Brielle Orthopedics Shore Sports Network Wrestling Top 10, Jan. 5
The 2021-2022 wrestling season has arrived, back in its normal winter spot after so many pandemic-related changes last year that it barely felt like the wrestling season as we know it.
Yet, we are still battling the Covid virus and its effects remain ever-present in our daily lives. There have unfortunately been several postponements and cancelations through the first two-plus weeks of the season during a portion of the schedule that is already disjointed through the school holiday break. But we had to January and the usual meat of the schedule with plenty to look forward to, some intriguing storylines, interesting division races, and more.
December is largely a tournament month so there isn't a ton of dual-meet data for us to crunch just yet. That will change in a big way this week as we'll dive into multiple key divisional showdowns and top-10 matchups.
Our first Brielle Orthopedics Shore Conference Wrestling Top 10 features many familiar programs along with some other teams who have tasted success before and are looking to climb their way to the top. Who's No. 1? Which division has the most ranked team? You'll find that and more right there.
1. Southern Regional (1-0)
The reigning NJSIAA Group 5 champions begin the season as the No. 1 team in the Shore Conference for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the benefit of the doubt. Every season, Southern is usually able to replace those who have graduated, regardless of who they are, and move forward with another team ready to compete for championships. This season should be no different with standouts like returning state finalist and Army commit Connor Collins (120), junior Cole Velardi (150), and sophomore Matt Henrich (138) leading the way. The Rams have a group of talented freshmen led by Wyatt Stout (126), who is off to a red-hot 9-0 start. Southern is an elite dual-meet team because of its role players so it will be interesting to see who steps up to help the Rams win big matches, of which there are several on the schedule. The Rams' lone dual-meet this season is a 74-4 win over Central and they won both tournaments in which they entered their full lineup, their own Robin Leff Invitational and the Hunterdon Central Red Devils Invitational. Upcoming matches: Thursday vs. No. 6 Brick Memorial; Saturday at Mount Olive Quad (Paramus, Passaic Tech).
2. St. John Vianney (0-0)
The Lancers have yet to wrestle a dual meet and we won't see them at full strength until all their transfers are eligible to take the mat, but the potential is there for them to be a juggernaut. Senior Nico Diaz, a three-time state qualifier, leads the cast of returners along with junior Joe Giordano. The freshman class is outstanding and led by Anthony Knox, who is the No. 1 113-pounder in the nation. Patrick O'Keefe (106, Jake Zaltsman (120), Anthony Giordano (106/113), and Cole Stangle (138) are extremely talented, as well. An influx of transfers in the form of Blake Geibel (126, Northern Burlington), Kevin McBride (144, Marlboro), Jasaiah Queen (157, Elizabeth), and Thomas Cleary (182, Holmdel) further bolsters a roster that should be a force for years to come. Starting off the season, O'Keefe placed eighth at the Beast of the East, Knox made his debut and won the Sam Cali Tournament, and Zaltsman (second), Diaz (second), and O'Keefe (third) also placed top-three at the Sam Cali Tournament. Upcoming matches: Saturday at River Dell Quad (Fair Lawn, Northern Highlands)
3. Christian Brothers Academy (3-0)
The Colts' resurgence under fourth-year head coach Billy Ashnault should take another step forward this season. Three state medalists return with sophomore Alex Nini at 120, senior Garrett Totten at 126, and junior Julian George at 138 leading the way, plus juniors Tyler Barrett (150, state qualifier as a freshman) and Zander Silva (157, state qualifier last season). Junior Nick Stump has a solid season last year and will look to build on that up at 165 pounds. The upper weights also get a boost with junior Anthony Lawrence (175) transferring in from Toms River East. CBA took down Howell last season to win its first outright Class A North division title and will look to do the same again. The teams will meet Wednesday night. The Colts had eight top-three finishers at their own Colt Classic Tournament with Robert Canterino claiming the 215-pound title. At the Beast of the East, both Nini and George placed third to start the season on a high note. CBA followed with division wins over Freehold Township (52-23), Long Branch (67-9), and Manalapan (51-15). Upcoming matches: Wednesday at No. 4 Howell; Saturday at Williamstown Duals.
