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JACKSON TOWNSHIP – So often is has been the unheralded or yet-unknown wrestler who has risen to the occasion to turn the tide in a big match for Southern Regional. On Thursday against their fiercest rival, the Rams got exactly those types of contributions in an impressive division victory.

Freshmen Nick Bennet and Cole Velardi delivered victories and sophomores Pat Iacoves and Nate Bischoff provided bonus points to fuel a dominant 41-24 Shore Conference Class A South victory for Southern over host Jackson Memorial as the Rams won nine of 14 bouts with four pins and six total wins by bonus. Senior JT Cornelius and junior Eddie Hummel also won by fall while senior Robert Woodcock won by major decision.

“It just shows we’re going to be a tough team to beat this year,” Cornelius said. “I feel like we wrestled really well but there’s still room for improvement.”

Always among New Jersey’s best teams, the reigning NJSIAA Group 5 state champions returned several standouts led by state qualifiers Cornelius, Woodcock and senior Jayson Scerbo. The Rams also welcomed junior Eddie Hummel, a transfer from Roselle Park who was a sixth-place finisher at the state tournament last season. While they have been as good as expected early this season, the performances of the Rams’ underclassmen have been equally as impactful.

Iacoves, who was just 3-9 in spot duty last season, gave Southern the lead for good in the fourth bout of the night when he worked a late near-fall hold to win by 8-0 major decision over Lucas Lipari at 113 pounds. The Rams were up 10-9 and never looked back. After a win by Scerbo at 120, Bennet came through with a clutch 6-5 win over Jackson’s Lance Hobbs at 126 pounds to continue what would end up as an eight-bout winning streak for Southern.

“We were in some toss-up bouts and Pat Iacoves, early in the match, had a tough match and was in some tough situations and scored,” said Southern head coach Dan Roy. “And Nick Bennet, the kid is only a freshman and has improved so much in the last three years. He’s a mat rat. He doesn’t believe he should lose, that’s the attitude he has when he’s out there. On a big stage like this, a big dual in Jackson against a senior who has the experience the Hobbs kid has, he really stepped up. I think that was the turning point in the match and got us rolling.”

Bischoff followed with a second-period pin at 132 pounds and Southern was indeed rolling. After a decision by junior Matt Brielmeier at 138 and Hummel’s pin at 145 pounds, Velardi remained undefeated with a first-period pin at 152 pounds and Woodcock scored a 15-5 major decision at 160. Southern 41, Jackson 9.

The Rams were even impressive in their lone defeat in the heavyweight-to-160 stretch. Jackson junior Brett Blaess got the best of Southern freshman Conor Collins with a 2-0 victory at 106 pounds in a battle of undefeated grapplers.

“They’ve all been around the program since they were little, they’ve seen the success,” Roy said. “Another thing with having a program is having the kids grow up with it and seeing everything so when it’s their turn they know what to expect. To see these kids at a young age step up the way they are I think is even inspiring to the older guys. The future is bright.”

Jackson started the match with junior Brad Galassi winning by fall over Gabe Murry at 220 pounds, but Southern won nine of the next 10 bouts to put the dual in the books. The Jaguars made the final score look respectable by closing with three straight wins. Senior Hunter Smith won by fall over Brock Lefkus at 170 to remain unbeaten and senior Mike Fiore eked out a 3-2 decision over Colin Boero on the strength of a third-period takedown at 182 pounds. Southern forfeited to senior Kyle Epperly, who was seventh in the state last season, at 195 pounds.

There have been some epic dual meets between Southern and Jackson over the years, and although the 2020 version wasn’t one of them the Rams will never discount a win over the Jaguars no matter when it comes.

“A win is a win,” Cornelius said. “Last year they beat us and it really did suck to lose. It feels great to beat them.”


Box Score

Southern 41, Jackson Memorial 24 

220: Brad Galassi (JM) p. Gabe Murray, 4:49

285: JT Cornelius (S) p. Antonio Farias, 1:00

106: Brett Blaess (JM) d. Conor Collins, 2-0

113: Pat Iacoves (S) md. Lucas Lipari, 8-0

120: Jayson Scerbo (S) d. Luke Temple, 6-2

126: Nick Bennet (S) d. Lance Hobbs, 6-5

132: Nate Bischoff (S) p. George Ebid, 2:55

138: Matt Brielmeier (S) d. Nick White, 6-0

145: Eddie Hummel (S) p. Luke Hamann, 3:16

152: Cole Velardi (S) p. Mike Rauch, 1:35

160: Robert Woodcock (S) p. Rob Lagravenis, 15-5

170: Hunter Smith (JM) p. Brock Lefkus, 1:00

182: Mike Fiore (JM) d. Colin Boero, 3-2

195: Kyle Epperly (JM) by forfeit

Records: at Jackson (2-2, 0-1); Southern (2-0, 2-0).


Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at 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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