Historically there has not been much drama in the early rounds of the Shore Conference Wrestling Tournament, with any excitement usually reserved for the semifinals and championship match.

With several championship contenders among the top 12 seeds, the 2016 wrestling SCT looks to buck that trend when the tournament gets underway on Thursday.

Shore Conference Tournament Glance Box

Christian Brothers Academy was voted as the No. 1 seed by the SCT seeding committee with Howell No. 2, Wall No. 3 and Jackson Memorial No. 4. Those teams will host the preliminary, pre-quarterfinal and quarterfinal matches on Thursday. The SCT Final Four is on Saturday at Red Bank Regional High School with the semifinals at 3 p.m. and the championship match at 5:30 p.m.

Below we will breakdown each site for Thursday’s matches and offer a look ahead to the potential matchups for Saturday.

AT CBA

Preliminary round, 4 p.m.

16-Lacey (6-5) vs. 17-St. John Vianney (9-4)

Pre-quarterfinals, 5:30 p.m.

Lacey/SJV winner vs. 1-CBA (9-3)

9-Point Boro (11-3) vs. 8-Brick Memorial (6-5)

Quarterfinals, 7 p.m.

The preliminary match between Lacey and St. John Vianney offers a potential marquee bout at 106 pounds between Lacey freshman Hunter Gutierrez and St. John Vianney junior Luke Eckloff. Gutierrez enters at 16-1 with his only loss coming to Washington Township’s Alex Baisch, 5-3. Eckloff is 15-1 and was third in the District 21 Tournament last season. Lacey and SJV have two common opponents in Brick and Manalapan. St. John Vianney lost to both, while Lacey lost to Brick and defeated Manalapan.

CBA senior Sebastian Rivera. (Photo by Robert Samuels).

The winner gets top-seeded CBA, which has been on fire with its full lineup. The Colts are 9-3 with close losses to state-ranked Hanover Park and Delsea. They also own wins over Howell and Raritan. They will certainly be heavily favored in the pre-quarterfinals. Potential individual matchups include sophomore Rich Koehler (12-2) vs. Lacey sophomore Luke Moynihan (15-2)  at 113 should the Lions win the prelim match. Koehler was sixth in New Jersey at 106 pounds last season. If SJV wins, we should see Eckloff vs. CBA junior Nick Schutzenhofer (17-1) at 106 pounds and potentially SJV senior Calvin Beaty (17-2) vs. either CBA senior Jack LaCorte (17-1) at 195 pounds or senior William Oxley (17-1) at 220. Oxley could also move up to heavyweight against SJV junior Micah Clarke (17-2). Oxley and Clarke were both state qualifiers last season.

Point Boro senior Blake Dale. (Photo by Ray Richardson).

Point Boro and Brick Memorial will meet in an interesting pre-quarterfinal match between District 23 rivals. Top bouts could include Brick Memorial sophomore Matt Wardlaw (11-6, District 23 champ) vs. Point Boro senior Blake Dale (13-4) at 113 pounds, Brick Memorial senior Anthony Mitchell (15-3) vs. Point Boro senior Gene Franceschini (13-4) at 170 and Brick Memorial senior Chris Hayes (13-2) vs. Point Boro senior Dom Infante (16-1) at 220. Brick Memorial may also elect to bump junior Gianni Ghione (17-1, 2nd in NJ at 113 last season) to 126 to face Point Boro freshman Spencer Robinson (14-4).

The coin flip will be huge here to dictate matchups, and it will be interesting to see how the teams weigh in because of the new rule that stipulates wrestlers must remain at the weight class they weigh in at on Thursday for the entire tournament.

Brick Memorial junior Gianni Ghione. (Photo by Ray Richardson).

On paper it appears Brick Memorial would be CBA’s biggest obstacle to reaching the semifinals. The Mustang getting past Point Boro is no gimme, however. Even if Brick Memorial does advance to face CBA it would have to make several moves and get an upset or two to reach the semifinals. A potential mammoth matchup could take place between Ghione and CBA senior Sebastian Rivera at either 120 or 126 pounds. Ghione defeated Rivera to win the Region VI 106-pound title in 2014 and Rivera returned the favor last season to win the 113-pound region crown. Both were state medalists last season and are state championship contenders this season. Rivera is also ranked top-five in the nation at 113.

Predictions - Prelim: St. John Vianney over Lacey; PQ: CBA over St. John Vianney; Brick Memorial over Point Boro; QF: CBA over Brick Memorial.

 

AT HOWELL

Preliminary round, 4 p.m.

18-Toms River North (5-10) vs. 15-Manalapan (9-5)

Pre-quarterfinals, 5:30 p.m.

TR North/Manalapan winner vs. 2-Howell (14-3)

10-Jackson Liberty (12-3) vs. 7-Raritan (10-3)

Quarterfinals, 7 p.m.

