Wrestling – NJSIAA Individual State Tournament Preview
Follow Bob Badders on Twitter all weekend for updates from the state tournament in Atlantic City.
Last season was the first time since 1970 the Shore Conference did not have a state finalist, and the first time since 2003 the Shore didn’t have a team or individual state championship.
Brick Memorial made sure that streak stopped at one year after winning the NJSIAA Group V title in February, and the Shore Conference has several individual state championship contenders heading down to Atlantic City on Friday ready to get back to the top of the medal stand.
Here is our preview and championship selections for the 2015 NJSIAA Individual Championships.
2015 NJSIAA Individual Tournament
At Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City
Friday March 6
Preliminary round, 5 p.m.
Prequarterfinals, 7 p.m.
Saturday March 7
Quarterfinals and wrestleback rounds 1, 10 a.m.
Wrestleback round 2, noon
Semifinals and wrestleback rounds 3, 5 p.m.
Wrestleback round 4, 7 p.m.
Sunday March 8
Wrestleback semifinals, 10 a.m.
Medal matches (third, fifth, seventh), 11:30 a.m.
Finals, 3 p.m.
Last year’s champion: Ty Agaisse, Delbarton (now at 120)
Returning medalists: Jonathan Tropea, St. Joseph-Montvale (eighth)
Shore Conference entrants: Rich Koehler (CBA, Fr.), Joey King (Colts Neck, Fr.), Kyle Slendorn (Howell, Fr.)
A deep bracket that has some brutal matchups right form the start. Slendorn, who was undefeated until losing to eventual Region VI champion Koehler in the region semifinals, has to face Hanover Park stud freshman Gerard Angelo in the preliminary round on Friday night. Both are top-five caliber, but one will have a long road to a state medal.
Koehler has a good shot to reach the semifinals, but once there will likely have to face either Tropea or Delbarton freshman Pat Glory, who has been fantastic this season for the Green Wave.
King has a winnable bout with Eastern sophomore Jordan Pinette in the preliminary round, but will then have to face West Morris sophomore Shane Metzler, who is nationally ranked and 34-1.
All three Shore Conference wrestlers have extremely tough roads to the final, but all three also have a good shot to place. It’s not out of the question for either of them to make a run, however. The bottom line is that there will be some excellent wrestlers who get left off the podium at 106.
Finals prediction: Jonathan Tropea (St. Joseph-Montvale) over Quinn Kinner (Kingsway).
Last year’s champion: Nick Suriano, Bergen Catholic (now at 120)
Returning medalists: Alec Kelly, St. Peter’s Prep (third at 106); Brandon Cray, Steinert (fourth at 106), Sebastian Rivera, CBA (fifth at 106), Garrett O’Shea, Morris Knolls (sixth at 106), Chris Wolf, Haddon Township (seventh at 106),
Shore Conference entrants: Sebastian Rivera (CBA, So.), Gianni Ghione (Brick Memorial, So.), Jason Hernandez (Long Branch, Sr.)
A deep weight with five retuning state medalists, and one where there is a decent chance for an all-Shore Conference final.
CBA junior Sebastian Rivera is undefeated and looking to become the Colts second state champion and first since Pete Black won the 141-pound title in 1969. He is in a good spot as the No. 2 seed in the bottom bracket where he will be favored until the semifinals and a potential meeting with Steinert’s Brandon Cray. Rivera lost to Cray during last year’s tournament, but has the goods to win it all.
Brick Memorial sophomore Gianni Ghione looked like a good bet to medal last season before an injury ended his state tournament. He has a tougher road than Rivera with top-seeded Alec Kelly of St. Peter’s Prep and Morris Knolls’ Garrett O’Shea, third and sixth, respectively, at 106 last season, in his half of the bracket. He’ll likely have a tough bout in the pre-quarterfinals with Don Bosco Prep’s Evan DeLuise, where a win would likely give him Kelly in the quarterfinals.
