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WALL TOWNSHIP — While dealing with a slew of injuries during the regular season that had Wall performing below its own expectations, the Crimson Knights kept reminding themselves that it’s how you wrestle in February that defines your season.

“The postseason is where you win things, no one cares what happens in January,” said junior Brett Donner. “I think we all realize that. This is when it matters, and we’re starting to peak at the right time.”

Third-seeded Wall won eight of the 14 bouts to defeat sixth-seeded Clayton, 38-23, in the quarterfinal round of the NJSIAA South Jersey Group III sectional tournament on Monday night, beginning its quest for a second straight sectional title and a run at its first overall state title.

The Crimson Knights will travel to face second-seeded Highland Regional in the sectional semifinals on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Sophomore Nick Wagner had the highlight victory of the match for Wall, defeating District 29 champion Andrew Tolbert, 5-4 at 126 pounds. Senior Denzel Tovar remained undefeated (26-0) with a 5-3 victory over Shane Carr (23-2) at 120 pounds and senior Jack Wishart topped Devon Carr (18-7) 8-4 at 145 pounds. Donner (170) and fellow junior Josh Glantzman (152) won by fall and freshman Jack Kelly (113) won by technical fall.

“I feel we’re peaking at the right time and have some good momentum going right now,” said Wall head coach Brian Fischer. “They look sharp and they look hungry.”

Kelly’s technical fall at 113 in the second bout of the night tied the match at five, and from there the Crimson Knights took over. Tovar took down Carr twice in the first period en route to a 5-3 win at 120 pounds to put Wall up 8-5.

At 126, Wagner hit a quick four-point sequence on Tolbert to lead 4-0 early in the first period, and the score remained that way heading to the third period. Tolbert, who rode Wagner out in the second period, chose top to look for the pin, but Wagner was able to escape for a 5-0 lead. He needed that extra point, because Tolbert took him down right into a tilt late in the third period. Wagner was able to allow just two near-fall points, however, and held on for the one-point victory.

“Once I got those points to go on top, I just knew I had to maintain and keep going at him to get a win for the team,” Wagner said.

Wagner was Wall’s 106-pounder as a freshman, but missed most of the season with an injured meniscus. This year he’s been a huge addition to Wall’s lineup with a 22-4 record.

“Last year he was definitely going to be a nice plug-in for us at 106, probably a 20-match winner, so we knew we had some good stuff coming back,” Fischer said. “It’s certainly been fun to watch because he’s beat some pretty good kids. He feeds off the excitement, and he’s never out of the match at any point. He’s that guy that’s tenacious and gets after it out there, and you gotta love that.”

Wagner’s win made it 11-5 in favor of Wall, and junior Joe Demuner received a forfeit at 132 pounds to make it 17-5. The Clipdawgs decided to bump Dylan Skidmore to 138 pounds and chase bonus points, but senior Connor Albrecht scored a takedown late in the third period to turn a major decision into a regular decision, falling 9-2.

It was 17-8 then, but Wall’s lead grew to 26-8 when Wishart used three first-period takedowns to beat Devon Carr, 8-4 at 145, and Glantzman dominated Damir Washington before winning by fall in 5:03 at 152 pounds.

Donner’s pin over Skyler McDonald at 170 made it 32-11, and a forfeit to undefeated sophomore Matt McKenzie at 220 pounds officially clinched the match for Wall.

Now, the real heavy lifting begins. The Crimson Knights have a gauntlet ahead of them in Highland and likely top-seeded Delsea, and that’s just in the sectional tournament. If Wall can win the section, it would have either Long Branch, Cranford or South Plainfield from Central Jersey and likely Paramus and Voorhees in North Jersey also in the final four.

Wall is embracing the challenge, though. Last season the Knights went on the road to beat Raritan and Long Branch to win their first sectional title in program history, so they know what it takes to get it done as an underdog.

“People are saying it’s rough that we have to take the bus ride all the way down to Highland, but I’m excited, the kids are excited and we’re pumped up to go down there,” Fischer said. “We’re not worried about what gym it’s going to be in. They can all be hostile environments, it doesn’t matter. That’s why we did the things we did, why we went up to St. Peter’s Prep, looked for the opportunity to wrestle a team like Brick Memorial. We’re battle-tested, and that’s one of the reasons I feel this team has what it takes to win that sectional title.”

Everything isn’t exactly in place for Wall, not with standout sophomore 160-pounder Chad McClelland out for the season with an injury. But the adversity Wall has faced this season, most notably being without Donner, the third-place finisher in the state at 160 pounds last season and a top 10 wrestler in the nation at 170 pounds, for over a month, has only provided the motivation to close out the year on top.

“Guys that are injured like Chad, I think we’re wrestling for guys like that and it’s lighting a fire underneath us,” Donner said.

Winning a sectional title and all of Group III is going to take a tremendous run, but that is the case for all eight or so teams that can realistically set their sights on the state title. Wall knows it has the talent, and it certainly has the confidence.

“This year we know were the bar is set, and we just have to get a little higher than that,” Donner said. “We know we’re on that level. We know we can beat Highland, beat Delsea, beat Long Branch. We know we’re the best team in the group, we just have to go out there and prove it.”


Box Score

Wall 38, Clayton 23

106: Randy Jacobs (C) tf. Jake Sabo 6:00 (20-2)

113: Jack Kelly (W) tf. Garrett Warner 5:03 (19-2)

120: Denzel Tovar (W) d. Shane Carr 5-3

126: Nick Wagner (W) d. Andrew Tolbert 5-4

132: Joe Demuner (W) by forfeit

138: Dylan Skidmore (C) d. Connor Albrecht 9-2

145: Jack Wishart (W) d. Devon Carr 8-4

152: Josh Glantzman (W) p. Damir Washington 5:03

160: Tony Ecchevarria (C) d. Nick Iezzi 7-6

170: Brett Donner (W) p. Skyler McDonald 1:33

182: Justin Simon (C) p. Max Von Suskil 2:35

195: Nick Lemeshuk (Clayton) d. Shane Davis 4-3

220: Matt McKenzie (Wall) by forfeit

Hwt: Tammoy Clarke (C) d. Tim McGevna 8-3

Records: at Wall (15-3); Clayton (21-5).