Brick Memorial’s Anthony Santaniello joins exclusive club with fourth NJSIAA region title
JACKSON TOWNSHIP -- Winning an NJSIAA region title is a difficult task. Winning more than one is an awesome achievement. Winning three? That is a feat just 52 wrestlers in Shore Conference history have accomplished. Then there are those who have reached a different level altogether.
That group now includes Brick Memorial's Anthony Santaniello.
The Mustangs senior entered his name into the record book on Saturday afternoon at Jackson Liberty High School when he defeated Howell's Giovanni Scafidi by technical fall to win the NJSIAA Region 6 132-pound title, becoming the ninth wrestler in Shore Conference history to win four region titles.
The list is a who's who of Shore Conference wrestling legends - Jackson Memorial's Lou Durant, Long Branch's Luke Skove, Middletown South's Glenn Pritzlaff, Central's Mark Worthy, Middletown North/Southern's Frank Molinaro, Toms River East's Vinnie DelleFave, Middletown North's Tyler Klinsky, and of course, Anthony's father, Vinnie Santaniello. Now there are two Santaniello's on the list with Brick Memorial the only school with multiple four-time region champs.
"I was actually aware of that a week ago and thought it was pretty cool," Santaniello said. "I knew he was a four-timer but I didn't know he was the only one (at Brick Memorial). It's really cool having two Santaniellos being the only ones in Brick Memorial history and to share that with my dad who's taught me everything I know."
Santaniello was a buzzsaw the entire tournament, winning by fall in 55 seconds in the quarterfinals, winning by fall in 15 seconds in the semifinals, and then dismantling Scafidi with a 16-1 technical fall in 3:28. Scafidi is a three-time state qualifier.
With a 33-0 record, Santaniello is one of just a handful of wrestlers statewide still undefeated heading into the state tournament in Atlantic City. He has a marvelous career record of 131-3, is a three-time district champion (there were no district tournaments held in 2021), a four-time region champion, a three-time state finalist, and a state champion. His legendary status continues to grow with every victory.
"It's cool and I love it, don't get me wrong I think it's awesome, but I'm just here to have fun, compete, and let it fly my senior year," Santaniello said of his accomplishments. "I've been trying to soak it in all year and just wrestle every minute. Sometimes it gets tough when you're in the grind but you have to try to soak it all in."
The Anthony Santaniello of 2023, talking to reporters after another milestone victory, is still the same jovial, welcoming, and introspective kid he was taking interviews as a freshman phenom. But this version is also very different. Santaniello seems freer than ever, focused, but not obsessed to the point of diminishing returns. He seems to have found the perfect balance in a sport that can pull you in a thousand directions all at once.
"I think it has a lot to do with my injury," Santaniello said.
Last July, Santaniello suffered a severe elbow injury, breaking his growth plate while competing at Fargo Nationals. Then had another injury in the fall recovering from his arm injury. He was off the mat until November.
"I found out there's a lot more to life than just wrestling. Obviously, it's the No. 1 priority in my life, but it's more fun now. I'm doing it as a sport that I love and I had kind of gotten away from that. I'm still serious when it's time to get serious but I'm trying to go out there and have fun and enjoy my last year."
The wrestling season is all about managing internal and external factors to peak at the right time. Santaniello looks as good as ever, but there are still some adjustments to be made heading into the state tournament.
"Honestly, I didn't eat too well after my semifinal match. I ate a meatball sub and it upset my stomach a little bit. You learn from it. I'm a senior and I still do stuff like that and cave in. But next week will be different."
Culinary choices aside, Santaniello is more than ready to take on Boardwalk Hall one final time. He will be the No. 1 seed at 132 pounds and will look to close out his remarkable career with a second state championship. If he does so, it will solidify the greatest career in Brick Memorial wrestling history and add to his family's incredible wrestling legacy.
He isn't thinking about the big picture at the moment, however. If there was ever a time for tunnel vision, it's now. Five victories are what stand between Santaniello and his ultimate goal of winning a second state championship.
"It's hard to look at those things when you're in the grind," Santaniello said. "As much as I try to - and I really do try to look at all those things, it's a big deal - but it's hard when you're in the middle of it and working hard. I believe that I should have the career that I've had so far. I've put in a lot of work. I'm hoping two, three months from now I can look back on this and say, 'Wow, it's pretty special'."
Pretty special, indeed.