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A packed house at Pine Belt Arena, some of the best wrestlers in the state battling it out - what more could you ask for?

Video Highlights: Region VI championship matches

The Region VI finals didn't have a whole lot of surprises, but there was plenty to like from another action-packed day of wrestling on Saturday. The finals started with a bang when Brick Memorial sophomore heavyweight Nick Rivera, trailing 1-0 against rugged Jackson Memorial senior Brody Graham in the third period, hit a standing switch and stunningly pinned Graham for his first Region VI title.

The biggest underdog to make a run was Christian Brothers Academy freshman Rich Koehler, who stormed his way to the 106-pound title as the fifth seed, finishing it off with a 9-2 decision over Colts Neck freshman Joey King.

CBA's Rich Koehler (bottom) made a great run to the 106-pound Region VI title as the fifth seed. (Photo by Ray Richardson)


His teammate, junior Sebastian Rivera, had one of the more exciting endings with his takedown on the edge of the mat in overtime to beat defending Region champion Gianni Ghione of Brick Memorial at 113.

One of the best sequences was at 145, where good friends Alec Donovan of Brick Memorial and Tom Poklikuha of Pinelands, a pair of seniors, battled it out before Donovan picked up a 3-2 win when the smoke cleared. Both are excellent at scrambling, so it made for an entertaining third period with a pair of reversals and then Poklikuha nearly putting Donovan to his back and trying to get a winning reversal as Donovan held him off.

Brick Memorial senior Cliff Ruggiero won Most Outstanding Wrestler after winning his first Region VI title with a pin of Brick's Will Scott at 160, one week after losing to Scott as a result of an illegal slam in the District 23 final. This is the Year of the Mustangs, as Mike Denver was named the Region VI Coach of the Year after leading Brick Memorial to Class A South, Shore Conference Tournament and Group V titles as well as the final No. 1 ranking in the Shore.

The most impressive feat belonged to Jackson Liberty senior Mike Russo, who took the crown at 126 to become a three-time Region champ and put himself into some rarefied air. It was a great day for the Russo family overall, as his twin brother Matt won the title at 138.

Toms River South’s Owen McClave at 120, Rumson’s Marcus Iwama at 132, Southern’s Matt Wilhelm at 152, Wall’s Brett Donner at 170 and Brick’s Dean Sherry at 182 all repeated as region champs. Donner's 6-4 win over Ocean's Zach Hertling could be a preview of a possible state final this upcoming weekend in Atlantic City.

Brick's Dean Sherry (in green) won his second Region VI title with a pin at 182. (Photo by Ray Richardson)

Keansburg senior Tyree Sutton made history as the first Region VI champ in Titans' history after winning at 195, which was great to see. Talking to Sutton and his coaches over the past two years, several public and non-public teams that shall remain nameless have blatantly tried to recruit him to transfer. He decided to stay at Da Burg and has made history. He now has a legitimate shot to become the first state champion ever produced by the Titans.

Tyree Sutton gets a quick flex in before getting his hand raised as Keansburg's first Region VI champ. (Photo by Scott Stump)

Middletown North's Chad Freshnock, also one of the best running backs in the Shore, picked up his first Region VI title at 220 to give the Lions their first Region champ since the legendary Frank Molinaro back in 2004.

All of those finalists and the third-place finishers are now headed to Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City this weekend for the grand finale, the NJSIAA Individual Championships.


Congrats to Wall senior guard Ryan Janeczek, who joined senior teammate Trent Mitchell in the 1,000-point club yesterday.

One other note from the games that teams have picked up to get ready for the state playoffs. Red Bank Catholic senior Liam Byrne drained a school-record nine 3-pointers, all in the first half, in a win over Brick Memorial on Thursday.

More on Sunday:

  • Good story on former Raritan star Mike Aaman, who has battled through concussions to resurrect his career at Wagner, where he is rebounding like a savage, just like he did with the Rockets.
  • Linden did it again, taking down No. 1 Roselle Catholic for the second time this season, this time for the Union County Tournament championship.
  • The non-public schools dominate North Jersey to the point that only one wrestler who won a Region II title was from a public school.
  • I stayed out for two hours waiting around for that Ronda Rousey fight and it was over in 14 seconds. At least I didn't pony up for the pay-per-view. Nice strategy Cat Zingano.
  • The vulnerability of our nuclear stockpile was exposed by...nuns?

On tap for this week: This is the home stretch of the winter season. The NJSIAA Tournament for boys and girls basketball starts tomorrow, while the wrestling season wraps up next weekend in Atlantic City.

I'll wrap up with Rowdy Ronda and her blink-and-you-missed-it win on, of course, an arm bar.