Region 6 Preview and Predictions
The road to Atlantic City for the NJSIAA Individual Championships is in full swing, and wrestlers from around the Shore Conference will look to secure their place at Boardwalk Hall by placing among the top three at the Region 6 Tournament.
The action began on Wednesday night at Pine Belt Arena with the must-win preliminary round bouts. The 56 winners from Wednesday advanced to Friday night's quarterfinal round. From there, the tournament follows a double-elimination format to finish in third place. Friday night will feature the quarterfinals only, and the tournament picks up again on Saturday morning. The championship bouts are scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Region 6 is comprised entirely of the Shore Conference, and is once again arguably the deepest region in the state. That will make for some phenomenal matchups and high drama. Wrestlers that have a shot to place in the state's top eight won't even make it down to the tournament, which is why winning a title or even reaching the state tournament out of Region 6 is a great accomplishment in and of itself
A weight-by-weight preview and predictions from wrestling editor Bob Badders can be found below. Be sure to follow him on Twitter at @Bob_Badders and check Shore Sports Network all weekend for updates, results, stories and videos.
And now for some analysis and predictions that are sure to go up in flames sooner than later.
A deep weight class that features one returning state qualifier - Colts Neck sophomore Joey King - and a very strong top eight. The 4 vs. 5 bout between King and standout Lacey freshman Hunter Gutierrez could be a barnburner. St. John Vianney junior Luke Ecklof jumped King for the No. 3 seed because of his 2-1 win in the District 21 semifinals. Top-seeded Nick Schutzenhofer, a junior from CBA, is the No. 1 seed and Howell freshman Darby Diedrich is the No. 2 seed. The two have split bouts this season, but Schutzenhofer got the top spot based off having the most recent win.
Prediction - 1. Schutzenhofer, 2. Diedrich, 3. King.
Anybody besides CBA senior Sebastian Rivera winning this weight class would be an absolute shocker. Rivera is the defending champ at the weight, and is a two-time state fifth-place finisher. He is also ranked No. 3 in the nation. In the bottom half of the bracket, Howell sophomore Kyle Slendorn, a state qualifier last season, is the No. 2 seed and a strong bet to reach the final. The 3 vs. 6 bout between Toms River North freshman Nick Reilly and Jackson Liberty senior Nick Pellegrino is the one to watch on Friday night. The battle for third is wide open.
Prediction - 1. Rivera, 2. Slendorn, 3. Reilly.
There are several excellent wrestlers at 120 pounds, which makes it even more impressive that top-seeded Gianni Ghione is still the big favorite. The Brick Memorial junior is a two-time region finalist (2014 champ at 106) and was the 113-pound state runner-up last season. Here's a crazy stat: all of his 28 wins have ended in either a pin or technical fall. Ocean senior Dave Tieto got the No. 2 seed because of his 9-4 win over returning region champion and state medalist Richie Koehler, a sophomore from CBA. Koehler is the No. 3 seed. One of several great 4 vs. 5 matchups in the tournament features Wall sophomore Jack Kelly vs. Jackson Memorial senior Mike Spino. Howell senior Nick Ciaccia is among the best No. 7 seeds in the entire tournament and could make a run to the finals.
Prediction - 1. Ghione, 2. Ciaccia, 3. Koehler.
Raritan sophomore Russell Benson, a region qualifier as a freshman, is the No. 1 seed, but this is a very wide-open weight. There are no returning top-three finishers, so we'll have some fresh names on the medal stand on Saturday evening. Wall senior Joe Demuner, the No. 2 seed, is one of the most exciting wrestlers to watch because of his funky style. Freehold Township's Mike Plaska, Manchester's Chris Rodriguez, Toms River South's Nick Gallicchio, Jackson Memorial's Matt McGowen and Southern's Matt Barnett are all capable of reaching the final and winning the title. Don't discount Howell sophomore Dan Esposito, either. He has a tough draw with Benson in the quarterfinals, but the wrestlebacks could get pretty crazy here.
Prediction - 1. Demuner, 2. Benson, 3. McGowen.
