LITTLE SILVER -- The surprise of the District 22 tournament came before any of the wrestlers had taken the mat, but the madness didn't end there.

Reigning District 22 and Region VI 220-pound champion Chad Freshnock, a senior from Middletown North, withdrew from the tournament just hours before weigh-ins. That resulted in a re-seeding that put Long Branch's Joey Jasio as the No. 1 seed, and also saw Middletown North sophomore Austin DeWise drop from heavyweight to 220 to take Freshnock's spot.

When the quarterfinals rolled around and the 220-pound weight class was up, things got even crazier. DeWise, who entered the tournament with a 4-5 record and as the No. 7 seed, stunned No. 2 seed Adam Markmann of Middletown South with a win by fall in 2:33 to reach Saturday's semifinal round. He will face Keansburg senior Dan Bauman as both are one win away from advancing to the Region VI Tournament.

"A lot of people overlook Dewise, but he has been improving all season," said Middletown North head coach Matt Sirchio. "After his SCT match with (Wall's Matt) McKenzie he gained much-needed confidence. He is athletic, strong and believes he can win any time he steps on the mat."

All four quarterfinal winners at 220 got there via pin. On a night that featured plenty of quick pins, Bauman was the fastest with a fall in a blink-and-you-missed it seven seconds over Rumson-Fair Haven's Jack Woods to improve to 25-1. Jasio pinned Christian Brothers Academy's Jared Smallwood in 49 seconds and Red Bank Catholic senior Zach Bettigole upset Raritan sophomore Ethan Wolf in the 4-5 bout with a pin in 2:30.

The District 22 Tournament resumes Saturday with the semifinals at 10 a.m. and the finals and third-place bouts at 2 p.m.

MORE: Updated District 22 brackets

Defending champion CBA leads the team scoring with 104 points, followed by Long Branch with 99 and Raritan with 91. Middletown North is fourth with 80 and Middletown South is fifth with 58. CBA pushed 10 of its wrestlers through to the semifinals while Long Branch and Raritan each have nine wrestlers in the semifinals.

Raritan had a pair of wrestlers facing tough quarterfinal bouts, and both sophomore Christian Sookdeo and senior Aaron Daniels emerged victorious.

Sookdeo, a sophomore, erased an early deficit to pin Keyport senior Teddy Smith in 5:15 at 113 pounds, and Daniels clipped returning district runner-up Sean Killeen of Middletown South at heavyweight with a 5-3 decision in sudden victory.

"I was kind of nervous at first, but I knew this is the postseason and I needed everything to click to make it to regions," Sookdeo said.

"Christian is as good as anybody, he just hadn't had that marquee win," said Raritan head coach Rob Nucci. "Beating a good kid tonight hopefully pushes him to the next level."

Sookdeo thought it was his best effort of the season.

"By far," he said. "Coach (Dave) Alsieux told me to open up and just focus on winning, and that's what I did."

Sookdeo faces top-seeded Sebastian Rivera in the semifinals. Rivera, a senior from CBA who is ranked No. 3 in the country, is the overwhelming favorite to take the title. Sookdeo will likely meet the loser of the other semifinal bout between Middletown North's Sean Deering and Long Branch's Chris Dean in the third-place bout.

The heavyweight bracket featured four returning medalists, including state qualifier William Oxley of CBA. Daniels wasn't one of them, but entered as one of the best No. 5 seeds in the entire tournament with a 20-8 record. He was confident from the start, and is now one win away from a trip to regions.

"He said it to us that he knows he can wrestle with any of these guys and he thinks he can win it," Nucci said. "Our kids are battle-tested. The schedule we wrestle sets them up to have a good tournament. He's got to wrestle well tomorrow and hopefully we push him to the finals."

Daniels will square off against Oxley in the semifinals.

Aside from Freshnock, another notable standout missing from the tournament is Ocean senior Tyler Thompson. A football standout, Thompson has a scholarship to UMass and has to take the SAT on Saturday. His request to weigh-in early on Saturday was denied by the NJSIAA.

At 126 pounds, Middletown North freshman Nate Pujols edged Ocean senior Joey Benner 3-2 to reach the semifinals. He'll face top-seeded Russell Benson, a sophomore from Raritan.

Rumson freshman Nick Addison was impressive in an 11-0 major decision win over Ocean senior Chris Donnelly at 138 pounds. Donnelly was third at 126 last season.

CBA senior Garrett Fitzgerald won an entertaining and back-and-forth bout with Middletown North's Brian Winz in the 160-pound quarterfinals. Winz took a 7-6 lead with a takedown with under a minute left, but a reversal by Fitzgerald with under 30 seconds left gave him an 8-7 victory.

The 'this-is-not-a-typo' score of the night came in the 170-pound quarterfinals where Keansburg freshman George Burdick and Red Bank senior John Doherty nearly melted the scoreboard. Burdick opened a 17-7 lead in the second period before holding on for a 21-18 victory. The two were exhausted midway through the bout, which then turned into a contest of upper-body throws with each wrestler taking the other to his back and nearly finishing the bout with a fall.

With District 22 being arguably the deepest in Region VI, there are plenty of standout semifinal matchups. At 106, Raritan freshman Charles Barrale (23-5) meets Keyport senior Alex Erven (24-0) in the bottom bracket. At 138 pounds, CBA senior Carl Vasti (17-10) takes on Raritan freshman Anthony Aquilano (21-5) in the bottom bracket semifinals. Vasti won 9-8 when the two met during a regular-season dual.

Long Branch senior Mike Shohet (20-6) takes on Middletown North sophomore Nick Cofone (23-8) in the 152-pound 2 vs. 3 semifinals. At 170, Middletown South senior Brendan Rumsby (No. 3 seed, 22-4) takes on Middletown North junior Tom Anderson (No. 2 seed, 26-6). At heavyweight, Long Branch senior John Tomlinson (14-1) meets Ocean senior Brian Olesen (24-4) in a rematch of last year's district final, which Tomlinson won by fall.

 

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.