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A pair of Shore wrestling teams took home NJSIAA sectional titles in two thrillers, while the last few days before the Shore Conference Tournament cut-off in boys basketball have been filled with wild finishes.

I took in Jackson Memorial wrestling's heart-pounding, 34-31 comeback win over Brick to capture the Central Jersey Group IV championship, its first sectional title since 2011 and the seventh overall in program history. It was all about whether the Jaguars could stay in striking distance after dealing with Brick's talented upper weights, and they did just that, trailing by 15 points before ripping off four straight pins to clinch the win.

Senior Brody Graham, a first-team All-Shore TE/DE in the fall who will play football at the University of Pennsylvania, got the ball rolling with a pin at heavyweight, then senior Fred Terranova finished with a cradle and pin at 120 to get a roar from the visiting crowd.

The Jaguars program is at such a consistently high level that finishing ranked in the top 15 in the state or making the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals barely merits a shrug. The only way for teams to separate themselves in Jackson history is to win a Shore Conference or state title, and this senior group achieved that. They will have a dogfight on Sunday in the Group championships at Sun National Bank Arena in Trenton, starting with Clearview in the semifinals and most likely Phillipsburg in the final if they can win the first match.

As for Brick, congrats to senior 170-pounder Kyle Wojtaszek, who became the program's all-time wins leader with 113 after a pin in last night's match. He busted out a little Usain Bolt flaming arrow action after getting the win. Also, thanks to the great Brick student managers who helped me out with some fact-finding on Wojtaszek's career total.

Also, undefeated senior Dean Sherry decisioned previously undefeated Jaguars senior Connor Bohringer, 3-2, for an impressive win at 195. That was also the first time that I've seen tech fall machine Will Scott wrestle for Brick. That Brazilian jiu jitsu style he has is crazy. He gets you on the ground for a five-point move and then it's one tilt after another for three near-fall points until he hits 15.

It was definitely a pressure-packed, tense atmosphere as there was nearly a wild brawl after the match between the fans, but thankfully the Brick staff and security did a good job to defuse it before it escalated. While I was picking up my camera and notes at the edge of the mat, I nearly got caught in the middle of a post-match throwdown between two jacked-up supporters of each side, who happen to be former Shore athletes. They shall remain nameless because there was no actual fight and because they seem like the type of people who would find me and kill me if I printed their names.

The one depressing thing I see around this time of year across all the sports as the stakes increase is that the athletes competing usually show good sportsmanship, but the parents and the 20-something former athletes are the ones embarrassing themselves and their programs. They hurl over-the-top threats at the officials, berate kids on the opposing team, curse out other fans, bellow at their sons or daughters as they are just out there trying to play hard, and try to start fights afterward.

One day I'm going to turn around and film a few of these knuckleheads in the stands acting like that during a game or match and post it on YouTube just to show them what they look like, although that would probably humiliate their son more than them because they are clearly off the reservation. The craziest is hearing stories about groups of parents pre-gaming with alcohol before these events to get liquored up, which I've smelled on some at the games or matches. It's like they think the local high school event is a Jets tailgate. Really, people?

The day I look forward to paying $5 so that I can get buzzed and go scream at teenage kids and other adults for two hours at a high school event, I'm seeking serious professional help.

OK, rant over. Now on to Brick Memorial wrestling, which claimed the South Jersey Group V title with a thriller of its own, edging Howell 28-25, one season after losing to the Rebels in the Central Jersey Group IV final. As Bob Badders noted, there were key performances throughout the lineup for the Mustangs, who won their 15th sectional title. Senior Connor Owen, a standout fullback/linebacker on the football team, brought it home with a dramatic 4-3 comeback win at 195 in the next-to-last bout.

The Mustangs now go into Sunday as the favorite to bring home the title in Group V, which would be the ninth in their illustrious history.

