Clutch Cats: Jackson Memorial rallies past Southern for thrilling A South win
JACKSON – Lance Hobbs entered Wednesday night with just 14 varsity bouts under his belt. Brad Galassi had an under-.500 career record and was giving up nearly 100 pounds to his opponent. Yet, those two delivered breakout performances in a huge early-season match to get Joe Perry Gymnasium rocking like it hasn’t been in some time.
Galassi had a momentum-swinging pin at heavyweight and Hobbs’ gutted out a triple-overtime win in the second-to-last bout as Jackson Memorial rallied past Southern, 28-25, for a huge Shore Conference Class A South victory that added another classic chapter to one of New Jersey’s best rivalries. Southern, the three-time defending division champions, entered the match ranked No. 7 in the state.
“We knew they would be a tough team but we knew we could push through if all the people in the lineup wrestled with Jackson guts,” Galassi said. “Everybody in the offseason was pushing and pushing. This is what we trained for, getting a big win and being able to help the team.”
The Jaguars were trailing by 13 points with seven bouts left before pins by Kyle Epperly at 195 and Galassi at heavyweight followed by a major decision from Brett Blaess at 106 pounds tied the score at 22. Following a win by Southern’s Jayson Scerbo at 113 pounds, Hobbs’ win in ultimate tiebreaker at 120 tied the match once again and set up senior state qualifier Vinny Scollo to bring the Jaguars home and cement their first victory over the Rams since 2015.
For a team to win a match where it is an underdog on paper, three key factors need to play out:
-The team’s top wrestlers have to provide exactly what is needed in their particular bout. Check.
-Their role players need to win the toss-up bouts or provide an unexpected result. Check.
-The team must limit bonus points, which Jackson did by not allowing a fall. Check.
The final result? Checkmate.
“We had the matchups on Southern even though on paper they have much better credentials,” said Jackson Memorial head coach Doug Withstandley. “But our guys come to wrestle. I see it every day in the room so I’m not surprised to see it on the mat tonight.”
“Whatever 14 guys we throw on the mat are going to go hard for all six minutes and do whatever we can to pull it out for our team,” Scollo said. “That’s what we did tonight.”
Southern grabbed a quick 9-0 lead to open the match when Sebastian Delligatti scored a takedown with five seconds left to win by 9-1 major decision over Hugh Mai at 132 pounds. Robert Woodcock then won by 22-7 technical fall over Nick White at 138 pounds.
Jackson got on the board when sophomore Rob Lagravenis used one takedown in each period to defeat Jason Sari, 7-2, at 145 pounds. At 152, senior Carsten Digiantomasso hit a five-point move in the second period and held on to beat two-time district medalist Nick Pepe, 13-12, to cut Jackson’s deficit to 9-6.
Pepe was weighed in at 145 pounds but Southern decided to insert Sari at 145 and bump Pepe to 152 to face Digiantomasso. Pepe would have been a big favorite over Lagravenis at 145.
“[Southern] has a very good team and they’re going to be successful this year and have a lot of individual success,” Withstandley said. “Coach [John] Stout and I have a good relationship and I wish him luck the rest of the year. He always has his guys ready. But I think a mistake by them was putting Pepe up on Carsten. They were in good shape with a major and a tech fall in the first two weights. I thought they’d just take their win there [at 145]. That opened the door for us. We saw that and we said, ‘Oh, we like this’.”
Southern would go on to win the next three weights to take a 19-6 lead, but Jackson’s victories at 145 and 152 kept them within striking distance. Region champion and 2017 state medalist Nick O’Connell won by 14-4 major decision over Hunter Smith at 160, Haven Tatarek bested Leo Shimonovich, 9-6, at 170 pounds and region champion John Stout scored the only takedown of the bout to edge Brock Winston, 3-1, at 182 pounds.
The match began to turn Jackson’s way at 195 pounds when Epperly exacted revenge 11 months in the making. During last season’s Jackson-Southern dual [a 47-7 victory by Southern] Epperly was dominated by Ben LoParo in a 9-3 defeat. Wednesday’s meeting had a much different ending.
Epperly came out with a quick takedown before locking in a cradle and pinning LoParo at the 1:21 mark, pulling the Jaguars to within 19-12 and electrifying the home crowd.
