LITTLE SILVER – The 2019 season is shaping up to be the best in program history for Shore Regional, and Friday night was another feather in the cap for a team looking to make some noise on the big stage.

After the first two rounds of the 2019 Shore Conference Individual Championships, it is the Blue Devils who sit in second place in the team standings with six wrestlers advancing to Saturday’s quarterfinal round at Red Bank Regional High School. Standouts Jack Maida (106), Al DeSantis (138), Mike McGhee (145) and Jack McCrae (160) cruised into the final eight in their respective weight classes while freshman Gabe Scalise and senior Taylor Sousa pulled upsets at 120 and 195 pounds, respectively.

It’s nice for the Maida and DeSantis and McGhee and McCrae but they expect it. We’re more excited for the upsets and Scalise and Sousa both avenging losses,” said Shore head coach Dave Porta. “Our eyes have been on nothing but beating [Point] Beach and then sections, so we really look at this as just go out and have some fun. We’re little old Shore. No one expects us to do anything.”

Both Scalise and Sousa got revenge for losses earlier in the season to reach the quarterfinals, starting with 10th-seeded Scalise taking down Keansburg’s Gavyn Read, who was previously undefeated and seeded seventh, 2-1 with a late takedown. Read had defeated Scalise, 3-1, at the Buc Classic Tournament two weeks prior in the very same gym.

“When the brackets came out and I saw it made me want to beat him even more,” Scalise said. “He came out really hard at first so I knew he was going to gas out. I waited, saw an opening and took in the double and just drove and got it.”

Scalise will face the No. 2 seed, Colts Neck’s Logan Waller (21-1), in the quarterfinals.

Then, at 195 pounds, No. 11 Sousa won 3-2 in double overtime over Barnegat’s Charlie Cotton, the No. 6 seed, to reverse a 5-2 defeat from an early-season dual meet. Sousa now meets Raritan senior Justin Acevedo, the No. 3 seed who is a returning state qualifier.

While the road for Scalise and Sousa will be appreciably more difficult Saturday morning, they at least have a chance to wrestle back for third since they reached the quarterfinals. For Maida, DeSantis, McGhee and McCrae, their journey is just getting started.

Maida, who is nationally ranked at 106 pounds and seeded second in the SCT, pinned Ocean’s Blake Tarnowski in 2:50 to advance to the quarterfinals where he’ll face Brick Memorial’s Ryan Smith. A win there would pit him against either Holmdel’s Nick Ammirati or Toms River North’s Louie Gagliardo in the semifinals, but the matchup he’s really eyeing is against Middletown North’s Tyler Klinsky in the final.

“There’s only two guys in the state with better criteria than Maida at 106 (Klinsky and Hunterdon Central’s Brett Ungar) and this is a chance to beat the top guy in the Shore. All season he’s had to look up at one guy ranked above him: Tyler Klinsky. He has that little chip on his shoulder where he wants to show he’s the best in the conference.”

DeSantis, the No. 3 seed at 138, won by fall over Holmdel’s Luke DuPont to advance to the quarterfinals where he’ll face Middletown North’s Chris McCarthy. A win there would likely set him up for a rematch with Rumson-Fair Haven’s Max Brignola. The two spilt matches last season but Brignola pinned DeSantis in a tournament earlier this season.

“DeSantis is built to avenge his losses so he’s had his eye on that for a couple weeks now,’ Porta said.

McGhee, the No. 6 seed at 145, won by major decision over Howell’s Pierce Gomez at 145 pounds and will face Point Boro’s Ty Bailey in the quarterfinals. McCrae, the No. 4 seed at 152, pinned Middletown North’s Shaun Sullivan in 1:49 to reach the quarterfinals where he’ll face Rumson’s Jack Kelly.

Those six wrestlers advancing were good enough to put Shore in second place after day one, 7.5 points behind top-ranked Howell and three ahead of Lacey.

“We were joking we shouldn’t even come back tomorrow,” Porta said. “Just go out on that note.”

Saturday won’t end with all six Shore Regional wrestlers still standing, but the Blue Devils have a great chance at having multiple medal winners and a champion or two. Not bad one of the smallest schools in the conference.

Friday night may have been the first time anyone ever got out of their seat thanks to a No. 3 seed beating a No. 14 seed, but that was the case during the 106-pound quarterfinals. Holmdel junior Nick Ammirati won 8-7 in ultimate tiebreaker over highly-touted Lacey freshman Brady Carter to advance to the quarterfinals and hand Carter his first loss of the season. Carter was a trendy pick to make a deep run in the tournament.

“All the pressure didn’t get to me because I knew he hasn’t been in big matches like that, so I was ready for it,” Ammirati said.

At 220 pounds, Red Bank Catholic senior Steve Cmielewski needed just 17 seconds to pin Manalapan’s George Zavalnik and reach the quarterfinals. An injury prevented Cmielewski from wrestling until late in his junior season so the SCT has been a tournament he’s been looking forward to for a couple years.

“This is what I’ve been training for since I got hurt,” Cmielewski said. “I missed this tournament last year so I’m just happy to be here. I feel great, better than I ever have.”

A couple of wrestlers reached individual milestones Friday night as Klinsky, a junior, earned his 100th career win with a 15-5 major decision over Brick standout freshman Evan Tallmadge in the 106-pound pre-quarterfinals. Manalapan senior Paul Santomarco also reached 100 wins when he won by technical fall over Barnegat’s James Circle at 152 pounds.

Tyler Klinsky 100 wins

The top eight/nine seeds advanced at 106, 138, 145, 170 and 182 but there were plenty of upsets in the other weights. Howell’s Justin Wright was the lowest seed to advance to the quarterfinals as the No. 12 seed at 285 pounds. He won 3-1 in sudden victory over Lacey’s Gerard O’Connor.

Four No. 11 seeds advanced with Lacey’s Colin Rolak at 126, Ocean’s Tah-Jay Phillips at 160, Sousa at 195 and Toms River North’s John O’Donnell at 220. Rolak won by 12-4 major decision over Jackson Liberty’s Mike Wishengrad, Phillips pinned Colts Neck’s Joe Barsky, Sousa beat Cotton in rideouts and O’Donnell edged Howell’s Joe Sardina, 7-6.

Seven No. 10 seeds advanced to the quarterfinals. Howell’s Kyle Nase won 7-4 over Matawan’s Lee Rubin at 113 pounds, Scalise beat Read at 120, Brick Memorial’s Michael Richardson won by 9-1 major decision over Point Beach’s Riley Simon at 126, Rumson’s Shay Addison clipped Middletown North’s Nate Pujols, 8-7, at 132, Marlboro’s Edward Jang won by 20-8 major decision over Rumson’s Michael Ponenti at 152, Holmdel’s Michael Pavlinetz won 6-5 over Long Branch’s Tracey Taylor at 220 and Asbury Park’s Jarred Chathuant beat Manalapan’s Matt Kovacs, 7-3, at 285.

Wrestling resumes Saturday morning at 10 a.m. with the quarterfinals. The championship bouts are scheduled for 3:30 and will be live streamed on


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