Toms River North and Manalapan have common opponents in Brick, Colts Neck and Toms River East. The Mariners lost to Colts Neck 52-19 and Brick 32-21, and defeated Toms River East 35-24, while the Braves beat both Toms River East (48-20) and Brick (32-28) and lost to Colts Neck (52-22). Top potential bouts include Manalapan sophomore A.J. Sortino (11-8) vs. Toms River North freshman Nick Reilly (16-4) at 113 pounds and Manalapan sophomore Peter Benedetti (11-5) vs. Toms River North junior Franco Galasso (16-4) at 220.

The winner faces No. 2 Howell, which is now at full strength after senior state medalist Kris Lindemann returned to the lineup last week. The Rebels already own a 44-21 victory over Manalapan. Should Toms River North win we could see Reilly face either Howell freshman Darby Diedrich (18-4) or sophomore Kyle Slendorn (18-3). Lindemann could meet Toms River North junior Pat O’Donnell (16-4) at 145 pounds and junior Eric Keosseian (19-2) could see Galasso at 220.

Howell senior Anthony Gagliano (Photo by Robert Samuels).

Raritan and Jackson Liberty will square off in a rematch of a Jan. 9 match won by the Rockets, 39-25. The Lions will look to close the gap by limiting bonus points. Raritan recorded four pins, a technical fall and a major decision in the first meeting. Also in the first meeting, Raritan sophomore A.J. Erven (14-5) won by 2-0 decision over Jackson Liberty senior Nick Pellegrino (18-2) at 120 pounds. Reversing that result is crucial if the Lions are going to pull off the upset.

Raritan senior Nick Bohal. (Photo by Larry Murphy).

A Howell-Raritan quarterfinal match seems likely, and that would present some interesting matchups in the lower half of the lineup, which is the strength of both teams. We could see either Howell sophomore Jesse Liptzin (11-5) or Diedrich against Raritan freshman Charles Barrale (14-5) at 106 pounds, Diedrich or Slendorn versus Raritan sophomore Christian Sookdeo (13-7) at 113, Erven vs. Slendorn or Howell senior Nick Ciaccia (16-3) at 120 and potentially Ciaccia vs. Raritan sophomore Russell Benson (18-1) at 126. Raritan would probably like to move freshman Anthony Aquilano (14-3) away from Howell senior Anthony Gagliano (19-1) at 138 pounds, although with Lindemann back at 145 there isn’t much room for bumping away from the Rebels’ hammers.

Predictions - Prelim: Manalapan over Toms River North; PQ: Howell over Manalapan; Raritan over Jackson Liberty; QF: Howell over Raritan.

 

AT WALL

Preliminary round, 4 p.m.

19-Middletown South (8-4) vs. 14-Toms River South (8-4)

Pre-quarterfinals, 5:30 p.m.

Midd. South/TRS winner vs. 3-Wall (13-0)

11-Ocean (5-8) vs. 6-Middletown North (9-3)

Quarterfinals, 7 p.m.

Toms River South has some holes in the upper half of its lineup but where the Indians are good they are very good, and that will give Middletown South problems in the preliminary round. The Eagles do not have a wrestler with a winning record from 106 through 138 pounds, so Toms River South should do a lot of damage there with junior Zach Martin (8-2) at 120, sophomore Nick Gallicchio (11-5) at 126, senior state medalist and two-time region champ Owen McClave (17-1) at 132 and sophomore state qualifier Cole Corrigan (15-1) at 138. The Eagles will look to close the gap with its strong middle and upperweights led by senior Louis Avena (14-5) at 160, senior Brendan Rumsby (14-3) at 170, senior Rob Hulse (16-4) at 195 and sophomore Adam Markmann (12-6) at heavyweight.

Wall junior Matt McKenzie. (Photo by Ray Richardson).

No. 3 Wall awaits the winner and matches up nicely with both teams. Wall is pretty strong from top to bottom, although it has holes at 106, 113 and in the middle depending on how it shuffles its wrestlers. The new rule affecting weigh-ins will really test the Knights because of their lack of depth. Should they face Toms River South they have enough firepower down low with sophomore Jack Kelly (17-3) at 120, senior Joe Demuner (17-3) at 126, junior Nick Wagner (16-4) at 132 and freshman Rob Kanniard (18-2) at 138 to limit the damage by South’s studs. Kanniard has wrestled at 145 and 152 this season, as well, so it will be interesting to see where he weighs in on Thursday. Wall should clean up after that with junior Chad McClelland (13-0) at 160, senior state medalist and two-time region champ Brett Donner (20-0) at 170, senior Josh Glantzman (17-3) at 182, junior state medalist Matt McKenzie (19-1) at 195, junior Shane Davis (11-4) at 220 and junior Daryl Valme (12-7) at heavyweight.