Long Branch senior Jason Hernandez has a difficult bout right away in the prelims as he squares off with Haddon Township’s Chris Wolf, who was seventh at 106 last season.
This could very well become Rivera versus Ghione in the final. Either way, both should leave Boardwalk Hall with a top-eight finish.
Finals prediction: Sebastian Rivera (CBA) over Garrett O’Shea (Morris Knolls).
Last year’s champion: Anthony Cefolo, Hanover Park (now at 126)
Returning medalists: Nick Suriano, Bergen Catholic (first at 113); Ty Agaisse, Delbarton (first at 106); Zack Firestone, Clearview (fifth at 113).
Shore Conference entrants: Owen McClave (Toms River South, Jr.), Denzel Tovar (Wall, Sr.), Chris Crane (Southern, Sr.)
This is Nick Suriano’s bracket, and it will take a historic upset to prevent the Bergen Catholic junior from winning his third state title and continuing his undefeated assault through New Jersey.
If all goes according to plan, Toms River South junior Owen McClave will get his crack at Suriano in the semifinals. McClave is the No. 2 seed in the top bracket opposite Suriano and has a pretty good road to the final four, although a potential quarterfinal matchup with Hanover Park’s Lou Raimo would present a stiff challenge. McClave has been a quarterfinalist each of the last two seasons and seems like a near lock for a top-four finish.
Wall senior Denzel Tovar will be making his third state tournament appearance and also has a good shot at his first state medal. He has an ultra-tough prelim bout, however, with Demarest’s Anthony Rubinetti, and would probably be looking at a quarterfinal bout with undefeated Clearview junior Zack Firestone. With Delbarton’s Ty Agaisse also in his half bracket, Tovar will likely need to rally in the wrestleback rounds, but should finish among the top eight.
Southern senior Chris Crane has an even tougher road. In the prelims he has Emerson/Park Ridge junior Sam Schneider, who has two consecutive wins over Rubinetti. Even if he wins against Schneider and then takes out Northern Burlington’s Anthony Foggia, the Region VII champ, he would face Agaisse in the quarterfinals.
Finals prediction: Nick Suriano (Bergen Catholic) over Ty Agaisse (Delbarton).
Last year’s champion: Craig De La Cruz, Summit (now at 132)
Returning medalists: Anthony Cefolo, Hanover Park (first at 120); Pat D’Arcy, Holy Spirit (second at 113); Ryan Pomrinca, North Hunterdon (third at 126); Mike Russo, Jackson Liberty (third at 120); Pete Lipari, Bergen Catholic (sixth at 126); Matt Noble, DePaul (seventh at 113); Joe Ferinde, Nutley (eighth at 120).
Shore Conference entrants: Mike Russo (Jackson Liberty, Sr.); Cole Corrigan (Toms River South, Fr.), Dylan VanSickell (CBA, Jr.)
From a Shore Conference perspective, the question is whether Jackson Liberty senior Mike Russo can finish the job and become the Lions’ first state champion after finishing fourth and third in the last two seasons. This is a loaded weight class, but also one that Russo can certainly win. In the quarterfinals he has a potential bout with Randolph’s A.J. Vindici, and in the semifinals would face either Hanover Park’s Anthony Cefolo or Bergen Catholic’s Pete Lipari. Cefolo is a two-time state champ and last season’s 120-pound state champion, defeating Russo in double overtime in the semifinals.
Toms River South freshman Cole Corrigan has the talent to make a run, but has a very tough half of the bracket. To reach the semifinals he would have to defeat both DePaul’s Matt Noble and North Hunterdon’s Ryan Pomrinca, which would be a Herculean effort.
Also with a tough draw is CBA junior Dylan VanSickell. If he wins his prelim bout on Friday he will wrestle Holy Spirit’s Pat D’Arcy, last season’s 113-pound runner-up, in the prequarterfinals.
Finals prediction: Mike Russo (Jackson Liberty) over Ryan Pomrinca (North Hunterdon)
Last year’s champion: Anthony Giraldo, North Bergen (graduated, now at Rutgers)
Returning medalists: Sal Profaci, Monroe (fourth at 126); Nick Farro, Delbarton (sixth at 120).
