TOMS RIVER -- There was a point this season where Garrett Fitzgerald doubted he had what it took to compete with the best wrestlers in the Shore Conference.


Now he's two wins away from a trip to the state tournament.

The CBA senior, seeded 12th at 160 pounds, stunned fourth-seeded Long Branch senior Lamont Reid 7-6 in the quarterfinals of the NJSIAA Region 6 Tournament on Friday night at Pine Belt Arena. Down 5-2 in the third period, Fitzgerald locked in a standing cradle for a five-point move and held on for the one-point win to reach the region semifinals for the first time.

"I was losing so I knew I had to go for something," Fitzgerald said. "I saw him stand up while I had him in a front head(lock) so I took the shot, scooped his leg and got it. I snapped him down and pretty much dove for the leg to get the cradle."

On Wednesday Fitzgerald defeated Lakewood's Marco Quintero, the No. 5 seed, in the preliminary round. Now he will face Wall senior Josh Glantzman, the No. 1 seed, at 10 a.m. on Saturday with a trip to the region finals and a ticket to Atlantic City on the line.

"I looked at my bracket thinking I could really make some noise in it," Fitzgerald said. "With the good coaching I have and the proper preparation, I'm just trying to get to the top."

A month ago all of this seemed highly unlikely. Fitzgerald had injured his knee early in the season and wasn't sure he would make it back. The historic season CBA was putting together gave him plenty of motivation to get back on the mat, but when he finally did it was anything but storybook. In his debut on Jan. 27, Fitzgerald was pinned by Middletown North's Nicko Cofone in a 34-29 loss to the Lions.

"I was pretty bummed out," Fitzgerald said. "I thought maybe I couldn't compete at the top level."

After some practice sessions and a return to the win column, Fitzgerald quickly found his groove. He recorded two pins and two major decision to help CBA win its first ever Shore Conference Tournament title, then finished third at the District 22 Tournament for the second straight season. After initially not having any expectations for the region tournament, Fitzgerald now sees a chance to do something special.

"I believe in my coaching and preparation," Fitzgerald said. "I really feel like I can take the title."

Fitzgerald was the lowest seed to win a quarterfinal bout on Friday, but he was certainly not the only wrestler to pull an upset. In total, 14 wrestlers seeded among the top four in their respective weight classes were defeated.

Two number one seeds won't be in the semifinals, but not for the same reasons. CBA junior Nick Schutzenhofer, the top seed at 106 pounds, was not present on Friday and forfeited his quarterfinal bout to Brick's Joe Ferigne. He is now out of the tournament. CBA head coach Russ Witt said it was because of "internal school reasons", and would not comment further.

On the mat, Southern senior Teddy Caporino turned an already-wide-open 145-pound bracket on its ear when he knocked off top-seeded Mike DeFaria, 10-9. The Marlboro junior grabbed the No. 1 seed by defeating St. John Vianney's Khalil Haskins and Howell's Peter Dee en route to the District 21 title. Caporino was the District 24 champion but seeded eighth in the region tournament, the lowest seed for any district champ. That mattered little to Caporino.

Southern senior Teddy Caporino, shown during the Group V final, beat Marlboro's Mike DeFaria in the quarterfinals of the 2016 NJSIAA Region 6 Tournament. Caporino was the No. 8 seed and DeFaria was seeded No. 1 at 145 pounds. (Photo by Ray Richardson).
Southern senior Teddy Caporino, shown during the Group V final, beat Marlboro's Mike DeFaria in the quarterfinals of the 2016 NJSIAA Region 6 Tournament. Caporino was the No. 8 seed and DeFaria was seeded No. 1 at 145 pounds. (Photo by Ray Richardson).

"I knew it was wide open and I could beat anyone in the bracket," Caporino said. "I don't look at the seeding. I just wrestle to win."

Caporino rallied with four takedowns in the third period to produce the one-point victory. Getting to the third period within striking distance was his plan all along.

"I knew he was going to get gassed," Caporino said. "(Head coach John) Stout said the third period is my period. We condition all year for that. Southern is a third-period team and it showed tonight."