The 132-pound weight class looks to be the deepest in all of New Jersey, and that is certainly also true of the bracket in Region 6. The top seven seeds are all hammers, so more than one deserving wrestlers will be on the outside looking in when all is said and done.
The No. 1 seed is Toms River South senior Owen McClave, a two-time region champ and the state fifth-place finisher at 120 pounds last season. Howell senior Anthony Gagliano is 36-1 with his only loss coming in a tournament in Florida. Undefeated Ocean sophomore Jake Benner is the No. 3 seed. Long Branch senior T.J. Conlon got the No. 4 seed because of his head-to-head win over CBA senior Dylan VanSickell in the District 22 semifinals. It was VanSickell's first loss of the season. They'll meet again on Friday in a highly-anticipated rematch. Wall junior Nick Wagner is the No. 6 seed, and almost knocked off Benner when Wall and Ocean met during the dual-meet season. Southern senior Gianni Bennett is the No. 7 seed. Hello, depth. St. John Vianney senior Jose Vasile (20-16) rounds out the top eight.
While it's unfortunate more than one state-caliber wrestler won't be making the trip to Atlantic City, seeing how it all unfolds is going to be awesome.
Prediction - 1. McClave, 2. Gagliano, 3. Benner.
Howell senior Kris Lindemann is the No. 1 seed and looking to win his first region title in what has been an up-and-down, yet very successful, high school career. Talented Toms River South sophomore Cole Corrigan is the No. 2 seed, and I like each to make it to the final. No. 3 seed Luke Vescovi, a senior from Brick Memorial, is tough as nails, while his quarterfinal opponent, Southern senior Mike Racanelli, is riding a wave of momentum. The 4 vs. 5 matchups between Middletown North sophomore Stanley Wojdylak and CBA senior Carl Vasti will be the third of the season. Wojdylak has won both. Look out for Donovan Catholic sophomore Christiann Dailey, who has been under the radar but could make some noise in the wrestlebacks.
Prediction - 1. Corrigan, 2. Lindemann, 3. Wojdylak.
When talking bout the most wide-open weight classes in the region, 145 pounds is the first one most people think of. Any of the remaining eight wrestlers could realistically win the tournament. The No. 1 seed is Marlboro junior Mike DeFaria, who defeated No. 2 seed Khalil Haskins (St. John Vianney) and No. 3 seed Peter Dee (Howell) en route to the District 21 championship. Wall freshman Rob Kanniard has had a great inaugural season, but his quarterfinal opponent, Toms River North junior Pat O'Donnell, will be out for revenge after Kanniard beat him 6-0 in the season-opening Colt Classic. No. 6 seed John Finnerty is Point Beach's all-time wins leader, and Long Branch senior Danny Mullan and Southern senior Teddy Caporino are dangerous as the No. 7 and No. 8 seeds, respectively.
Prediction - 1. Haskins, 2. Kanniard, 3. DeFaria.
Toms River East junior A.J. Meyers finished third in the region at 152 last season and reached the second round of wrestlebacks at the state tournament. He's the clear favorite here, but after him there are a number of possibilities for second and third. For example, Manalapan junior Ronny Ghaida jumped to the No. 2 seed because he owned a win over third-seeded Matt Garrity of Lacey. St. John Vianney sophomore Nick Caracappa then beat Garrity in the prelims, 7-5. Garrity had defeated Southern senior Pat Mooney to win the District 24 title. Point Beach hasn't had a state qualifier since Dylan Kelly in 2011, but that could change with senior Giancarlo Crivelli, who is the No. 6 seed and faces Caracappa in the quarterfinals. You won't find a better No. 10 seed in any region than Wall junior Chad McClelland, who could definitely upend Ghaida in the quarterfinals.
Prediction - 1. Meyers, 2. Crivelli, 3. Mooney.
Wall senior Josh Glantzman is the No. 1 seed and a sure bet to reach the semifinals since he faces Point Boro's Brandon DeFeo, whom he beat by technical fall in the District 23 Tournament. Raritan's Nick Bohal was upended by Long Branch's Lamont Reid in the District 22 final, but still grabbed the No. 2 seed. Southern junior Seon Bower, the No. 3 seed, is underrated and No. 6 seed Tyler Kalmowitz from Jackson Liberty has had a great season.
