Wrestling: Asbury Park’s Jaylen Paige On the Cusp of History at Region 6 Tournament
BRICK TOWNSHIP – Asbury Park has never had a region champion and never had a wrestler reach the state tournament.
Heading into Saturday, Jaylen Paige is on the cusp of both.
The Blue Bishops senior heavyweight, the No. 1 seed in the NJSIAA Region 6 Tournament, needed just 61 seconds to pin Ocean’s Joe Teresi during Friday night’s quarterfinal round at Brick Memorial High School. Now Paige needs only one win on Saturday to become the first Asbury Park wrestler to make the trip to the state tournament and two more to become the school’s first region champion.
“My goal is to make it to A.C. so that’s what I’m trying to do for my town, but making it to regions and becoming a champion, being the first person from Asbury, that would be a big accomplishment,” Paige said.
“He’s got the right mind frame right now,” said Asbury Park head coach Matt Ardizzone. “He’s taking it one match at a time and we’ll see where it takes us.”
Last weekend Paige repeated as District 23 champion by besting Long Branch’s Kevin Cerruti. The head-to-head win over Cerruti coupled with his fourth-place finish in the Shore Conference Tournament helped Paige grab the No. 1 seed, but he knows that number means little now.
“It can go either way and anything can happen,” Paige said. “We’re all talented kids.”
On Saturday morning Paige will face Nottingham’s Sylvester Freeman, the No. 4 seed, who defeated Northern Burlington’s William Nolan, 3-0. A win would put Paige in the final and clinch a trip to the state tournament.
It’s been a while since Lakewood has had a region champion and a state qualifier – 13 years to be exact – but senior Dante Morris is closing in on both as well. Morris won by fall over Delran’s Burak Ozbay in just 1:31 to reach the 220-pound semifinals. He is Lakewood’s first region semifinalist since Matt Rizzo and current Piners head coach Oscar Orellana in 2005. Rizzo won a region title that year while Orellana was second, and in 2004 both were crowned region champions.
“It’s amazing,” Orellana said. “The biggest thing is now we have other kids seeing it happen and it’s like, ‘hey, I can be next’.” The best part for me was seeing the whole team in the stands cheering for him. They’ve become a family. For us to see Dante out there, he’s the pride of our program and a great example for what we’re trying to capture in Lakewood.”
Morris weighed in at just 188 pounds for Friday’s quarterfinals but Orellana sees the 30-pound weight gap to his opponents as an advantage.
“Our approach has been he’s faster, the better athlete and has the better gas tank,” Orellana said. “Stay low, fire and keep a high pace. It’s hard to keep up with.”
Morris will take that strategy into Saturday’s semifinal round against the No. 1 seed, Bordentown/Florence’s Jajuan Hayes. Like Paige, the main goal for Morris is getting to the state tournament with winning a region title being the cherry on top.
“Win or lose we’re just focusing on advancing to states at this point,” Orellana said. “Of course, the goal is to win the whole thing but it doesn’t matter what spot on the podium he gets, as long as he’s on there.”
There were virtually no upsets in the quarterfinals except for a few No. 6 seeds advancing to the semifinals. The biggest came at 182 pounds where Steinert’s Keon Cooper outlasted Hightstown’s Johnny Andre, 7-6, to hand Andre his first loss of the season. Shore’s Jack Maida defeated Colts Neck’s Logan Waller, 14-7, at 106 pounds and Bordentown/Florence’s Billy Moore won 3-0 over Colts Neck’s Dyon Womack at 126 pounds.
Also of note was Ocean senior Jake Benner becoming the program’s all-time wins leader. The defending 138-pound state champion won by fall over Manasquan’s Ethan Dzenis to record his 140th career victory and pass Kyle Kiss atop the Spartans’ all-time wins list.
Howell has a tournament-high eight semifinalists followed by Point Boro with seven. Manalapan has four wrestlers in the semifinals while Brick Memorial, Long Branch and Christian Brothers Academy have three each.
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