2018-2019 Shore Conference Wrestling Preview: Class A Central
CLASS A CENTRAL
Holmdel – head coach: Danny Franke, 8th season
Manasquan – head coach: Matt Voskian, 10th season
Monmouth – head coach: Rob Micheliche, 3rd season
Raritan – head coach: Rob Nucci, 18th season
Red Bank Catholic – head coach: Joe Gallagher, 12th season
Rumson-Fair Haven – head coach: Bryan Heller, 6th season
St. John Vianney – Denny D’Andrea, 6th season at SJV
While Raritan and St. John Vianney have always been rivals by the nature of proximity, it was never a true rivalry since Raritan won every year. That changed last season when St. John Vianney took down the Rockets to win the division title and now they enter the 2018-2019 season ready to battle for the crown once again.
THE FAVORITE: Raritan
Despite losing 212 wins to graduation, including 40-match winners and region champions Russell Benson and Ethan Wolf, the Rockets enter the season ready to reclaim their throne in Class A Central.
The top half of the lineup is loaded with senior state qualifiers Anthony Aquilano (170), George Burdick (182) and Justin Acevedo (195) along with senior Matt Spirko (27-9) at heavyweight. Burdick was 41-7 last season with an incredible 40 wins earning bonus points and enters the season with 100 career wins. Aquilano went 34-10 with a District 20 title and Acevedo was 32-12 with a Cinderella run to the Region 5 final as the No. 10 seed. Spirko was second in District 20. Junior Kevin Lind steps in at 220, and if senior Charles Barrale (160) can recapture the form he had during his first two seasons when he went 51-11 with two trips to the region tournament as a 106/113-pounder the Rockets will be as formidable as any Shore team from 160 up.
Down low, junior Mike Lonnay anchors a mostly young group after placing third in districts. Senior James Ecklyn is coming off a 15-8 season and a third-place finish at districts and will hold down the 152-pound slot.
TOP CONTENDER: St. John Vianney
St. John Vianney had a historic 2017-2018 season by winning its first division title, first district team title and taking home the team championship at the inaugural individual version of the Shore Conference Tournament. The Lancers also set program records with five district champions, three state medalists and their first-ever state finalist.
The Lancers will have to regroup, however, after losing 135 wins, three state qualifiers and two state medalists to graduation, plus junior Tyler Pepe via transfer back to his home district of Central Regional.
Sophomore Dean Peterson returns as one of the best pound-for-pound wrestlers in the Shore after going 36-2 and finishing second in the state at 106 pounds last season. Peterson begins the season ranked No. 9 in the nation at 113 pounds by InterMat and No. 17 by FloWrestling. An injury kept senior heavyweight Paul Liseno from advancing out of the Region 5 Tournament last season but the athletic big man still had a great season with a 27-5 record and SCT and District 19 titles. Sophomores Blake Clayton (170), Joey Butler (126) and Seth Rotondella (132) also return with experience after solid freshman campaigns. Clayton (21-12) was a district champ, Butler (18-6) was a district runner-up and Rotondella was 19-11.
DARK HORSE: Holmdel
The Hornets return 10 starters and four region qualifiers after a breakthrough 2018 season where they reached their first sectional final.
Junior Nick Ammirati (113) went 35-8 last season and was fifth in the Region 5 Tournament – one win away from a trip to the state tournament. Senior Dean Gallo (145) was 35-5 with a second-place finish in District 20 and enters the season with 92 career victories. Junior Tom Ammirati (132) went 25-14 and was third in districts and senior heavyweight Victor Kizenko also took third at districts.
Holmdel also has double-digit match winners Branden Ericksen (120), Matteo Pinnero (120), Ian Flanagan (138), Chris Bell (160), Victor Wladica (170) and Mike Pavlinetz (182). Freshmen Jaden Gallo (126) and Luke DuPont (138) will look to make an immediate impact.