Prediction - 1. Bohal, 2. Glantzman, 3. Reid.
As heavy favorites go, Wall's Brett Donner looms large as the No. 1 seed. A two-time region champion, Donner is 32-0, nationally ranked and on a mission to win a state title. The battle for the No. 2 and No. 3 spots will be fun to watch with Southern senior Peyton Blauvelt as the No. 2 seed, Ocean senior T.J. Saldutti as the No. 3 seed, Holmdel's Garrett Hilsheimer as the No. 4 seed, Middletown North's Tom Anderson as the No. 5 seed and Middletown South's Brendan Rumsby as the No. 6 seed.
Being in Donner's half of the bracket means having to battle back in the wrestlebacks for Anderson and Hilsheimer., so their road is a little tougher. Anderson lost my major decision to Donner during the Mustang Classic. Saldutti's only loss of the season was to Middletown North's Anthony Vetrano at 182 pounds.
Prediction - 1. Donner, 2. Saldutti, 3. Anderson.
Brick junior Dean Helstowski was finally able to wrestle at the correct weight this season, and it has shown with a 29-0 record and the top seed in the region. He will be tested in the semifinals, however, by either Pinelands Chris Nielsen, the No. 4 seed, or Southern's Joe Toci, the No. 5 seed. Nielsen defeated Toci to win the District 24 title. In the bottom half of the bracket, Middletown North's Anthony Vetrano is unbeaten since December and also owns a win over CBA's Jack LaCorte, the No. 1 seed at 195 pounds. Helstowski and Vetrano are good bets to meet in the final. Jackson Memorial's Tanner Kelly, the No. 3 seed, is great at winning low-scoring bouts, which there are often many of this time of year.
Prediction - 1. Vetrano, 2. Helstowski, 3. Kelly.
CBA senior Jack LaCorte owns the top seed because of a 3-2 win in ultimate tiebreaker over Wall's Matt McKenzie back during the season-opening Colt Classic. McKenzie is the No. 2 seed, and it would take a big upset to prevent them from having a rematch in the region final.
Barring an upset of LaCorte or McKenzie, he battle for third is completely up for grabs with St. John Vianney's Calvin Beaty as the No. 3 seed, Manchester's Will Farparan as the No. 4 seed, Colts Neck's Steven Barsky as the No. 5 seed, Middletown South's Robert Hulse as the No. 6 seed, Jackson Memorial's Adante Davis at No. 7 and Raritan's Ryan Dickens at No. 9.
Prediction - 1. McKenzie, 2. LaCorte, 3. Beaty.
This weight got a lot more interesting when last year's champion, Middletown North's Chad Freshnock, dropped out of the District 22 Tournament. Howell junior Eric Keosseian is the No. 1 seed, Point Boro's Dom Infante is the No. 2 seed and Long Branch's Joey Jasio is the No. 3 seed. Brick Memorial's Chris Hayes is very dangerous from the No. 4 seed. There isn't as much depth in this weight as some of the others in the regoin, so the competition for the three qualifying spots should be between the top four seeds.
Prediction - 1. Keosseian, 2. Jasio, 3. Infante.
Brick Memorial junior Nick Rivera is the defending champion and was the state runner-up last season, so he his certainly the favorite to win the title again. This weight is very deep, however, so he isn't the slam dunk he would appear to be on paper. Long Branch senior John Tomlinson in the No. 2 seed off his 4-3 win over CBA's William Oxley in the District 22 final. Oxley was a state qualifier at 220 pounds last season as the region runner-up and a fine wrestler, but giving up potentially 70-75 pounds to many of his opponents at heavyweight could take its toll. St. John Vianney junior Micah Clarke was third in the region last season, but has a very tough quarterfinal bout with Central big man Darius Marrow.
Prediction - 1. Rivera, 2. Oxley, 3. Tomlinson.
Wrestling editor Bob Badders can be reached at email@example.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.