“He beat me last year and I had to bring myself back,” Epperly said. “I saw the cradle and I got it.”
“I’m not surprised,” Withstandley said. “Epperly does everything right; he lives and breathes the sport.”
J.T. Cornelius won 4-0 over Mike Fiore at 220 pounds to push Southern’s lead back to 10 points, but it was a trade-off Jackson was more than happy with. The Jaguars don’t have a true varsity heavyweight in terms of size and have alternated between Fiore and Galassi at the 285-pound weight class. Fiore weighed in at 199 pounds and Galassi weighted in at 198 pounds Wednesday night.
“The thing about Brad is all through elementary school he was a heavyweight, so he knows how to wrestle at heavyweight,” Withstandley said. But when he got to high school he didn’t grow that much. He was wrestling 170 and 182 and those kids are quicker and faster. But Brad knows how to wrestle. When we looked at the matchups, Cornelius is big and long, so I’d rather have Brad on a heavyweight."
Fiore did his job by limiting bonus points and Galassi more than that by shrugging off an 85-pound disadvantage against Jayden Smith for a second-period pin that changed the complexion of the match. After a scoreless first period, Smith chose defense and Galassi made him pay by turning him with a power-half for two near-fall points. Galassi then chose the top position in the third period and turned Smith once more, this time for a fall that cut Southern's lead to 22-18.
“Coach told me 0-0 [after the first period] is a win for me,” Galassi said. “He’s big so I can’t shoot on him or I’m getting smooshed. Getting to pick top and not having to go underneath him was huge for me. I was confident on top I could turn him. I was hoping for the pin and was excited I got it.”
Blaess’s major decision at 106 pounds tied the match at 22 but Jayson Scerbo gave Southern the lead right back with a 6-3 win over Luke Temple at 113 pounds. Jackson knew it had a major advantage with Scollo lurking in the final bout at 126 pounds, but for his bout to matter, Hobbs needed to win at 120 pounds. A win by Southern at 120 would have clinched the match.
It took eight and half minutes, but Hobbs secured the three critical points his team needed by riding out Rams freshmen Nate Bischoff in ultimate tiebreaker to win 2-1 and tie the match score at 25. The only points scored in the bout were a stalling point awarded to Hobbs and a penalty point for an illegal hold awarded to Bischoff. Hobbs rode out Bischoff for the entire third period, for 30 more seconds in double overtime and then again in UTB after choosing top.
“I just knew I had to win and get the last match to Vinny,” Hobbs said. “I knew I was going to have to wrestle him [Bischoff] but I didn’t know it was going to be the deciding match. I didn’t worry about that. I just wanted to wrestle my match and do the best I could.”
“That was his standout moment, and he earned it,” Withstandley said.
Scollo then polished off the comeback victory with an 8-2 decision over Matt Brielmeier at 126 pounds, scoring a takedown and two near-fall points in the first period and adding another takedown in the third.
Jackson’s last division title came in 2012, the last of its seven straight A South titles. But after Wednesday, the A South title once again runs through Jaguar territory.
Jackson Memorial 28, Southern 25
132: Sebastian Delligatti (S) md. Hugh Mai 9-1
138: Robert Woodcock (S) tf. Nick White 5:45 (22-7)
145: Rob Lagravenis (JM) d. Jason Sari 7-2
152: Carsten Digiantomasso (JM) d. Nick Pepe 13-12
160: Nick O’Connell (S) md. Hunter Smith 14-4
170: Haven Tatarek (S) d. Leo Shimonovich 9-6
182: John Stout (S) d. Brock Winston 3-1
195: Kyle Epperly (JM) p. Ben LoParo 1:21
220: J.T. Cornelius (S) d. Mike Fiore 4-0
Hwt: Brad Galassi (JM) p. Jayden Smith 4:32
106: Brett Blaess (JM) md. Chris Lubeski 10-2
113: Jayson Scerbo (S) d. Luke Temple 6-3
120: Lance Hobbs (JM) d. Nate Bischoff 2-1 UTB
126: Vinny Scollo (JM) d. Matt Brielmeier 8-2
Records: at Jackson Memorial (1-0, 1-0); Southern (1-1, 1-1).
Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.