TEAM ON THE RISE: Rumson-Fair Haven
The Bulldogs are one of the more intriguing teams in the Shore. They return all but one starter, have growing numbers that should enable them to fill a full lineup for duals and have an influx of talented freshman from a burgeoning youth program.
Senior Nick Addison, who signed with Stanford, anchors the team after going 42-4 and placing fourth in the state at 170 pounds. Addison’s 42 victories are the most in a single season in program history and his fourth-place finish in Atlantic City tied for the highest in program history. He’ll be a contender for the top spot on the medal stand in every event he’s in and is one of the Shore’s pound-for-pound best.
Sophomore Max Brignola (132-145) had an excellent freshman season with a 37-8 record and a trip to the state tournament and is definitely one to watch this season. Junior Liam Horan (182/195) was 26-10 and a district champion and junior Tristan Izzo (106-126) returned from injury late in the season to reach the Region 5 Tournament. Junior Mike Ponenti finished last season with a 26-7 mark while sophomores Tyler Brignola and Jack Kelly won 18 and 20 matches last season, respectively, and all three will slot in from 152 to 170 pounds.
Four freshmen will see action, including intermediate state medalist Shay Addison in the 132-145 range. The Bulldogs also received a big boost with the return of football players Evan Davis, Joe Afflitto and James Greeley at 220/285 while another football standout, sophomore Von Factor, joins the fold up top.
Wrestlers to Watch
Justin Acevedo, Sr., 195, Raritan: 32-12, 3rd D20, 2nd R5
Nick Addison, Sr., 170, Rumson-Fair Haven: 42-4, 1st D19, 2nd R5, 4th NJ
Nick Ammirati, Jr., 113, Holmdel: 35-8, 3rd D20, 5th R5
Anthony Aquilano, Sr., 170, Raritan: 34-10, 1st D20, 4th R5
Max Brignola, So., 132-145, Rumson-Fair Haven: 37-8, 3rd D19, 3rd R5
George Burdick, Sr., 182, Raritan: 41-7, 3rd D20, 3rd R5
Steve Cmielewski, Sr., 195/220, Red Bank Catholic: 11-6, 2nd D24
John Columbia, Sr., 182/195, Red Bank Catholic: 19-10, 3rd D24
Ethan Dzenis, Sr., 138, Manasquan: 29-9, 2nd D23
Dean Gallo, Sr., 145, Holmdel: 35-5, 2nd D20
Shane Learn, Jr., 113, Monmouth: 26-9
Paul Liseno, Sr., 285, St. John Vianney: 27-5, 1st SCT, 1st D19
Dean Peterson, So., 113, St. John Vianney: 36-2, 1st SCT, 1st D19, 2nd R5, 2nd NJ
Holmdel at Blue Devil Invitational (Ewing)
Manasquan, RBC at Old Bridge Icebreaker
Raritan, Rumson at Caldwell Tournament
St. John Vianney at Robin Leff Invitational (Southern)
Rumson-Fair Haven at Red Bank Catholic
Holmdel, Rumson-Fair Haven at Raritan
Holmdel, Manasquan, Monmouth, RBC, Rumson at Holmdel Christmas Tournament
Raritan at Hunterdon Central
Raritan at Phillipsburg
St. John Vianney at Holmdel
Middletown South at Rumson-Fair Haven
Manasquan, Rumson at Buc Classic (Red Bank)
Raritan at CBA/Ocean
Raritan vs. Long Branch
Middletown South vs. Holmdel
Raritan vs. Middletown North
Raritan at St. John Vianney
Shore Conference Tournament at Red Bank Regional HS
Wall at Manasquan
NJSIAA sectional quarterfinals
NJSIAA sectional semifinals
NJSIAA sectional finals
NJSIAA state semifinals and finals at RWJ Barnabas Arena (Toms River North)
NJSIAA district tournaments
Feb. 20, 22-23
NJSIAA region tournaments
Feb. 28-March 2
NJSIAA state tournament at Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City
Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.