Follow Bob Badders on Twitter for scores and news from around the Shore.

 *Click here for video highlights*

BRICK — When gauging his team’s performances on a match-to-match basis, Brick Memorial head coach Mike Denver has a pretty simple format.

“It’s winning the close bouts that will make the difference, not only in the kids’ mentality on the mat, but in winning a state championship,” Denver said.

There weren’t many of those for the Mustangs on Friday, however. Brick Memorial, ranked No. 2 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 and seeded second in the Shore Conference Tournament, crushed Colts Neck, 62-9, and Wall, 51-13, to advance to the SCT semifinals on Saturday at Jackson Liberty High School. The Mustangs will face sixth-seeded Toms River South, which knocked off third-seeded Brick, 33-27.

In the quarterfinals against the seventh-seeded and ninth-ranked Crimson Knights, the Mustangs (13-1) won 10 of 14 bouts. So dominant was Brick Memorial that Denver didn’t have many opportunities to see his wrestlers battle in tight matchups. In winning eight of the 12 contested bouts, Brick Memorial used five pins to overpower Wall in jumping out to a 24-3 lead.

One of those pins came from senior Joe Stowers at 170 pounds, and before the fall it was a back-and-forth contest that nearly went the other way. A wild first period between Stowers and Wall’s Nick Iezzi resulted in 19 total points in the opening two minutes, including a pin that was waved off because of an illegal hold. Iezzi put Stowers to his back early and came ever so close to getting the pin. Stowers fought off his back, but trailed 7-0 after Iezzi turned him again for two more near-fall points. Stowers then hit a reversal and had Iezzi fighting off being pinned before seemingly securing the fall. But it was cancelled because Stowers used an illegal hold, and Iezzi led 8-5 one minute into the bout.

Trailing 9-5, Stowers started his comeback with another takedown that sent Iezzi back to the mat. Three more back points gave Stowers a 10-9 lead heading into the second period. He opened the second with a takedown, and after Iezzi escaped, took him down again before finally finishing off the pin at 3:06 to give Brick Memorial a 24-3 advantage.

“it was a pin, but Stowers was the perfect example,” Denver said. “He goes down early but ends up coming back and winning. Those wins are what make the difference.”

Brick Memorial junior Luke Vescovi looks for back points against Wall's Joe Demuner during their bout at 132 pounds. Vescovi won 7-2. (Photo by Bob Badders).

At 138 pounds, junior Anthony Mitchell used a takedown in the second period for the bout’s only offensive points, and kept Wall’s Jack Wishart at bay in the third for a 2-1 victory which gave the Mustangs a 6-0 lead two bouts in. Later in the match, junior Chris Hayes scored two takedown in the third period, including one with 20 seconds left, for a 4-2 victory over Shane Davis.

 

Surrounding those victories were pins by senior Alec Donovan at 145, sophomore Nick Rivera at heavyweight, freshman Matt Wardlaw at 106 and sophomore Gianni Ghione at 113 pounds. Wardlaw’s fall against Jake Sabo was particularly encouraging heading into Saturday’s final two rounds.

“If Wardlaw (4-6 record) was on any other team he’d probably be over .500,” Denver said. “He’s a solid 106-pounder, not bad by any means, but the quality of kids he’s been getting has been pretty good. For him to come out and get a win was something he absolutely needed and deserved.”

Brick Memorial also did a great job saving bonus points against Wall’s stars. Senior Kyle Angersbach kept Wall junior Brett Donner from getting anything more than a major decision in losing 21-7 at 182 pounds, then senior Connor Owen kept undefeated sophomore Matt McKenzie in regular decision territory, 9-4 at 195 pounds. Senior Luis Bocalman battled unbeaten senior Denzel Tovar in a 4-3 defeat at 120 pounds. Wall had just four individual wins in the match, and Donner’s major decision delivered the one an only bonus point for the Crimson Knights (11-3).

All were encouraging signs for Brick Memorial as it enters Saturday’s semifinals looking to collect its 15th Shore Conference Tournament title. The Mustangs will have to get through Class A South rival Toms River South first, after the Indians upended Brick, 33-29. Brick Memorial won the regular season meeting, 45-22, on January 6. If the Mustangs are victorious there they would face the winner of Howell and Jackson Memorial in the final.

“Toms River South is always a tough team,” Denver said. “They’re very well-coached and now they’ve have time to condition.”

No matter who the opponent, the message remains the same for Brick Memorial.

“If we win the close bouts we’re going to win a Shore Conference title and a state title,” Denver said. “It all comes down to that.”

 

Box Score

Brick Memorial 51, Wall 13

132: Luke Vescovi (BM) d. Joe Demuner 7-2

138: Anthony Mitchell (BM) d. Jack Wishart 2-1

145: Alec Donovan (BM) p. Josiah Schucht 0:45

152: Josh Glantzman (W) d. Rob Ruggiero 4-2

160: Cliff Ruggiero (BM) by forfeit

170: Joe Stowers (BM) p. Nick Iezzi 3:06

182: Brett Donner (W) md. Kyle Angersbach 21-7

195: Matt McKenzie (W) d. Connor Owen 9-4

220: Chris Hayes (BM) d. Shane Davis 4-2

Hwt: Nick Rivera (BM) p. Darry Valme 1:08

106: Matt Wardlaw (BM) p. Jake Sabo 3:08

113: Gianni Ghione (BM) p. Jack Kelly 0:49

120: Denzel Tovar (W) d. Luis Bocalman 4-3

126: Jose Bocalman (BM) by forfeit

Records: at Brick Memorial (13-1); Wall (11-3).