Wall head coach Brian Fischer figured Tuesday's clash with state-ranked Cranford would tell him a lot about his team's makeup. What the Crimson Knights proved is that their talent is matched by their ability to rise to the occasion.

Wall, ranked No. 6 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, won nine of 14 bouts and nearly all the tossup matchups for an impressive 37-25 nonconference win against the Cougars, who entered the match ranked No. 18 in the NJ.com Top 20. Senior Brett Donner defeated Niko Cappello 3-1 at 182 pounds in a duel between state medalists, and sophomore Jack Kelly clinched the victory with a 4-3 decision over District 11 champion Anthony Capece at 120 pounds. Senior Joe Demuner provided the exclamation point in the second-to-last bout by pinning state qualifier Tom DiGiovanni (third in Region III) at 126 pounds.

"In my career this is the most complete team effort we've ever had," said Fischer, who is in his eighth season as Wall's head coach. "From top to bottom, even in a loss at 113 pounds with (freshman Michael Rohca) saving points, the kids came to wrestle. And our guys out-conditioned them. We were pressing the issue all the way and never stopped. It's the best I've seen us ride on top. Put it all together and it's our best and most complete effort."

Junior Nick Wagner got the Crimson Knights (4-0) started with a bang, pinning Michael Nigro with only one second remaining in their match-opening bout at 138 pounds. Wagner  was working a power-half when he was able to turn Nigro with under 10 seconds left before securing the fall just before the buzzer sounded. Wagner was second in District 23 and fourth in Region VI at 132 pounds last season, while Nigro was the District 2 champion and Region I fourth-place finisher at 138 pounds while wrestling at Morris Knolls.

"It was a very unsuspecting pin," Fischer said. "He had boots in and out of nowhere he let off just enough to get the kid's hips to turn. It was coming down the very last second, and the next thing you know (referee) Eddie (Tonneson) slaps the mat just before the buzzer."

After Vince Concina's pin at 145 tied the match 6-6, Wall freshman Rob Kanniard put the Knights up for good when he battled back from a 3-1 deficit in the first period to defeat district runner-up Brian McGovern 5-3 in sudden-victory overtime at 152 pounds. Junior Chad McClelland followed with a 1-0 victory over district runner-up Dave Busch at 160 pounds to put Wall up 12-6.

A last-second reversal by Cranford's Andrew Tompkins, another region qualifier, gave him a 2-1 victory over Josh Glantzman at 170 pounds, but Wall would win the next four bouts to take a commanding lead.

The first was Donner's 3-1 win over Cappello in a matchup Fischer planned on getting. Donner usually wrestles at 170 pounds but weighed in at 182. Cranford didn't bump Cappello away, and Donner, a Rutgers recruit who is ranked No. 19 in the nation at 170, scored the only takedown of the bout for the crucial victory.

Junior Shane Davis then delivered a clutch pin of Dylan Budnik in 2:42 at 195 pounds to put Wall up 21-6. Junior Matt McKenzie, sixth in the state at 195 last season, bumped up to 220 and won by 11-1 major decision over Alex Esposito, and junior heavyweight Daryl Valme defeated Kevin Doran 3-1 to extend Wall's advantage to 28-9.

"Going into this you could arguably say there were nine tossup bouts and we won eight of them," Fischer said. "David and Valme winning was big. On paper Cranford is favored there but in my mind they were tossups."

Cranford won by fall at 106 and via major decision at 113 to close the gap to 28-19, but Kelly clipped Capece 4-3 at 120 pounds to give Wall a 12-point lead and, more importantly, its eighth victory. Even if Cranford won by fall in the final two bouts to tie the score, Wall would have won on criteria by winning the most bouts.

Demuner made sure that wasn't an issue by taking a lead on DiGiovanni before pinning him with a funky cradle in 4:58. On of the most unpredictable wrestlers in the Shore that can strike from anywhere, Demuner is a wild card that came up aces on Tuesday.

"He was winning and he did one of those crazy cradles," Fischer said. "He had legs in on top and found a cradle and kind of brought him back. Joe puts himself in weird spots, but you can't tell him not to do that because the next thing you know he's pinning his kid."

The Crimson Knights have less than 24 hours to enjoy the victory, however, as they are back in action in a nondivisional match against Manasquan on Wednesday. Their attention is now turned to division rival Long Branch, whom they will face on Saturday as part of a tri-meet with host Red Bank Catholic. The Green Wave are the defending Class B North champions.

"It's definitely nice and w're going to ride the momentum," Fischer said. "This was good gauge, but the reality is that right now we're focused on Long Branch. They're a good team and they always come to wrestle against us. We're not worried about rankings right now, that's for the end of the season. We want to win the division first, compete well in Shore Conference (Tournament) and then worry about states."

 

Box Score

Wall 37, Cranford 25

138: Nick Wagner (W) p. Mike Nigro 5:59
145: Vince Concina (C) p. Alex Cortez 1:33
152: Rob Kanniard (W) d. Brian McGovern 5-3 OT
160: Chad McClelland (W) d. Dave Busch 1-0
170: Andrew Tompkins (C) d. Josh Glantzman 2-1
182: Brett Donner (W) d. Niko Cappello 3-1
195: Shane Davis (W) p. Dylan Budnik 2:42
220: Matt McKenzie (W) md. Alex Esposito 11-1
HWT: Darryl Valme (W) d. Kevin Doran 3-1
106: Connor Halpin (C) p. Theodore McGowan 1:47
113: Dean Smith (C) md. Michael Rocha 8-0
120: Jack Kelly (W) d. Anthony Capece 4-3
126: Joe Demuner (W) p. Tom DiGiovanni 4:58
132: Chris Scorcese (C) by forfeit

Records: at Wall (4-0); Cranford (2-1).

Wrestling editor Bob Badders can be reached at badders@allshoremedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook.