Wall’s Brett Donner, Toms River South’s Owen McClave Claim Third Titles to Highlight Region 6 Tournament
TOMS RIVER -- There were plenty of stunning results at the Region 6 Tournament, but when the dust settled it was still the superstars of the Shore Conference who reigned supreme.
Wall senior Brett Donner and Toms River South senior Owen McClave each captured their third titles, while Christian Brothers Academy senior Sebastian Rivera won his second region championship en route to being named Most Outstanding Wrestler to highlight the 2016 NJSIAA Region 6 finals on Saturday evening at Pine Belt Arena.
Brick Memorial's junior tandem of Gianni Ghione and Nick Rivera also captured their second titles, bringing Brick Memorial's Shore Conference-leading total to 58 all-time region champions.
A pair of wrestlers ended long championship droughts for their respective programs as St. John Vianney junior Luke Ecklof became the Lancers' first region champ since 2004, and Point Beach senior John Finnerty captured the first title for the Garnet Gulls since 2006.
Southern swept the coaching awards as head coach John Stout was selected as Region 6 Coach of the Year and Dan Roy was named Assistant Coach of the Year.
There is but one undefeated wrestler remaining in Region 6, and that is the ever-dominant Donner. The Rutgers-bound Crimson Knight cruised to the 170-pound title with a pin and two major decisions, piling up a whopping 35 points combined in his semifinal and championship bouts. He won by 13-3 major decision over Southern senior Peyton Blauvelt in the final to join Nick Roy as Wall's three-time region champs. Donner is now 35-0 on the season, and also broke Roy's program wins record with his 125th career victory.
"This was one of my goals since the beginning of the season," Donner said. "(Assistant) coach (Dave) Bender has the whole team write down their goals for the season, and one of my goals was to dominate the regions."
Since losing in the state quarterfinals last year and having to injury default in the medal round to miss out on a shot at a second state medal, Donner, who was third in the state at 152 pounds as a sophomore, has been uber-focused on finishing his career on top.
"I've been ready since I got off the mat last year," Donner said. "I want to be back there, and this year I'm going to really go out there and leave it all on the mat."
McClave hasn't lost since the opening weekend of the season, but it's that one defeat that was the spark for a brilliant region tournament. The 132-pound weight class was unquestionably the deepest, and it was McClave who came out on top for his third region championship in his fourth finals appearance. He defeated Ocean sophomore Jake Benner, who entered the final undefeated, 5-2 in the championship bout.
"Coming into the season I wanted to be an undefeated state champ, and that first loss (to Cranford's Chris Scorese) was a reality check," McClave said. "I realized I had to work harder than I was working."
The chip put on McClave's shoulder by that loss helped him reach new heights. He showcased the high level he's at right now when he demolished CBA's Dylan VanSickell with a 20-4 technical fall in the semifinals. VanSickell was a state qualifier last season and entered that bout with just one loss.
"After that first loss I put in a lot of work to get to where I'm at right now," McClave said. "I'm on a different level than I've been in the past couple years."
McClave joins Jeff Parker, Kevin Corrigan and B.J. Clagon as three-time region champions for Toms River South.
Also having a dominant tournament was Sebastian Rivera, who pulled off a rare technical fall victory in a region final. He dominated Howell sophomore Kyle Slendorn, 18-3, in 4:15, to take the 113-pound crown. Rivera had two technical falls and one pin on his way to defending his title and being selected as the tournament's MOW.
"This is one of those things you work for all year," Rivera said. "I'm excited to get my second region title for sure."
Rivera will be one of - if not the - favorite to win the 113-pound state title next weekend. The Northwestern University signee placed fifth at 106 and 113 in each of the last two season.
"I've been waiting my whole life for this," Rivera said. "This long season definitely prepares you for that final tournament. I'm excited to be peaking at the right time."
At 120 pounds Ghione defeated CBA sophomore Rich Koehler, 9-3, to win his second region title, adding another to his 2014 106-pound title. Koehler was last season's region champ at 106 pounds. To give you an idea of the kind of run he's been on, Ghione's victory over Koehler was his first this season that didn't come by either a pin or a technical fall. He won by technical fall in the quarterfinals and pinned Wall's Jack Kelly in 50 seconds in the semifinals.
"It was a pretty good tournament," Ghione said. "Obviously there are things I need to work on and improve, but I'm happy to have won regions again."
After finishing second in the state tournament at 113 pounds last season, Ghione has been consumed by getting back to the final bout in Atlantic City and finishing the job.
"It's everything I think about," Ghione said. "When I'm laying in bed I think about being in AC and getting my hand raised in the finals. It's what I dream about and what I work for every day."
Teammate Nick Rivera also captured his second consecutive region title. Rivera was a state finalist last season as well, and is among the favorites to capture heavyweight gold this season. He pinned St. John Vianney junior Micah Clark in the semifinals and used a first-period takedown to edge CBA senior William Oxley, 3-1, in the championship bout.
After reaching the semifinals as the No. 6 seed, Finnerty finished off an improbable run to the title by defeating St. John Vianney senior Khalil Haskins, 6-5, in the semifinals before taking down Southern senior Teddy Caporino, 11-5, the 145-pound final. Finnerty, along with Jackson Memorial's Matt McGowan at 126 pounds, where the lowest seeds claim region titles. He is Point Beach's first region champion since Matt Rega in 2006.
"It's awesome," Finnerty said. "Everyone here is that good, you just have to have a good tournament. I'm so glad my senior year, the last time here, I had a really good showing. I didn't stop wrestling for six minutes every single match."
Finnerty entered the tournament as a four-time region qualifier, but, having never won a District 23 title, also with plenty of past frustration. Instead of pressing, however, Finnerty tried to enjoy every bit of his final region tournament. He ended up creating his best memory yet.
"That's the mentality I went in with this year," Finnerty said. "You're always nervous, but I knew we had an epic season with our first sectional title, so either way I was happy. These fans, they support you no matter what and love you to death. No matter what, I knew I had that. I tried to take it all in and enjoy it."
Ecklof became St. John Vianney's first region champ since Anthony Castro in 2004 by winning the 106-pound title. Ecklof earned redemption against Howell freshman Darby Diedrich with a 1-0 win in the semifinals, then blanked Lacey freshman Hunter Gutierrez, 6-0, to claim the title. Diedrich had pinned Ecklof in the District 21 final.
CBA senior Jack LaCorte edged Wall junior Matt McKenzie in overtime for the second time this season, winning 3-2 in double overtime to claim the 195-pound championship.
"I knew a lot of people thought he was going to win and it was a fluke the first time," LaCorte said. "I already punched my ticket (to the state tournament) so I was just having fun out there. I was confident going in. I know my conditioning got better since the Colts Classic, and I saw him wrestle (St. John Vianney's Calvin) Beaty (in the semifinals) and he got gassed pretty fast. I pushed hard and got it done."
McKenzie was leading 1-0 in the third period when a stalling call tied the bout 1-1 and forced overtime. After a scoreless sudden victory period, McKenzie escaped in double overtime to take a 2-1 lead. With his turn on defense, LaCorte scored a reversal to win 3-2 and take his first region title.
"There was 20 seconds left and I had to do something," LaCorte said. "I thought maybe I'd get a stall call, and I thought he locked hands, but I felt him slip up and got the last second reversal. I was going for an elevator - I hit it all the time - and I got lucky at the end and found my way through. He was on my leg and I spun real fast and that was it."
"It's almost unbelievable. Last year I was second in districts and I was out first round of regions. I worked hard over the summer and, honestly, it still hasn't hit me yet. Region champ, that's a pretty big thing."
Howell junior Eric Keosseian won the 220-pound title, his first, with a 3-1 overtime victory over Long Branch senior Joey Jasio. Keosseian was able to fight off a deep single-leg takedown attempt by Jasio before securing the championship-winning takedown.
Toms River East junior Andrew Meyers continued his quiet but spectacular season by winning the 152-pound final with a 5-1 decision over Point Beach's Giancarlo Crivelli.
Wall senior Josh Glantzman defeated Jackson Liberty's Tyler Kalmowitz 4-1 in double overtime to claim the 160-pound title. After riding out Kalmowitz in the first double-overtime session, Glantzman was released by Kalmowitz to start the second session for a 2-1 lead as the Jackson Liberty senior preferred to work from his feet. It was Glantzman that scored the takedown instead, however, to win 4-1.
Howell senior Kris Lindemann captured his first region title with a 5-3 victory over Toms River South sophomore Cole Corrigan in the 138-pound final. After a scoreless first period, Lindemann score two takedowns in the second period for all the points he would need.
Middletown North senior Anthony Vetrano made it back-to-back years with a region champion for the Lions by beating Pinelands' Chris Nielsen by 10-1 major decision in the 182-pound final.
McGowan came from the No. 6 seed and defeated the top three seeds on his way to taking home the 126-pound title. He escaped from the grasp of Raritan sophomore Russell Benson in ultimate tiebreaker to win 3-2. McGowan defeated Toms River South's Nick Gallicchio, 5-4, in the quarterfinals and Wall's Joe Demuner, 4-2, in the semifinals.
Wrestling editor Bob Badders can be reached at email@example.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.