Barnegat’s Griffin Jackstadt closing in on history; Shore Conference has 30 state quarterfinalists
ATLANTIC CITY – Barnegat senior Griffin Jackstadt is already the most accomplished wrestler in the brief history of the school’s wrestling program. After a pair of wins on Thursday afternoon, he’s one win away from making more history.
Jackstadt won both of his bouts at Boardwalk Hall on the first day of the NJSIAA Championships, including a 4-2 victory over Colts Neck’s Thomas Lidondici, to advance to the state heavyweight quarterfinals.
“It’s amazing, something I could never imagine,” Jackstadt said. “All the stars are aligned right now.”
Two weeks ago Jackstadt became Barnegat’s first two-time district champ. Last Saturday he became the first Barnegat wrestler to win a region title. Now, he’s the first Bengals grappler to reach the state quarterfinals.
“I love it, I love being the face of Barnegat, the self-proclaimed ‘Pride of Barnegat’,” said Jackstadt, who is also a standout football player who will play at the University of Pennsylvania. “I try to do what I can to get the town on the map.”
Last season Jackstadt was the No. 29 seed at heavyweight after finishing fourth in the Region 8 Tournament. Things are very different this year. Jackstadt (35-3) was seeded sixth and opened the tournament with a tidy 3-0 win over Nutley’s Charles Searle. The victory sent him into the Round of 16 where he paired with Lidondici, one of seven Shore Conference wrestlers to win their opening bout at 285 pounds. Lidondici entered with a 29-4 record that included a win over Ocean’s Joe Teresi.
“I knew he swapped with Teresi and that he was a good wrestler and he’s going to college for football,” Jackstadt said. “I went out there and wrestled my match the way I always do.”
After a scoreless first period, Lidondici chose defense and escaped to take a 1-0 lead but was then called for stalling twice to give a point to Jackstadt and tied the bout 1-1. In the third period, Jackstadt earned an escape to take a 2-1 lead. Jackstadt was then called for stalling twice in the third period to tie the score 2-2.
“He got hit (for stalling) first and I was up 2-1. I was hoping I could cruise and that didn’t work,” Jackstadt said. “I got hit and was like, ‘yeah, I probably deserved it’. I knew I needed a takedown and he was a lot more tired than me.”
Jackstadt secured the go-ahead takedown with 19 seconds left in regulation and rode out Lidondici the rest of the way. Now he’s one win away from an appearance in the semifinals, which would guarantee a top-six finish at the least. He will face Dwight Morrow’s Hector Lebron, the No. 14 seed, who upset Teresi, 4-2 in overtime, in the pre-quarterfinals.
“The goal all year has been to get on the podium and this makes it one step closer,” Jackstadt said. “I knew the first two matches are the key ones. Now I just have to win one more.”
At 120 pounds, Middletown North senior Fred Luchs upset Shore Regional junior Jack Maida, 8-6 in double overtime, to reach the quarterfinals. Maida was sixth in the state at 106 pounds last season.
Tied 3-3 in double overtime, Maida escaped to take a 4-3 lead but Luchs stayed aggressive and took him down to go up 5-4. It was Luchs’ choice in the second 30-second tiebreaker period and he chose defense where Maida awarded him an uncontested escape. Maida was able to secure the tying takedown with 12 seconds left by Luchs delivered a reversal in the closing seconds to win 8-6 in a thriller.
“When he took me down at first he put a leg in and I stood up and the ref stopped it,” Luchs said. “The second time he put the leg in he got a cradle and I reached my left arm over his back and the ref called two at the very end. I wasn’t sure I had it until the ref called it.”
After reaching the third round of wrestlebacks last season Luchs has had his sights set on finishing his career as a state medalist. He lost to Allentown’s Joey Lamparelli in the District 22 final but paid him back in the Region 6 final to win his first region title. The confidence gained from that victory carried over against Maida where Luchs scored the first takedown. Maida answered with an escape and a takedown to go up 3-2, but Luchs felt comfortable.
“When I got that I felt I’d have better control of the match,” Luchs said. “Typically if you get the first two points the odds are you’re going to win, so I felt really confident.”
After a scoreless second period, Luchs chose defense in the third and escaped to tie the bout 3-3. After Maida escaped to go up 4-3 in double overtime Luchs stayed on him.
“I was kind of like, ‘this is it, now or never’,” Luchs said.
He has a tall order on Friday morning in the form of the No. 2 seed, undefeated (41-0) Emerson/Park Ridge senior Nick Babin. A win over Babin would send shockwaves through Boardwalk Hall, but even if the upset doesn’t happen he knows he only has to get his hand raised once more to accomplish a lifelong goal.”
“I see myself in the mix with everyone else and having the same chance as everyone else in the bracket (to place),” Luchs said. “It’s really just 'go as far as you possibly can' at this point. This is it, the last chance.”
One of the more anticipated pre-quarterfinal bouts was at 138 pounds where Long Branch senior Ryan Zimmerman and Colts Neck junior Logan Waller butted heads for the third time this season. Waller pinned Zimmerman to win the Shore Conference Tournament. Zimmerman pinned Waller in the Region 6 final. The rubber match was another thorough victory for Zimmerman.