Brick Memorial and Jackson Memorial were the only ones to make it to Sunday's Group semifinals and finals, as Wall, Point Beach, Toms River South, Raritan and Christian Brothers Academy all lost in championship matches to come up just short after strong seasons. Now it's time for their standouts to regroup for the upcoming District tournaments as the individual part of the season gets underway.


The Shore Conference Tournament herd was thinned a little bit more on Friday, while Toms River North clinched the outright Class A South title in last-second fashion and Rumson-Fair Haven junior guard Brendan Barry joined the list of 1,000-point scorers this season.

Barry poured in 37 points to hit 1,000 on the nose in style with a lay-up in the second half of an 84-51 victory over St. John Vianney that gave the Bulldogs a share of the Class A Central title while also eliminating the Lancers from an SCT berth.

Barry is the third junior in the Shore to hit the mark this season, joining Southern's Peyton Wejnert and CBA's Pat Andree.

Down in Ocean County, Toms River North pulled out the Class A South title by beating Jackson Memorial 59-58 on a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Mike Nyisztor with 12 seconds left in the game. If that shot rims out and North loses, it would have shared the title with Toms River South and Southern, but instead the Mariners claimed their second outright crown in three seasons. Senior center Jordan Craig also had a big night with 21 points, 12 boards and 7 blocks.

Matawan sewed up a spot in the SCT after reaching last year's semifinals, as the Huskies beat Ocean by 20 thanks to 20 points by senior guard Joe Piscopo, who seems to be finding his shooting stroke at the perfect time after an up-and-down season.

Point Beach won a share of its third straight Class B Central title with a 28-point win over Henry Hudson, while Lakewood completed another unbeaten season in Class B South by routing Manchester for the second time. The Piners have now won 38 straight divisional games.

Pinelands continues to rewrite its school record book as the Wildcats beat Point Boro behind 15 points by Dave Lunn for a single-season school record 12th victory. Also in Class B South, a Jackson Liberty team that entered the game 1-16 for the season shocked Barnegat, 53-51, on a 3-pointer by J'Son Clark at the buzzer to deny the Bengals a berth in the SCT.

The SCT will be seeded by the committee, consisting of a coach representing each of the Shore's six divisions, on Sunday. The tournament begins on Tuesday. Check out all the dates/times/sites here.

More on Saturday:

  • The Toms River East student section was busting this out the other night against South. The Curtain of Distraction, copyright Arizona State.
  • Holy Cross wrestling ended Camden Catholic's streak of 21 straight NJSIAA sectional titles.
  • It's not online yet, but if you get a chance, grab the latest ESPN the Magazine with Adam Silver on the cover. There's a great feature on women's UFC fighter Cat Zingano, Ronda Rousey's next opponent. She has endured some serious tragedy and is raising an 8-year-old son by herself.
  • Top-ranked Roselle Catholic boys basketball fell to nationally-ranked Montverde Academy from Florida last night.
  • The big lie of National Letters of Intent.
  • Immigrants from Uzbekistan have invigorated high school wrestling in New York City.
  • A high school player in Virginia hit 18 3-pointers in one game.
  • Little League superstar Mo'ne Davis schooled Kevin Hart in the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game.

On tap for today: The big game today is on the girls side, where Manasquan heads to St. Rose for a nondivisional match-up at 1:30 p.m. of two top-25 teams in the nation that also most likely will decide the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Shore Conference Tournanment. Matt Manley will be in the house to cover that one.

On the boys side, there's nothing earth-shattering, just a few teams trying to squeeze in quality wins before the SCT is seeded tomorrow afternoon at the 1 p.m. meeting. Red Bank heads to Shore at 1 p.m. for a good nondivisional game, Point Beach travels to No. 3 Toms River North, and St. Rose has its annual nondivisional showdown with Manasquan on the Warriors' home floor.

The wrestling NJSIAA Group championships are tomorrow. Bob Badders has the full schedule here.

I will leave you with the greatest hits from the Arizona State Curtain of Distraction. Take notes, Shore Conference student sections.