Caporino will face Wall freshman Rob Kanniard, the No. 4 seed, in the semifinals.

Also at 145 pounds, Point Beach senior John Finnerty snapped a 4-4 tie with Dee by locking in a cradle for a win by fall in 5:01. This is Finnerty's fourth appearance in the Region 6 Tournament, but before Friday he had never advanced past the quarterfinals.

"I'm here and it's my last shot," Finnerty said. "I want to do something special."

Finnerty, the No. 6 seed, was down 4-1 in the second period before getting an escape and a takedown to tie the bout. Then he saw an opening and capitalized to take out third-seeded Dee.

"You get tired and instincts take over," Finnerty said. "I was going to the side hard for my viper when I saw him step, and I just dove for it. I wrapped as hard as I could and I was not letting go."

Finnerty will face Haskins in the semifinals. Teammate Giancarlo Crivelli gave Point Beach two semifinalists when he defeated St. John Vianney sophomore Nick Caracappa 5-2 at 152 pounds. Point Beach hasn't had a state qualifier since 2011, but a win on Saturday morning by either Finnerty or Crivelli will snap that streak.

"It would be great," Crivelli said. "I've dreamt of doing it every year of my high school career and fell short in districts every year until this year. I'm just taking it match-by-match. Hopefully we do some great things."

At 120 pounds, Howell senior Nick Ciaccia, the No. 7 seed, defeated Ocean's Dave Tieto, the No. 2 seed, 9-4. After falling behind 2-1, Ciaccia got the takedown he needed to go to work on top where he is among the best in the Shore. He turned Tieto for three near-fall points to go up 6-2, and did it again in the third for a 9-2 lead before a late reversal by Tieto. Ciaccia will face CBA junior Richie Koehler, last season's 106-pound region champ, in the semifinals.

Matawan junior Derrick Wiley won a dramatic bout against Raritan's Nick Bohal in the No. 7 vs. No. 2 bout at 160 pounds. Wiley scored a takedown with less than one second left in the third period to tie the bout 4-4 and force overtime, and was able to ride Bohal out in ultimate tiebreaker for the 5-4 win. He will face Jackson Liberty's Tyler Kalmowitz, who also won in ultimate tiebreaker by riding out Southern's Seon Bowker for a 3-2 victory. Kalmowitz was the No. 6 seed and Bowker was seeded third.

Other No. 6 seeds to win included Jackson Liberty senior Nick Pellegrino with a 7-4 win over Toms River North freshman Nick Reilly at 113 pounds, and Jackson Memorial junior Matt McGowen with a 5-4 victory over Toms River South's Nick Gallicchio at 126 pounds.

Lacey freshman Hunter Gutierrez won a thriller over Colts Neck sophomore Joey King, 8-6 in overtime, in the 106-pound quarterfinals. King was the 106-pound region runner-up last season. Gutierrez got a turn for two near-fall points to take a 4-2 lead in the third period, and was then awarded a penalty point when King grabbed his head gear. King, however, was able to score a reversal, let Gutierrez to his feet and secure a takedown to tie the bout 6-6 and force overtime. Gutierrez then scored the winning takedown to advance to the semifinals against Brick's Joe Ferigne, who received a bye because of Schutzenhofer's withdrawal.

Other overtime bouts included Manchester's Chris Rodriguez defeating Freehold Township's Mike Plaska, 3-1, at 126 pounds, and Pinelands' Chris Nilsen besting Southern's Joe Toci, 11-7, at 182. At heavyweight, St. John Vianney junior Micah Clark edged Central senior Darius Marrow 3-2 in ultimate tiebreaker, and Long Branch senior John Tomlinson scored a takedown in overtime to defeat Point Beach senior Forrest Gardner, 3-1.

Wall junior Matt McKenzie cruised to a 13-0 win over Jackson Memorial's Adante Davis in the 195-pound quarterfinals for his 100th career win. McKenzie is the eighth Wall wrestler to reach 100 wins and is on pace to become the program's all-time wins leader next season.


Wrestling 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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