For ranking the teams in the Shore Conference there isn’t a more comprehensive barometer than the Shore Conference Tournament. Despite Southern opting out for the sixth straight year, this year’s tournament, which was completed on Saturday, featured head-to-head matchups between top teams that answered many lingering questions.

Upsets were few and far between in the SCT, and it ended with top-seeded and top-ranked Howell besting second-seeded Raritan to claim its second conference championship. Long Branch, which was the No. 5 seed, beating Colts Neck in the quarterfinals was the only result preventing the top four from reaching the semifinals. No other ranked team lost to a team ranked below it or not ranked at all, so there isn’t much movement in this week’s Shore Sports Network Top 10.

Aforementioned Southern lost to reigning Group IV champion Phillipsburg on Saturday night, but considering the Stateliners are a top-five team in New Jersey and Raritan also has a loss to Phillipsburg there isn’t any reason to penalize Southern.

Point Boro and Point Beach have been on the cusp of the top 10 all season, and the Panthers made their case with a nail-biting 31-26 win in what has become the premier wrestling rivalry in the Shore. Anytime there’s a line to get in over two hours before a match, you know you’ve got something special.

This week truly is the calm before the storm as we prep for a frenetic final month of the season. The NJSIAA Team Tournament begins on Monday Feb. 6, and the following weekend begins the first leg of the road to an individual state championship. Buckle up.

 

1. Howell (21-1). Last week: No. 1

The Rebels captured their second Shore Conference Tournament championship with a 36-24 win over Raritan. Key wins from freshman Luke Rada at 113 and sophomore Christian Murphy at 160 helped fuel the win, and senior Eric Keosseian clinched the match with a pin at 220 pounds. Howell also beat Long Branch, 41-19, in the semifinals and topped Brick Memorial, 39-22, in the quarterfinals to give head coach John Gagliano his 400th career win. The Rebels also beat Freehold twice, once to clinch at least a share of the Class A North title and again in the first round of the SCT. This week: The Rebels face No. 4 Middletown North on Wednesday, Christian Brothers Academy on Thursday where a win will clinch A North outright, and will host a quad with Eastern, Hackettstown and Montgomery on Saturday.

 

2. Southern (9-3). Last week: No. 2

The Rams had just one match during the week, falling to Phillipsburg, 36-23. Sophomore 145-pounder Nick O’Connell earned a marquee win against Stateliners standout Brian Meyer with a 7-5 win in sudden victory. Senior 182-pounder Seon Bowker improved to 22-2. This week: The Rams take on Toms River North on Tuesday where a win will clinch the outright Class A South title, and will host a triangular match on Saturday with Haddonfield and Buena.

 

3. Raritan (21-2). Last week: No. 3

The Rockets reached the SCT final for the first time in program history but were denied the title in a 36-24 loss to Howell. Raritan defeated Middletown North, 35-24, in the semifinals, beat Jackson Memorial, 36-22, in the quarterfinals and throttled Freehold Township, 56-12, in the pre-quarterfinals. Standout individual wins included junior Russell Benson winning 3-1 in overtime over Howell’s Dan Esposito at 132 pounds and sophomore George Burdick taking a 5-3 win over Middletown North’s Nicko Cofone at 170. This week: The Rockets have a Saturday quad at Manchester with Marlboro and Rumson-Fair Haven. A win over Rumson officially clinches the Class A Central division title.

 

4. Middletown North (19-1). Last week: No. 4

The Lions advanced to the SCT semifinals before falling to Raritan, 35-24, for their first loss of the season. They defeated Toms River North, 39-25, in the pre-quarterfinals and bested Manalapan, 45-24, in the quarterfinals. This week: Middletown North can make a major statement on Wednesday when they host No. 1 Howell. The Lions will then travel to Vineland on Saturday for a quad with Delsea and Washington Township.

 

5. Long Branch (16-6). Last week: No. 8 

The Green Wave reached the SCT semifinals for the first time since 2014 thanks to a thrilling walk-off win over Colts Neck in the quarterfinals. Long Branch closed the match with three straight pins by Justin Navarro, Peter Wersinger and Hunter Marhan to pull off an improbable 31-28 win. The Wave also defeated Wall, 40-27, before falling to eventual champion Howell, 41-19, in the semifinals. This week: Long Branch will take the week off from matches as it prepares for the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV tournament.

 

6. Jackson Memorial (12-8). Last week: No. 6

The Jaguars reached the SCT quarterfinals where they were eliminated by eventual finalist Raritan, 36-22. In the pre-quarterfinals Jackson topped Point Boro, 31-24, and also beat Brick in a regular season match, 40-17. Sophomore 106-pounder Vinnie Scollo continued his outstanding season by improving to 23-2, including a 7-6 win over Brick’s Joe Ferigne, who was a district champion last year. This week: The Jaguars do not have a match scheduled for this week as they prepare for the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV sectional tournament.

 

7. Colts Neck (26-2). Last week: No. 5

The Cougars beat CBA, 38-23, in the SCT pre-quarterfinals before losing a heartbreaker to Long Branch, 31-28, in the quarterfinals. Colts Neck led 28-13 with three bouts left but the Green Wave used three straight pins to pull the upset. The Cougars bounced back with a 46-21 win over No. 10 Ocean. This week: Colts Neck hosts Toms River South on Wednesday and travels to Jefferson for quad with Morris Catholic and Perth Amboy on Saturday.

 

8. Brick Memorial (11-5). Last week: No. 7 

The Mustangs dropping one spot is due to circumstance more than anything else, as last week’s No. 8, Long Branch, moved up three spots after its win over Colts Neck. The Mustangs won a thriller, 33-32 over Ocean in the SCT pre-quarterfinals, by winning the final four bouts, including three straight pins to erase a 32-12 deficit. A pin by Ron Hopping in the final bout at 182 clinched the victory. Seniors Gianni Ghione (132) and Nick Rivera (heavyweight) each improved to 23-0. This week: Brick Memorial will head north to Parsipanny for a quad with Mendham and Piscataway on Saturday.

 

9. Manalapan (19-3). Last week: No. 9

The Braves defeated Brick, 42-22, in the SCT pre-quarterfinals before being eliminated by Middletown North in the quarterfinals, 45-24. They responded by sweeping a quad with WallkIll Valley (62-9), Montgomery (56-15) and Nutley (51-9). Junior A.J. Sortino picked up a big win by besting Brick’s Joe Ferigne, a returning district champion, 8-4. This week: The Braves have a match at Wall on Thursday and a quad at Bloomfield with Montclair and Verona on Saturday.

 

10. Ocean (14-4). Last week: No. 10

The Spartans went 0-2 this week, but with both losses coming to teams ranked above them they stay in the final spot of the top 10. Ocean was stunned by Brick Memorial in the SCT pre-quarterfinals, 33-32, after leading 32-12 with four bouts left. Big Red then lost to Colts Neck, 46-21. Junior Jake Benner (138) and freshman Alex Poniros (126) each improved to 22-1. This week: Ocean hosts Rumson-Fair Haven on Wednesday and has a triangular match at Warren Hills with Cliffside Park on Saturday.

 

Dropped out: none

 

Teams to watch: 

Brick (14-4)

Point Boro (11-5)

Point Beach (17-1)

 

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.

 

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