4. Howell (1-0)
The Rebels are another team that is consistently in the top five in the Shore Conference thanks to its ability to develop freshman and sophomore and have them ready to go when their number is called. Howell lost several key wrestlers off last season's squad but brings back state champion Hunter Mays and state fifth-place medalist Sebastian Ortega to lead the way. Junior DJ Henry (175) and sophomore Giovanni Scafidi (138), a transfer from Freehold Township, are also returning state qualifiers. Sophomore JJ Machnik (126) and senior Nick Acque (157) were super region qualifiers last season. Keep an eye on freshman 113-pounder Xavier Ortega, who placed eighth at the Powerade Tournament. Mays was third at the Powerade, as well. Howell's lone dual meet was a 62-12 win over Marlboro. A chance for revenge comes Wednesday vs. a CBA team that ended Howell's streak of 15 straight Class A North division titles last season. Upcoming matches: Wednesday vs. No. 3 CBA; Saturday at Old Bridge Tri (Long Branch); Monday vs. Jackson Memorial and Freehold Township.
5. Middletown South (1-0)
The Eagles have been building toward a championship season for a few years under sixth-year head coach Anton Atterbury and 2022 could be the year they break through. Middletown South returns nearly its entire starting lineup from last season's impressive 8-2 campaign and will look to challenge CBA and Howell in Class A North and make a run at the program's first state sectional title. Junior Jack Zaleski (126) is a two-time state medalist and leads the Eagles' large group of returning starters. He is joined by state qualifier David Hussey (144) and region qualifiers Robert Generelli (138), Travis Tuminelli (144), Alex Quintano (150), Jack Rieter (175), Jack Will (190), Matt Cody (215), and Dante Miranda (285). The lineup is deep, balanced, and experienced. Zaleski placed seventh at the Beast of the East to open the season while the rest of the team had seven top-three finishers at the TCNJ Pride Tournament. Generelli paced third at the Sam Cali Tournament. Middletown South then won its own Walter Woods Tournament with Zaleski, Generelli, Hussey, Reiter, Willi, and Miranda each winning individual titles. Their only dual meet so far is a 49-18 win over Long Branch. Upcoming matches: Wednesday vs. Marlboro; Friday vs. Old Bridge.
6. Brick Memorial (1-0)
The Mustangs had a Shore Conference record four state champions last season and two of them, senior Evan Tallmadge and junior Anthony Santaniello, are back to lead the way. How far Brick Memorial can go, however, will be determined by what it gets out of the rest of its lineup. Tallmadge, who is committed to Navy, and Santaniello, who recently committed to Oklahoma, will be at 120 and 132, respectively and are obviously major forces down low. Brick Memorial also has senior Lucas Torre and sophomore Jack Torre at 126, senior Braden Scott at 138 and senior Nelson DeJesus at 144 to form a group of lower weights that is pretty experienced. Freshman Gavin Martin is at 106 after a solid middle school career. The Mustangs received a huge boost when senior Ryan Smith (150), a two-time state qualifier, returned to the team after not wrestling last season. Senior Cory Martin (190) was 8-1 last season and is the top returner among the upperweights. Freshman Harvey Ludington enters high school after a great youth career that featured a Super 32 title. It's never easy for a freshman to break in at a heavier weight because most of the wrestlers he'll face are juniors and seniors, but Ludington has the goods to have a great freshman season. At the season-opening TCNJ Pride Tournament, Smith placed first, Martin and senior Sam Azzaretti were second, and Scott and junior Josh James. Santaniello placed second at the Beast of the East before the and Tallmadge took home titles at the Mustang Classic. Brick Memorial's lone dual meet thus far is a 54-18 win over Brick. The quest for an A South title heats up this week. Upcoming matches: Thursday at No. 1 Southern; Saturday at Williamstown Duals.
