WALL -- Sick to his stomach, Wall senior Josh Glantzman was positive he wasn't going to be able to wrestle on Thursday. That was until he saw the Crimson Knights' Shore Conference Tournament title hopes and their undefeated season almost go up up flames in the pre-quarterfinals.

"When we almost lost to Toms River South I knew I had to wrestle this next match," Glantzman said.

Glantzman gave coach Brian Fischer the go-ahead to insert him into the lineup, and he delivered a crucial 5-0 decision at 182 pounds to solidify the third-seeded Crimson Knights' 37-34 victory over sixth-seeded Middletown North in the quarterfinals of the Shore Conference Tournament on Thursday night.

Junior Matt McKenzie clinched the match with a technical fall in the final bout at 220 pounds to send Wall to its first SCT semifinal appearance since 1982.

The undefeated (15-0) and state-ranked Knights almost had their title hopes dashed by 14th-seeded Toms River South in the pre-quarterfinals. Vinny Merlo stunned Chad McClelland, 5-3, at 160 pounds to give the Indians a chance, and without Glantzman (18-3, 4th in Region VI last season) in the lineup Wall had to send out an overwhelmed junior varsity wrestler in his spot. Toms River South got a pin in the second-to-last bout at 182 pounds to take a six-point lead. That meant McKenzie needed a pin to tie the score and send it to criteria. He delivered the fall and Wall won 34-33 on criteria by having more pins, four to three.

"I did not think it was going to be as close as it was against Toms River South," Glantzman said. "I thought the team would be okay with out me. I didn't want to go out there and start throwing up on children, because that would be really bad."

"I saw how close it was against Toms River South and I was like, I have to talk to my dad and get out here ASAP."

"It was a game-time decision, and we didn't know up until the minutes before his weight classes if he would be able to go," Fischer said. "It was huge. It's a nine-point swing and we won by three."

Wall will face second-seeded Howell in the SCT semifinals at at 3 p.m. on Saturday at Red Bank Regional. Top-seeded CBA and fourth-seeded Jackson Memorial will meet in the other semifinal, and the winners will wrestle for the SCT title at 5:30 p.m.

The Crimson Knights won eight bouts against the red-hot Lions (11-4), who were coming off a 33-32 win over Ocean in the pre-quarterfinals one day after stunning top-seeded and SSN No. 2 CBA, 34-29, in a Class A North match. After falling behind 16-0 through the first three bouts, Wall rallied to win eight of the final 11 bouts with bonus points in seven of those victories.

Junior Jack Kelly won by major decision at 120 pounds, and senior Joe Demuner and junior Nick Wagner registered back-to-back pins at 126 and 132, respectively, to tie the match at 16. Middletown North sophomore Stanley Wojdylak won by fall at 138 pounds to put the Lions back up by six, but freshman sensation Rob Kanniard won by technical fall at 145 to cut Middletown North's lead to one point.

Nicko Cofone's third straight pin (CBA, Ocean, Wall) put North up 28-21 with five bouts left, but with Glantzman back in the lineup, Wall had hammers in four of the remaining bouts. McCellaland scored seven points in the third period to win by 13-5 major decision at 160, and senior Brett Donner (22-0) put on a takedown clinic in a 22-9 major decision victory over Tom Anderson at 170 pounds.

That brought the match to 182, where no one outside of Wall's bench knew who was going to come out. Freshman Finn Lister had wrestled in Glantzman's place against Toms River South and was warming up with his head gear on. He looked ready to go. Glantzman was warming up too, but still in his warmups.

"None of us knew he might go out until a couple matches before," Donner said.

Glantzman's win over Brian Ruane put Wall up 32-28 with two bouts left, and the Knights had Shane Davis (12-4) and McKenzie, a state medalist, ready to go. Middletown North had top-ranked 195-pound Anthony Vetrano, though, so the Knights chose to forfeit to him at 195 to make it 34-32. All McKenzie had to do was win, and he was clutch again with his second match-clinching victory of the night via a dominant 16-0 technical fall in 4:48 to cap a nail-biting pair of matches for Wall.

"It was very much an emotional roller coaster," Fischer said.

Toms River South defeated Middletown South 45-24 in the preliminary round match. The two pre-quarterfinal matches and the quarterfinal match were decided by five points combined.

In Middletown North's 33-32 win over Ocean it came down to the final bout where Vetrano defeated Tyler Thompson 6-4 to clinch the win. There was some controversy as Ocean felt Thompson should have been awarded two near-fall points after a takedown had Vetrano on his back late in the second period. Thompson was awarded two points for the takedown but no back points, tying the score at three. Vetrano turned Thompson for three near-fall points in the third period to go up 6-3, and held on for the clinching victory.

Winning by the the smallest of margins is something Wall is prepared to do. With little to no depth, the Knights walk a fine line between winning and losing. That couldn't have been better illustrated than on Thursday. They are still unbeaten and ranked No. 15 in New Jersey, but it isn't always pretty.

"The reality is we're a team that will probably give up 25 points a match," Fischer said. "What makes us dangerous is we can score over 30 points a match. There's been only one match we haven't scored over 30 (a 29-28 win over Ocean on criteria). We have the ability to overcome deficits, usually, but it's always going to be close."

"We have seven or eight guys that can scrap with anybody int he state," Donner said. "We have some guys we know are most likely going to lose, so we hope they can pull out a win or save bonus points, which they've done a good job of. Once we hit 120 pounds we're going to start rolling, and we have to start rolling if we're going to win."

 

Box Scores

Shore Conference Tournament

Preliminary round

14-Toms River South 45, 19-Middletown South 24

Pre-quarterfinals

3-Wall 34, 14-Toms River South 33 (Wall wins on criteria, most pins: 4-3)

6-Middletown North 33, 11-Ocean 32

Quarterfinals

3-Wall 37, 6-Middletown North 34

HWT: Chad Freshnock (MN) tf. Darryl Valme 5:55 (21-6)

106: John Provenzano (MN) tf. Theodore McGowan (W) 5:39 (21-5)

113: Sean Deering (MN) p. Mike Rocha 1:47

120: Jack Kelly (W) md. Andrew Lacey 19-8

126: Joe Demuner (W) p. Nate Pujols 1:51

132: Nick Wagner (W) p. Mike Del Grosso 1:18

138: Stanley Wojdylak (MN) p. Alex Cortez 1:44

145: Rob Kanniard (W) tf. Jacob Anderson 5:44 (19-3)

152: Nicko Cofone (MN) p. Devin Arroyo 0:43

160: Chad McClelland (W) md. Brian Winz 13-5

170: Brett Donner (W) md. Tom Anderson 22-9

182: Josh Glantzman (W) d. Brian Ruane 5-0

195: Anthony Vetrano (MN) by forfeit

220: Matt McKenzie (W) tf. Austin Dewise 4:48 (16-0)

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.