Shore Conference entrants: Marcus Iwama (Rumson-Fair Haven, Sr.), Anthony Gagliano (Howell, Jr.), James Knoeller (Southern, Sr.)
This is the first weight on the list where it will really be an uphill battle for each of the Shore Conference’s three wrestlers to medal.
Rumson-Fair Haven senior Marcus Iwama is in the best spot, but only because he has a bye into the pre-quarterfinals. Iwama has two-time state champ Craig De La Cruz, Don Bosco Prep’s Sam Cali, Warren Hills’ Max Nauta, Kingsway’s Stanley Atkinson, Hanover Park’s Austin Nash and Monroe’s Sal Profaci on his side of the bracket. That’s brutal. He’ll likely have Cali in the pre-quarterfinals and, should he win there, get De La Cruz in the semifinals. If Iwama is to become Rumson’s third state medalist and first since 2003, he’ll have to pull off some huge wins.
Howell junior Anthony Gagliano has a tough bout in the prelims with Kittatinny’s Austin Scrivani. If he wins there he gets Delbarton’s Nick Farro, who beat De La Cruz in the Region III final.
Southern senior James Knoeller faces DePaul’s William Kui in the prelims with the winner set to square off against undefeated Clearview junior Mike VanBrill.
Finals prediction: Craig De La Cruz (Summit) over Nick Farro (Delbarton).
Last year’s champion: Ronnie Gentile, Paulsboro (Injured: out for the season)
Returning medalists: Kyle Bierdumpfel, Don Bosco Prep (second at 126); Mark McCormick, Camden Catholic (fourth at 132); Connor Burkert, St. Peter’s Prep (fourth at 138; Kris Lindemann, Howell (sixth at 132); Mekhi Lewis, Bound Brook (seventh at 132); Alex Sebahie, Paramus (eighth at 132); Eric Friedman, Mendham (eighth at 138)
Shore Conference entrants: Matt Russo (Jackson Liberty, Sr.); Connor Garrity (Lacey, Sr.); Kris Lindemann (Howell, Jr.).
After being stuck behind Nick Suriano as a freshman and losing to Craig De La Cruz in overtime last season, it appears the time is now for Don Bosco Prep’s Kyle Bierdumpfel to claim what has been an elusive state championship. He is the favorite at this weight, which is good for Jackson Liberty’s Matt Russo, who is in the opposite bracket.
Russo is undefeated and going for his first state medal in his third appearance. To reach the final, Russo will likely have to go through three state medalists - Paramus’s Alex Sebahie, Bound Brook’s Mekhi Lewis and Camden Catholic’s Mark McCormick or St. Peter’s Prep’s Connor Burkert. He’s had the best season of a great career as a senior, so although a run to the final is marked with land mines, it’s not out of the question.
Lacey senior Connor Garrity has Monroe’s Chris Muce in the prelims with the winner advancing to face Bierdumpfel on Friday night.
Injuries have slowed Howell junior Kris Lindemann over the second half of the season, but he showed last year he has the fortitude to plow through the wrestlebacks. He may have to do the same this season with undefeated Clifton junior Mo Farhan waiting in the pre-quarterfinals, and either Williamstown’s Anthony Rocobaldo or South Plainfield’s Dan Hedden likely to reach the quarterfinals.
Finals prediction: Kyle Bierdumpfel (Don Bosco Prep) over Mekhi Lewis (Bound Brook).
Last year’s champion: Dave McFadden, DePaul (now at 160)
Returning medalists: Ryan Burkert, St. Peter’s Prep (second at 145); Travis Vasquez, Delbarton (third at 138); William Povalac, Edison (fifth at 138); Alec Donovan, Brick Memorial (seventh at 145).
Shore Conference entrants: Alec Donovan (Brick Memorial, Sr.); Tom Poklikuha (Pinelands, Sr.); Paul Capaldo (Middletown North, Sr.)
