MIDDLETOWN — For the first 1:50 of the third and final period Ryan Zimmerman used seemingly everything in his arsenal to escape the clutches of Tyler Klinsky.

Trailing 4-3 in a critical bout between two of the Shore Conference’s best 113-pounders, Zimmerman was repeatedly turned away by Klinsky despite coming close to breaking free or scoring a reversal. But just as it seemed Klinksy was going to complete a rideout and give Middletown North a match-turning victory, Zimmerman’s relentlessness finally paid off.

With the clock ticking toward zero Zimmerman hit a reversal that put Klinsky to his back for a four-point move that gave him a thrilling 7-4 victory, propelling Long Branch to a hard-fought 31-28 Shore Conference Class B North win on Friday afternoon. Zimmerman’s win gave Long Branch and 18-15 lead and started a stretch where the Green Wave won four of five bouts from 113 to 138 to seal the critical division triumph.

“I thought he would try to ride me out so I tried to keep moving and knew if I did something (good) would happen,” Zimmerman said. “I was thinking I had to work for two so we don’t go to overtime because he’s a little better than me on my feet. I knew if I got the reversal I would ride it out and win. I felt his hips sink for a second and I kind of hipped over.”

“The fact that Klinsky felt confident enough to try and ride him made me feel good because once that was going on I felt at some point we’re going to have a great opportunity for Ryan to do exactly what he did,” said Long Branch head coach Danny George. “Zimm has wrestled this year with a tremendous amount of confidence and he kept plugging and plugging and plugging, which was nice to see. There’s not a person that works harder than him. Just to see his gameplan be executed, I was proud of him.”

Zimmerman and Klinsky routinely work out together at their wrestling club so they are very familiar with one another’s style and tendencies. They wrestled last season with Klinsky winning 5-0 during a 48-16 win for Middletown North.

“I knew I had to be offensive and had to attack,” Zimmerman said. “Last year he got to his offense early and I fell behind and couldn’t come back. Once I got to my offense I felt I was going to win, and getting out on bottom (in the first period) was big.”

Klinsky scored first with a takedown but Zimmerman escaped to make it 2-1 after the first period. Zimmerman took Klinsky down in the second period to take a 3-2 lead, but Klinsky scored with a reversal to lead 4-3 going into the third period.

“After 106 I knew my match was going to be pretty big,” Zimmerman said. “Nerves are a little less because you both know each other, but the way I thought of it when I went out there is that even though we’re friends off the mat he wants to beat me as much as I want to beat him.”

The win also showcased Long Branch’s depth as they won without standout middleweight Luke Arnold, who was dropped on his head/neck during the Neptune Classic on Dec. 16 and remains out indefinitely.

“He’s just not feeling great right now, he’ll be out for a little bit,” George said.

Zimmerman’s win put Long Branch up by three but Middletown North came right back with a pin at 120 pounds to take a 21-18 lead. Fred Luchs locked up a cradle to pin Rey Guzman with five seconds left in the third period to put the Lions in front for the first time in the match.

Long Branch would answer, however, with three straight victories to take a 31-21 lead. Chris Dean pinned Enrico Astorino in 55 seconds at 126 before Stivini Silva edged Nate Pujols, 4-2 at 132 pounds, in a crucial bout. Ryan Carey followed with a 20-8 major decision over Chris McCarthy at 138 pounds.

Silva and Pujols were deadlocked 2-2 in the third period with Pujols coming close to cinching in a cradle. Pujols was hit for stalling twice while on top, however, giving a point to Silva for a 3-2 lead. After several unsuccessful attempts to turn Silva, Pujols was forced to cut him loose and try for the tying takedown with under 30 seconds left. Silva was able to hold him off for the important victory.

“That was huge,” George said. “Stivini is another one of our two-sport kids. He’s a great soccer player who wrestles during the season and is ridiculously athletic. He was wrestling above his weight last season at 138 and 145 pounds, but now he’s dropped down to 132 and he’s much more comfortable. He was really good in middle school and now you’re starting to see this kid can wrestle.”

Mike Puzo defeated Nick Luhn, 4-1 at 145 pounds to pull Middletown North closer, but with Luhn avoiding getting pinned it clinched the match for Long Branch with a 31-24 lead with one bout left.

In addition the wins by Zimmerman and Silva, Long Branch also received key wins by Louie Saez at 160, Dan Santos-Silva at 182 and Kevin Cerruti at heavyweight. Saez opened the match with an 18-3 technical fall over Middletown North freshman Nick Scerbo.

“That one was ginormous,” George said. “That was not written in our book like that against a kid we’ve seen wrestle in the summer and in middle school. He’s a stud freshman.”

Santos-Silva wore out Kevin McCarthney in the third period with an unforgiving attack that a saw him score a reversal and four more takedowns, including one with seven seconds left, to produce a 13-5 major decision. In a matchup of two of the Shore’s top heavyweights, Cerruti clipped Austin Dewise, 3-1, with a takedown with five seconds left in the third period.

Down 12-0 after three bouts, Middletown North got on the board when Nicko Cofone defeated Pete Wersinger, 6-3 at 195 pounds, in a battle of returning state qualifiers. Jacob Anderson followed with a pin to put the Lions right back in the match trailing 12-9. Cerruti’s win made it 15-9 before Thomas O’Keefe won by fall at 106 pounds to tie the match at 15 and set up the thrilling second half of the dual.

“We’ve started to have a great rivalry over the last couple years with Middletown North,” George said. “They’re peaking back with their program and we’re peaking again with our program, so it was a super-exciting high school meet. It was going to be based on the toss-up bouts. It’s a tremendous win for us because our first goal is the division, and if we’re able to be in the forefront of that we feel we can also compete for our (state) section.”


Box Score

Long Branch 31, Middletown North 28

160: Louie Saez (LB) tf. Nico Scerbo 3:35 (18-3)

170: Edgar Padilla (LB) d. Gabriel Lubrano-Lavandera 5-0

182: Dan Santos-Silva (LB) md. Kevin McCarthney 13-5

195: Nicko Cofone (MN) d. Pete Wersinger 6-3

220: Jacob Anderson (MN) p. Jael Cordero 3:26

Hwt: Kevin Cerruti (LB) d. Austin Dewise 3-1

106: Thomas O’Keefe (MN) p. Joseph Colon 0:49

113: Ryan Zimmerman (LB) d. Tyler Klinsky 7-4

120: Fred Luchs (MN) p. Rey Guzman 3:55

126: Chris Dean (LB) p. Enrico Astorino 0:55

132: Stivini Silva (LB) d. Nate Pujols 4-2

138: Ryan Carey (LB) md. Chris McCarthy 20-8

145: Mike Puzo (MN) d. Nick Luhn 4-1

152: Stanley Wojdylak (MN) md. Isaac Shohet 14-0

Records: at Middletown North (1-1, 1-1); Long Branch (2-0, 2-0).


Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at bob.badders@townsquaremedia.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. 


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