and six finalists for the Colts, who entered the season ranked No. 5 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10. Junior Nick Shutzenhofer won the 106-pound bracket, senior Dylan VanSickell won the 132-pound title and senior William Oxley clinched the team title with a pin in the final championship bout at heavyweight. CBA edged state power High Point 172.5-168.5, with Wall, ranked sixth in the SSN Top 10, finishing third with 159.5 points.
VanSickell beat Wall's Nick Wagner for the fourth time in as many bouts dating back to last season with a first-period pin. VanSickell also beat Wagner in last season's Colts Classic and defeated him twice in the Region VI Tournament, including a 7-6 win in the region third-place bout.
"I wasn't going in with any expectations, just basically the same gameplan I had all three times I wrestled him in the past," VanSickell said.
Scoreless through the first 90 seconds with neither wrestling mounting much offense, VanSickell decked Wagner quickly after shooting in for a double-leg takedown.
"I got in pretty deep on a double and went claw with an ankle," VanSickell said. "It felt like he tried to Granby but I had the claw pretty tight around his head, so when he spun and I felt his momentum go forward I just covered the head and that was it."
"I know he's funky and good at scrambling around. Sometimes he goes for those high-risk moves and leaves himself open for dangerous situations. It was just one of those times where he tried something and it didn't work out. I kind of smelled the blood in the water and caught him."
Shutzenhofer defeated Roselle Park's Mark Montgomery 4-1 to win the 106-pound title and Oxley, a state qualifier last season, pinned Pinelands' Mike Frezza in 2:57 at heavyweight. The pin gave CBA the team title, as anything less would have resulted in a tie with High Point. Sophomore Rich Koehler, who finished sixth in the state last season at 106 pounds, was stunned in a 12-4 major-decision loss to Roselle Park's Chris Gural in the 113-pound final. Senior Carl Vasti lost 8-0 to Tony Amendolare of Hickory, Va. in the 138-pound final.
Wall senior Brett Donner was the Crimson Knights' lone champion, cruising to the 170-pound title with two pins and a 15-0 technical fall over Pinelands' Chris Nielsen in the championship bout. Donner missed almost the entire regular season last year with an ankle injury, but returned to help the Crimson Knights reach the South Jersey Group III final before winning his third District 23 title and second Region VI title. He was stunned in the state quarterfinals, however, and then suffered a concussion in the wrestlebacks that ended his shot at second state medal. He's final healthy, committed to Rutgers, nationally ranked and ready to get back to wrestling as one of the state's elite.
"I feel like I have a lot to prove to other people, and even myself," said Donner, who was third in the state at 152 pounds as a sophomore. "I think a lot of people think I fell off. I'm happy to be back on the mat wrestling and dominating guys. I'm having fun this year, and that's my whole thing. I want to stop worrying about winning matches and just go out there and score points."
Wall had four second-place finishers with Wagner and McKenzie, plus seniors Joe Demuner at 126 and Josh Glantzman at 160 pounds. Demuner lost by 17-2 technical fall to Kingsway's Quinn Kinner, who was fifth the state at 106 pounds last season. Glanztman fell 4-2 to Kingsway's Rory Bushby, who was a state qualifier last season.
Brick finished fourth as a team and had two champions. Junior Dean Helstowski won the 182-pound title with a 5-2 victory over Roselle Park's William Ferdinando and senior Jack Jachim edged Hopewell Valley's Will Ortman 5-4 at 220 pounds. Ferdinando was the District 10 champion at 182 pounds last season. Ortman was the District 17 runner-up at 220 pounds last season.
Helstowski has bounced between weight classes since his freshman year at St. Peter's Prep when he qualified for the state tournament at 182 pounds. Last season he wrestled at 195 pounds despite weighing in the mid-170s because of Brick's powerful senior class of upperweights that included state medalists Will Scott, Kyle Wojtaszek and Dean Sherry.
"Last year with Dean, Kyle and Willy and those guys I had to bump up, but this year I have the flexibility to move around and go where my body says I should be," Helstowski said. "I feel good where I'm at."
Giving up upwards of 20 pounds against high-level competition has its perks, however.
"I think wrestling the bigger guys made me use my agility and quickness and work on different aspects of my game," Helstowski said. "The big guys are strong, so the lighter guys don't feel nearly as strong. That works to my advantage."
Junior Anthony Costanza finished second at 152 pounds for the Dragons.
CBA senior Sebastian Rivera, a two-time state fifth-place finisher and the seventh-ranked 120-pounder in the nation, did not wrestle after suffering a minor knee injury. He should be back next week, according to Witt.
Wall junior Chad McClelland was a late scratch with a minor injury, as well. McClelland was originally entered at 182 pounds, but will likely wrestle at either 152 or 160 pounds this season. He missed most of last season with injuries, but was a District 23 champion as freshman.
1. CBA 172.5; 2. High Point 168.5; 3. Wall 159.5; 4. Brick 123.5; 5. Roselle Park 120.5; 6. Hickory (Va.) 111.5; 7. Hopewell Valley 107.5; 8. Kingsway 102.5; 9. Pascack Hills 84; 10. Toms River North 69; 11. Pinelands 60.
106: Nick Shutzenhofer (CBA) d. Mark Montgomery (Roselle Park) 4-1
113: Chris Gural (Roselle Park) md. Rich Koeher (CBA) 12-4
120: Trace Kinner (Kingsway) md. Lucas Brunelle (Hickory) 13-0.
126: Quinn Kinner (Kingsway) tf. Joe Demuner (Wall) 17-2
132: Dylan VanSickell (CBA) p. Nick Wagner (Wall) 1:31
138: Tony Almendolare (Hickory) md. Carl Vasti (CBA) 8-0
145: Jared Kobis (High Point) d. Ben Brisman (Pascack Hills) 6-2
152: Nick Tibbetts (Hickory) p. Anthony Costanza (Brick) 4:48
160: Rory Bushy (Kingsway) d. Josh Glantzman (Wall) 4-2
170: Brett Donner (Wall) tf. Chris Nielsen (Pinelands) 2:42 (15-0)
182: Dean Helstowski (Brick) d. William Ferdinando (Roselle Park) 5-2
195: Jack LaCorte (CBA) d. Matt McKenzie (Wall) 3-2 UTB
220: Jack Jachim (Brick) d. Will Ortman (Hopewell Valley) 5-4
Hwt: William Oxley (CBA) p. Mike Frezza (Pinelands) 2:57