By my count there are eight wrestlers who have a legitimate shot at winning it all, so this should be a fun weight to watch play out.
Brick Memorial senior Alec Donovan has a tough draw with Delbarton’s Travis Vasquez likely waiting in the quarterfinals. That being said, Donovan is among those aforementioned eight who could win the entire tournament.
Pinelands senior Tom Poklikuha has Hanover Park’s Christian Bassolino in the prelims with the winner advancing to face undefeated Delran senior Marcus Miraglia in the prequarterfinals.
Middletown North senior Paul Capaldo has a very tough draw with St. Peter’s Prep’s Ryan Burkert waiting in the pre-quarterfinals. Burkert was second at 145 last season.
Finals prediction: Travis Vasquez (Delbarton) over Ryan Burkert (St. Peter’s Prep).
Last year’s champion: Jack Clark, St. Augustine (now at North Carolina)
Returning medalists: Gavin Murray, Cranford (second at 138); Joe Tavoso, Delbarton (fourth at 152); Joe Trovato, Paramus (seventh at 138).
Shore Conference entrants: Matt Wilhelm (Southern, Sr.), Jake Kaminsky (Manalapan, Sr.), A.J. Meyers (Toms River East, So.).
Killer draws for all three of the Shore Conference’s representatives at 152 pounds. Southern senior Matt Wilhelm has a bye into the pre-quarterfinals, but will have to face Region IV champion Tyler Tepe (33-4) of Passaic Valley. Win there and he’ll get Delbarton’s Joe Tavoso, who was fourth at the weight last season.
Manalapan senior Jake Kaminsky wrestles West Essex senior Mike Panzarino in the prelims with the winner facing the winner of Morristown’s Sam Champi and Paramus’s Joe Trovato, the latter of whom is a three-time state medalist.
Toms River East sophomore A.J. Meyers has to wrestle last season’s 138-pound runner-up, Cranford’s Gavin Murray, in the prelims.
Finals prediction: Joe Tavoso (Delbarton) over Gavin Murray (Cranford).
Last year’s champion: Jonathan Schleifer, East Brunswick (now at Princeton University)
Returning medalists: Dave McFadden, DePaul (first at 145).
Shore Conference entrants: Cliff Ruggiero (Brick Memorial, Sr.); Will Scott (Brick, Sr.); Antrez Clagon (Toms River South, Sr.).
DePaul senior Dave McFadden was last season’s 145-pound state champion and is ranked among the the top five in the nation at 160 pounds, so he is the heavy favorite here. He is also the only returning medalist in the bracket.
Brick Memorial senior Cliff Ruggiero is in the opposite bracket from McFadden, so that’s a good start. He awaits the winner of Lenape’s Kyle McIntyre and Bridgewater-Raritan’s Van Miller in the pre-quarterfinals. A win there would give him a tough quarterfinal bout with either Hanover Park’s Anthony Oliveri, who beat him earlier this season, or Clearview’s Ed Lenkowski. It’s not inconceivable for Ruggiero to reach the final, and because of his ability to hit a pinning hold from just about anywhere, he should finish somewhere in the top eight.
Brick senior Will Scott and Toms River South senior Antrez Clagon will meet in the pre-quarterfinals Friday if both win their opening bouts. If that happens, the winner will have a good shot to reach the semifinals and secure a top-six finish.
Finals prediction: Dave McFadden (DePaul) over Ed Lenkowski (Clearview).
Last year’s champion: Dillon Artigliere, Roxbury (now at Cornell)
Returning medalists: Josh Ugalde, Bound Brook (second at 160); Brett Donner, Wall (third at 160); Zach Hertling, Ocean (injured last season, fourth at 132 in 2013); Kyle Wojtaszek, Brick (seventh at 152); Joe Grello, Bergen Catholic (eighth at 152).
Shore Conference entrants: Brett Donner (Wall, Jr.); Zach Hertling (Ocean, Sr.); Kyle Wojtaszek (Brick, Sr.)