Against Middletown South, Wall would have major advantages down low and be able to negate the Eagles’ strengths in the upper half with its own standout group.

Middletown North senior Chad Freshnock. (Photo by Ray Richardson).

The other pre-quarterfinal match pits Ocean and Middletown North in a rematch of a Jan. 9 match won by the Lions, 34-26. In the first meeting, Middletown North sophomore Stanley Wodjylak recorded a huge pin over Ocean senior Chris Donnelly at 138 pounds. Despite its 5-8 record Ocean has wrestled very well lately with close losses to Long Branch (34-30) and Wall (29-28 on criteria), and will be dangerous.

Ocean sophomore Jake Benner. (Photo by Ray Richardson).

Wall should reach the quarterfinals, and if it does it will either have a rematch against Ocean or an intriguing matchup with Middletown North. The Wall-Ocean match on Jan. 13 had several twists and turns, and the way the teams matchup with one another would likely produce a similar match. If it’s Middletown North squaring off against Wall there are several potential marquee individual bouts. Wodjylak could face Kanniard at 138, or Wall could bump Kanniard to either 145 or 152 against North sophomore Nicko Cofone (13-5). Up top is where the individual bouts get really good. Wall has McClelland, Donner, Glantzman and McKenzie from 160 through 195 and Middletown North has junior Thomas Anderson (15-4 at 170/182), senior Anthony Vetrano (16-2 at 182/195) and senior region champ Chad Freshnock (10-0 at 220/heavyweight).

Predictions - Prelim: Toms River South over Middletown South; PQ: Wall over Toms River South; Middletown North over Ocean; Wall over Middletown North.

 

AT JACKSON MEMORIAL

Preliminary round, 4 p.m.

20-Shore (11-4) vs. 13-Brick (6-4)

Pre-quarterfinals, 5:30 p.m.

Shore/Brick winner vs. 4-Jackson Memorial (11-2)

12-Colts Neck (11-3) vs. 5-Long Branch (11-1)

Quarterfinals, 7 p.m.

Shore has enjoyed a fantastic season with an 11-4 record and is on track to claim the Class B Central title, while Brick has battled well all season in the rugged Class A South division despite graduating several standout upperweights from last season. The teams do not have any common opponents, but Brick is a Group IV school that wrestles in Class A South and Shore is a Group I team in B Central, so it’s easy to see why Brick is seeded seven spots higher. When Shore has wrestled top competition it is 0-3 with lopsided losses to Point Boro (53-13), Colts Neck (66-16) and Wall (66-12).

Top potential individual matchups between include Shore sophomore Brad Smuro (15-3) vs. Brick sophomore Joe Ferigne (12-5) at 106 and Shore senior Alex Johnson (16-2) vs. Brick junior Anthony Costanza (14-3) at 145 or 152.

Jackson Memorial senior Adante Davis. (Photo by Ray Richardson).

The winner faces No. 4 Jackson Memorial, which heads in strong after a 34-29 victory over Brick Memorial on Jan. 20. The Jaguars already have a 38-26 victory over Brick on Dec. 30 and are a better team now with senior Tanner Kelly in the lineup. Should Brick win in the prelims, Kelly could face undefeated Brick junior Dean Helstowski (16-0) at 170 pounds. Junior Tim Hamann (15-1 at 145) could face Costanza at 152. Hamann could face Johnson if Shore wins. Another potential bout would pit Jackson senior Chris Mondello (13-4) vs. Brick senior Jack Jachim (10-6) at 220 pounds.

Long Branch senior Lamont Reid. (Photo by Ray Richardson).

In the other pre-quarterfinal, Long Branch and Colts Neck will meet in a rematch of a Jan. 5 match won by the Green Wave, 33-27. The teams split bouts 7-7 in that match, but Long Branch had four pins and Colts Neck managed just six total bonus points. Long Branch also has everybody at their proper weight with senior Joey Jasio (16-1) down at 220 and senior heavyweight John Tomlinson (5-1) back in the lineup.

The anticipated Jackson Memorial-Long Branch quarterfinal could be the best match on Thursday. The teams have met in two of the past three seasons in the quarterfinals with Jackson winning 35-15 last season and 32-28 in 2013. Two top individual matchups would be Hamann vs. either senior Danny Mullan (14-2) at 145 or senior Mike Shohet (14-4) at 152, plus Kelly vs. Long Branch senior Lamont Reid (16-1) at 170. Kelly defeated Reid 1-0 in last season’s SCT quarterfinal match.

Predictions - Prelim: Brick over Shore; PQ: Jackson Memorial over Brick; Long Branch over Colts Neck; Long Branch over Jackson Memorial.

 

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.