7. Lacey (4-0)
The Lions won their first division title in 22 years by dethroning Point Boro last season and bring back a host of starters to defend said crown. They check in at No. 7 thanks to a win over Raritan to win the Woodstown Duals. Senior Brady Carter leads the group of returning starters and is looking to close his career strong after two injury-plagued seasons that followed his breakout freshman year when he was a state qualifier. Carter was fifth at regions last season. Senior Jimmy Circle (175/190) and junior Matt Coon (190/215) were also region qualifiers last season. There is experience up and down the lineup with wrestlers like John Downs (113/120), Aidan Ott (126/132), Mason Heck (132/138), Andre Ferraiuolo (138/144), Kevin Fazio (157/165), John Dodaro (215/285), Scott Stevens (285), and John Clayton (285) all having been starters or key contributors over the last few years. Lacey has the aforementioned win over Raritan, plus victories over Audubon, Pinelands, and Egg Harbor Township to start the season. They have five top-three finishers at the season-opening TCNJ Pride Tournament.
8. Raritan (2-2)
After a couple of down years by their standards, the Rockets return 12 starters and boast a deep and balanced lineup that has been their trademark under longtime head coach Rob Nucci. Raritan has five returning region qualifiers in junior Ryan Mansueto (120), sophomore Zach Reilley (138), senior Cole Bailey (175), junior Kieran Falzon (190), and senior Sean Lane (215). Juniors Matt Erven (113), Braden Kmak (132), and Bobby Mulligan (165), and seniors Alex Auletta (144), Connor Newell (144), Quinn Peters (150), and Nick Burns (215) are all returning starters, as well. Raritan has wins over Cranford and Winslow Township and losses to Lacey and state-ranked Warren Hills to begin the season. At the TCNJ Pride Tournament, Mansueto, Reilley, and Burns won individual titles. Upcoming matches: Wednesday vs. Holmdel; Saturday vs. Middletown North at Rider University; Monday at Matawan.
9. Jackson Memorial (2-0)
The Jaguars are a perennial top-10 team and championship contender and will look to build upon a season in which several underclassmen took the mats in a 5-5 season. Senior Mike Rauch (190), junior Lucas Lipari (126), and sophomore Jason Seda (106) lead the way as returning region qualifiers while sophomore Jonathan Espinoza (113), seniors Andrew Cennamo (132) and George Ebid (138), sophomore Cael Huxford (144), juniors Quinn Bohringer (150), Luke Hamann (165), and Paul Novello (190), and sophomore Ryan Noble (285) are also returning starters. Seda won the Robin Leff Invitational while Hamann was second and Huxford was third. Seda also won the Walter Woods Tournament along with senior Nick Afanador at 215 pounds. In dual meets, Jackson has wins over Toms River South and Cherokee thus far. Upcoming matches: Wednesday at No. 7 Lacey; Saturday at Ramsey; Monday at Howell Tri (Freehold Township).
10. Rumson-Fair Haven (0-0)
The Bulldogs have yet to wrestle a dual meet but have had success in three tournaments under first-year head coach Eleazar DeLuca, a former Rutgers standout who was an NCAA qualifier. Senior Shay Addison (175) placed second and junior Julian Duque (113) placed third at the Robin Leff Invitational. Simultaneously, sophomore Hudson Skove had an impressive sixth-place showing at the Beast of the East Tournament. Rumson was third at the Hunterdon Central Invitational with Addison and Skove winning titles and freshman Cole Pangborn (132) and junior Ryan Boyer (165) finishing second. Rumson graduated three very important wrestlers last season in saying goodbye to state medalists Jack Kelly and Max Brignola and senior starter Tyler Brignola but have a good group of returners headlined by Addison and Skove and also including Boyer and senior Aidan Shaughnessy (126). There is a lot of talented youth in the lineup with freshmen Walter Skove (106), Evan Ridgway (132), Pangborn, and Connor Delaney (215). Rumson has had its last three matches postponed due to Covid protocols but is looking to get back on the mat by Saturday. Upcoming matches: Saturday at Monroe Quad (Notre Dame, West Windsor-Plainsboro)
Keep an eye on:
Point Boro (2-0)