This is the weight where the Shore Conference is the deepest and has the best chance of getting all three on the medal stand.
Wall junior Brett Donner is the No. 1 seed in the bottom bracket and has a clear road to the semifinals where he will likely meet Bergen Catholic junior Joe Grello. If Donner can reach the final he will probably take on Bound Brook senior Josh Ugalde, who was the runner-up at 160 pounds last season and, like Donner, is ranked in the top 10 in the nation at 170 pounds. Donner was third at 160 last season.
Ocean senior Zach Hertling is the No. 2 seed in the top bracket, meaning if the seeds hold up he would face Ugalde in the semifinals. A pair of tough juniors, Morris Knolls’ Luke Drugac or Passaic Valley’s Jala’a Darwish likely await in the quarterfinals. Hertling has the talent to win it all, also, so don’t be surprised if he pulls the upset over Ugalde to reach the final.
Brick senior Kyle Wojtaszek has a tough draw with St. Joseph-Montvale sophomore Dom Maniero first, then, assuming he wins, Ugalde in the pre-quarterfinals. Ironically, Ugalde can’t be happy he has to face a wrestler of Wojtaszek’s caliber so early. If Wojtaszek can knock off Ugalde he can reach the final. A loss there puts him in the wrestlebacks, but he has been a force all season and should medal.
Finals prediction: Brett Donner (Wall) over Josh Ugalde (Bound Brook).
Last year’s champion: Johnny Sebastian, Bergen Catholic (now at Northwestern)
Returning medalists: Kevin Mulligan, Bergen Catholic (sixth at 170); C.J. LaFragola, St. Joseph-Hammonton (seventh at 182).
Shore Conference entrants: Dean Sherry (Brick, Sr.), Joe Salvato (Toms River South, Sr.), Connor Bohringer (Jackson Memorial, Sr.)
From a Shore perspective this weight is fairly wide open. Bergen Catholic junior Kevin Mulligan is the favorite and one of just two returning medalists in the bracket along with St. Joseph-Hammonton’s C.J. LaFragola, but Brick senior Dean Sherry is as good as anyone he’ll face all weekend and has a shot at a state title.
Sherry is the No. 2 seed in the top bracket, putting him in line to face Mulligan in the semifinals. Along the way he faces a potential quarterfinal bout with DePaul senior Nick DePalma.
Toms River South senior Joe Salvato is in a pretty good position as the No. 2 seed in the bottom bracket. He is away from the four region champs that will square off against each other in their pre-quarterfinals. He could potentially face Jackson Memorial senior Connor Bohringer in the quarterfinals.
Bohringer also has a very good chance to medal because of his draw, but needs to reach the quarterfinals because the wrestlebacks at this weight will be a bear. Bohringer has St. Joseph-Montvale senior Vinnie Maniero first and probably Morris Knolls junior Dean Drugac if he wins.
Finals prediction: Kevin Mulligan (Bergen Catholic) over C.J. LaFragola (St. Joseph-Hammonton).
Last year’s champion: Anthony Cassar, Montgomery (now at Penn State)
Returning medalists: Matt Correnti, Holy Cross (third at 195); Tyree Sutton, Keansburg (sixth at 195).
Shore Conference entrants: Tyree Sutton (Keansburg, Sr.), Matt McKenzie (Wall, So.), Eric Keosseian (Howell, So.).
There are a couple wrestlers who could crash the party, but 195 is set up for Holy Cross junior Matt Correnti and Keansburg senior Tyree Sutton to meet in the final. Correnti has been a force his entire career, placing eighth as a freshman at 182 pounds and third at 195 last season. He is a Beast of the East champion and ranked in the top five in the nation at 195 pounds. Sutton was sixth at 195 last season, and after becoming Keansburg’s first region champion last weekend, heads to Atlantic City trying to become the first Titan to stand atop the medal stand.
Two tough battles that Sutton could face would be against St. Joseph-Montvale junior Michael Carfagno in the quarterfinals and Queen of Peace’s Jeff Velez in the semifinals.
