Raritan Wins Toss-Up Bouts to Upend Point Boro and Return to Central Jersey Group II Final
HAZLET -- Pack your bags, Raritan. It's time to head west once again.
The Rockets will make what seems like their annual trip to Frenchtown to square off against Delaware Valley in a sectional final after defeating Point Boro 32-19 on Wednesday night in the semifinals of the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II Tournament.
Toss-up bouts figured to be the story of a matchup that was tight on paper, and it was the Rockets that kept finding ways to pull out victories. Raritan won nine of 14 bouts, including a crucial win by sophomore Andrew Bohal at 145 pounds, to reach their second straight sectional championship match.
"I think Boro and us are very similar teams and it made for a great matchup," said Raritan head coach Rob Nucci. "We grinded it out and won all the toss-up bouts. Our guys wrestled very well today. I think we're peaking at the right time."
Senior Nick Bohal all but clinched the match when he won by fall over Cory DeFeo at 160 pounds to put Raritan up by 17 points with three bouts left. Point Boro needed to win by fall in all three to win, and when Adam Bryant stayed off his back in an 8-0 loss to Brandon DeFeo at 170 pounds it officially clinched the Rockets' trip the sectional final.
Raritan will take the long and familiar bus ride to top-seeded Delaware Valley for the sectional final at 7 p.m. on Friday where the Rockets will look for their third sectional title and first since 2012.
"We wrestle very well at home, but I think the next place we wrestle well is DelVal," Nucci said. "It's our home away from home."
Raritan had won six of seven bouts from heavyweight to 138 pounds to take a 20-9 lead, but Point Boro still had a good chance to mount a comeback with some strong wrestlers yet to take the mat from 145 to 195. A bout the Panthers needed to have was at 145, and Bohal wrenched their plans with an 8-4 decision over Matt Youmans to give the Rockets a commanding 23-9 lead.
"I think 145 was real big for us," Nucci said.
Bohal entered with a 16-11 record while Youmans was 18-6. It was a scoreless bout until Bohal hit a five-point move with a cradle in the waning seconds of the first period, nearly decking Youmans before the buzzer sounded. He escaped to start the second period and recorded another takedown to go up 7-0, and held off Youmans' attempt at a rally for a clutch 8-4 decision.
"I had to push the pace and do my best to get the W," Andrew Bohal said. "When I won I was excited. I knew it was going to be hard for them to win after that. I'd say it's the biggest win I've had all year."
"Bohal is a 138-pounder wrestling 145 all year, but he's as tough as they come," Nucci said. "I'm proud of him. He knew all along he may have been an underdog. Even in the room before the match when the group was together, Andrew pulled himself to the side and was kind of zoning in mentally. He wrestled a hell of a match tonight."
Seeing his younger brother deliver in the clutch brought a smile to Nick Bohal's face. It also gave him plenty of motivation.
"I needed to one-up him," he said.
The move Point Boro needed to make was to bump its lineup up from 160 to 182, moving Brandon DeFeo away from Nick Bohal and to 170 pounds, and Gene Franceschini from 170 to 182. That made Bohal an even bigger favorite against Cory DeFeo at 160, and he did what was expected by building an 8-3 after one period and winning by fall in 2:36.
"Nick's been lights-out for us all season," Nucci said.
"I love when the pressure's on me," Nick Bohal said. "It's when I wrestle my best."
Dom Infante started Point Boro off strong with a first-period pin at 220 pounds, but Raritan would go on to win seven of the next eight bouts to take control of the match. Aaron Daniels picked up a key 3-2 win over Anthony Bonavita at heavyweight before freshman Charles Barrale topped Ben Sabo 13-7 in another crucial toss-up bout. Major decision wins by sophomores A.J. Erven at 120 and Russell Benson at 126 put Raritan up 14-9, and decision victories by Jimmy VanFechtmann at 132 and freshman Anthony Aquilano at 138 stretched the Rockets' lead to 20-9. Then Andrew Bohal's win pushed the advantage to 14 points.
"I have the young guns - five sophomores and two freshmen - and they're getting better and better," Nucci said. "It's crunch time in a big match and they're stepping up and winning big bouts for us."
Courtland Hackel's 5-0 decision over Vito Aleo at 152 pounds cut Raritan's lead to 23-12, but Nick Bohal's pin put Raritan in complete control. The match was officially clinched after the 170-pound bout when Bryant held Brandon DeFelo to a major decision. Franceschini won by 1-0 decision over Joe Stabile at 182 before Raritan junior Ryan Dickens closed the match with an 8-4 win over freshman Billy Borowsky.
"There were three crucial bouts: heavyweight, 106 and 195. We won all three," Nucci said. "Dickens' win was at the end but those were three big bouts, and when you go 3-for-3 in bouts that were 50-50 that's big."
Now Raritan takes another crack at playoff nemesis Delaware Valley. The Terriers have eliminated the Rockets in two of the last three sectional tournaments, both by 31-30 scores. They two teams have met in the postseason in nine of the past 14 seasons, and all nine matches have taken place at Delaware Valley. It is one of New Jersey's best postseason rivalries.
"It's been fun," Nucci said. "In 2003 we got beat by 40 and in 2004 we came back and really upset them in probably one of the most monumental wins in sectional history. Since then it's been barnburners. Year-in and year-out we've been going there, so it's something we're used to."
"I feel like it will be a similar match to this one with a lot of toss-up bouts and not many big favorites," Nucci said. "You have to grind, that's what it's about. We have to wrestle well and pull out the close bouts."
The raucous atmosphere of DelVal's home gym won't intimidate Raritan. If anything, it will make the Rockets feel like their back at the Launch Pad.
"They bring a great crowd and we bring a great crowd," Nucci said. "These young guns have been in our program since they were five years old, so they've been going to DelVal for 10 years. We're very familiar with that place. They're not going to be gun-shy, that's for sure."
"We know the environment," Nick Bohal said. "It gets rowdy up there, but we feed off it."
220: Dom Infante (PB) p. Ethan Wolf 1:19
HWT: Aaron Daniels (R) d. Anthony Bonavita 3-2
106: Charles Barrale (R) d. Ben Sabo 13-7
113: Blake Dale (PB) d. Christian Sookdeo 2-1
120: A.J. Erven (R) md. Tyler Tweedie 17-6
126: Russell Benson (R) md. Spencer Robinson 12-3
132: Jimmy VanFechtmann (R) d. John McTaggert 7-2
138: Anthony Aquilano (R) d. Dylan Davies 7-3
145: Andrew Bohal (R) d. Matt Youmans 8-4
152: Courtland Hackel (PB) d. Vito Aleo 5-0
160: Nick Bohal (R) p. Cory DeFeo 2:36
170: Brandon DeFeo (PB) md. Adam Bryant 8-0
182: Gene Franceschini (PB) d. Joe Stabile 1-0
195: Ryan Dickens (R) d. Billy Borowsky 8-4
Records: at Raritan (17-4); Point Boro (16-6).
Wrestling editor Bob Badders can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.