A takedown in the first period set the tone for a dominant 7-0 as Zimmerman advanced to the state quarterfinal. Waller chose neutral in the second period but Zimmerman was able to counter a shot with a takedown and three nearfall points to take a 7-0 lead. He then rode Waller out for the entire third period.
“The first match I really didn’t wrestle well, I knew that wasn’t my best,” Zimmerman said. “I’ve seen my best throughout the year and I knew if I went into this tournament and wrestled every match the same I didn’t he would beat me again.”
Waller was close to tying the score in the second, and against most wrestlers down in Atlantic City it would have been a takedown. But Zimmerman’s unique style enabled him to counter the shot and turn it into a five-point move that put the match away.
“He doubled me and we were close to out of bounds and I was going to back arch him out for a fresh start but felt my hips fall,” Zimmerman said. “That position in the first match he locked up a cradle and I tried to swim my arm out and he hipped into me and pinned me. This time I was able to get my arm out, punch it through and get some backs.”
Zimmerman’s only loss this season is to Waller and he has since avenged it twice. In the state quarterfinals he’ll have another rematch, this time against Paulsboro’s Jacob Perez-Eli. It was against Perez-Eli, a state runner-up a year ago, where Zimmerman put his name into the state championship discussion by him in a cradle and pinning him flat to win the Mustang Classic in December.
“I’m super confident,” Zimmerman said. “This is my last chance. I feel like the first match (against Eli-Perez) was really good but at this point the regular season doesn’t really mean anything. It felt good for like a day but everything I’ve been doing this year has been focused toward the state tournament.”
It was a big day for Rumson-Fair Haven as juniors Max Brignola (145) and Jack Kelly (170) along with sophomore Shay Addison (160) advanced to the quarterfinals to give the Bulldogs three state quarterfinalists for what is believed to be the first time in program history.
“My kids have been cool and calm across the board,” said Rumson head coach Bryan Heller. “Shay Addison holding on tough there, Max Brignola has been doing his thing and Jack Kelly came out against the fifth seed and put it on him. I’m just proud of my kids. They’re prepared and they’re focused out there. They’re capitalizing on mistakes and focusing on scoring opportunities.”
Brignola, the No. 8 seed at 145 pounds, won 8-4 over Manalapan’s Hunter Konstantoulas and then defeated West Morris Central’s Eli Shepard, 10-4. He will wrestle the No. 1 seed, Collingswood’s Andrew Clark, in the quarterfinals.
Addison, fresh of his Region 5 title as the No. 8 seed, won by 16-5 major decision over Bernards’ Luke Burns and then edged Mt. Olive’s Anthony Spera, 3-0. He faces High Point’s Brian Soldano in the quarterfinals.
Kelly won by fall in the first round and then took apart previously undefeated Jack Bernik of Old Tappan, who was the No. 5 seed, 13-4. He will square off against Piscataway’s Marcus Petite in the quarterfinals.
Brick Memorial leads all Shore Conference teams with four in the quarterfinals followed with Rumson and Southern with three each.
Mustangs freshman Anthony Santaniello pinned Middletown South’s Jack Zaleski in 1:47 in the 106-pound pre-quarterfinals and will take on Butler’s Brett Redner in the quarterfinals. Vincent Santaniello used a first-period takedown and a third-period rideout to defeat Allentown’s Joey Lamparelli, 2-1, in the 120-pound pre-quarterfinals. He will take on Randolph’s Matt DeStefanis in the quarterfinals.
Senior Joe Colon had to hold on for a 3-2 win over Southern’s Ben LoParo in the first round but looked his usual self in a 20-4 technical fall over Bloomfield’s Zachary Andruchowitz in the round of 16. He will take on Point Beach’s Jason Sherlock in the quarterfinals. Sherlock pinned Colon in a season-opening tournament but Colon then defeated him 11-5 in the SCT semifinals. Junior David Szuba made quick work of his first two opponents with pins of 50 and 29 seconds, including decking Watchung Hills’ John Dusza in the round of 16. Szuba will face Jackson Memorial’s Kyle Epperly for the third time this season in the quarterfinals. Epperly won 10-3 in the SCT final and Szuba pinned him in the Region 7 semifinals.
Freshman Conor Collins (106) and seniors Robert Woodcock (160) and JT Cornelius (Hwt) advanced to the quarterfinals for Group 5 state champion Southern.
Middletown North (Luchs and Tyler Klinsky at 113), Shore (Al DeSantis at 138 and Mike McGhee at 152), Toms River North (Ryan Rosenthal at 113 and Nick Boggiano at 152), Howell (Shane Reitsma at 170 and Justin Wright at 285) and St. John Vianney (Dean Peterson at 120 and Blake Clayton at 182) each have two quarterfinalists.
Klinsky became the Shore Conference’s all-time wins leader with 166, passing the previous mark of 165 set by 2019 Wall graduate and 160-pound state champion Rob Kanniard.
In girls NJSIAA Championships quarterfinals, Jackson Memorial's Skyelar Smith and Jordyn Katz each won by fall at 135 and 143 pounds, respectively, to reach the state semifinals. Jackson Memorial’s Avery Meyers (128), Central’s Jayla Hahn (143), Manalapan’s Jesse Johnson (151) each had byes into the semifinals as region champions. Johnson is a returning state champion. Hahn is the niece of Shore Conference legend and two-time NCAA champion Damion Hahn.
Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at email@example.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.