Wall sophomore Matt McKenzie is a serious threat out of the top bracket. His only loss this season is 1-0 to Sutton in the Region VI final, and he could reach the semifinals before running into Correnti.
Howell sophomore Eric Keosseian has the hardest road with Hasbrouck Heights senior Mauro Altamura in the first round and either Newton’s Gus Protogeropoulos or Don Bosco’s Jeff Lombardi in the pre-quarterfinals.
Finals prediction: Matt Correnti (Holy Cross) over Tyree Sutton (Keansburg).
Last year’s champion: Bryan Dobzanski, Delsea (now a pitcher in St. Louis Cardinals organization).
Returning medalists: Tyreek Smith, Moorestown (eighth at 220)
Shore Conference entrants: Chad Freshnock (Middletown North, Jr.), Will Oxley (CBA, Jr.), Mike Siwiec (Toms River North, Sr.)
This bracket doesn’t have any true heavy-hitters, although St. Peter’s Prep senior Christian Colucci has been nationally ranked this season. Moorestown’s Tyreek Smith is the only returning medalist in the bracket, and he was eighth last season at 220.
Middletown North junior Chad Freshnock, a state qualifier last season, is the No. 2 seed in the bottom bracket and is in position to make a run to the final. The good news for him is that he wouldn’t have to see Smith or DePaul’s Scott Lavelle until the semifinals. The only thing that worries me about Freshnock is that he is an undersized 220-pounder. Against someone like the hulking Lavelle, that could come into play.
CBA junior Will Oxley has a pair of winnable matches on Friday night, which could put him into the quarterfinals against Colucci.
Toms River North senior Mike Siwiec didn’t get a bad draw as the Region VI third-place finisher. He has Phillipsburg sophomore Robert Melise first, and a win there would give him the winner of Highland’s Mark Gillis and Brearley/Dayton’s Saverio Salcfas. Siwiec has a great shot to reach the quarterfinals and possibly even the semifinals before potentially running into Colucci.
Finals prediction: Christian Colucci (St. Peter’s Prep) over Tyreek Smith (Moorestown).
Last year’s champion: Andrew Stevens, Camden (now at Maine for football)
Returning medalists: Zack Chakonis, Don Bosco Prep (second at 220); Andrew Pacheco, Warren Hills (sixth at heavyweight).
Shore Conference entrants: Nick Rivera (Brick Memorial, So.), Brody Graham (Jackson Memorial, Sr.), Micah Clarke (St. John Vianney, So.).
He isn’t as heavy of a favorite as Bergen Catholic’s Nick Suriano at 120 or DePaul’s Dave McFadden at 160, but Don Bosco Prep senior Zack Chakonis is a pretty safe bet to win it all here.
Chakonis was the runner-up at 220 pounds the last two seasons, both times losing to Delsea’s Bryan Dobzanski. Now he’s ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 in the nation at heavyweight and is headed to Northwestern University next season. Chakonis doesn’t wrestle like a typical heavyweight, and that’s because he really isn’t one. He can weigh in at 220 pounds, and that’s really the only weakness you can point out. This is his time.
Anything can happen when the big guys start rolling around, but Brick Memorial sophomore Nick Rivera should find himself in the semifinals against Warren Hills senior Andrew Pacheco.
Jackson Memorial senior Brody Graham has a difficult prelim bout with Phillipsburg’s Kyle Nothnagel, whom he defeated 1-0 during the NJSIAA Group IV final. Win there and he should make a run to the semifinals. He could, however, meet St. Peter’s Prep senior Jose Palomino in the quarterfinals. Graham beat Palomino 3-1 earlier this season.
St. John Vianney sophomore Micah Clarke is probably a year away from making any noise at the state level after a surprise run to a region medal. He faces Paulsboro senior Davontae Randall in the prelims.
Finals prediction: Zack Chakonis (Don Bosco Prep) over Andrew Pacheco (Warren Hills).