JACKSON — All season Jackson head coach Doug Withstandley has been waiting for his team to put forth the kind of effort it takes to win a championship. Wednesday night was the match it all came together.

The top-seeded Jaguars received several clutch performances to take down fourth-seeded Long Branch, 26-25, in the semifinals of the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV tournament inside Joe Perry Gymnasium. An unexpected and match-turning pin by freshman Justin Burkert, a wild overtime win by Ryan Bohringer and Leo Shimonovich holding bonus points in the final bout helped the defending sectional champs get back to the championship match.

Jackson Memorial will host second-seeded Brick Memorial in the Central Jersey Group IV championship match at 7 p.m. on Friday. Brick Memorial rallied for a 31-26 victory over Northern Burlington in the other semifinal.

“Overall it was a really good team effort and I couldn’t be more proud of these guys,” Withstandley said. “I think they sensed it too, that for the first time all year we had a really complete team effort.”

In just his second varsity bout, Burkert energized his team and provided critical bonus points with a stunning pin of Joel Astacio at 126 pounds. Burkert, who’s first career bout came in Monday’s win over Allentown, went from on his back to hero when he reversed Astacio with a headlock and finished off the fall in 1:54, pulling the Jaguars to within 16-12 midway through the match.

“I knew I just had to get the win,” Burkert said. “He had me on my back and I rolled through and had him in a headlock. It felt great.”

After Long Branch’s Chris Dean scored an 8-2 win over Carsten DiGiantomasso at 132 pounds, the Jaguars won four straight bouts to take the lead for the first time in the match. At 138 it was Bohringer’s 8-6 victory in tiebreaker (double overtime) over Isaac Shohet that began to turn the match in Jackson’s favor.

A takedown in the third period gave him a 3-1 lead, and a quick turn for two near-fall points put him up 5-1 with under 10 seconds left. Shohet, however, reversed Bohringer to his back just before time expired for a four-point move that tied the match, 5-5, and forced sudden victory overtime. After a scoreless minute at neutral, Shohet chose defense and escaped to take a 6-5 lead after the first 30-second tiebreaker. Bohringer escaped with about 15 seconds left in the following tiebreaker period, then took Shohet down with under five seconds left to secure the win.

“When OT came I knew I had to keep pushing the pace,” Bohringer said. “It was a critical bout and I had to come through.”

Senior Matt McGowan, a returning region champion, followed with a technical fall at 145 pounds to give Jackson its first lead of the match, 20-19. At 152 it was senior Tim Hamann beating Luke Arnold, 5-1, to stretch the lead to 23-19. Kyle Epperly then recorded an 11-7 win over Louie Saez at 160 to give the Jaguars a 26-19 advantage with two bouts left.

Jackson had a chance to clinch the match with a win at 170 pounds, but Danny Santos-Silva kept Long Branch alive by rallying for a 6-4 overtime win over Dan Bergeron. An escape and a staling call against Bergeron in the third period tied the bout at four and forced sudden victory, and Santos-Silva scored with a takedown on the edge of the circle to win the bout.


With Jackson now leading 26-22, the scenario in the final bout was Long Branch’s Peter Wersinger needed to win by technical fall or pin to give the Green Wave the win. A major decision to tie the match at 26 would have resulted on Jackson winning on criteria via having the only technical fall (bouts one and pins/forfeits were even). Wersinger was heavily favored to win the bout, but Shimonovich did his job by staying off his back. He nearly won the bout outright after putting Wersinger to his back in the second period for a five-point move. He lost the bout, 9-7, but did exactly what his team needed him to do.

Jackson also received a 2-1 win from Dave Lemay at heavyweight and an 11-5 decision from Vincent Scollo at 113 pounds. Lemay bumped up from 220 pounds to face Kevin Cerruti and ,despite giving up nearly 50 pounds, held off a takedown attempt in the closing seconds to win 2-1.

“We’ve been talking about it all year that we haven’t had a complete team win and tonight was that win,” McGowan said. “We had guys stepping up in big spots and guys doing their jobs. We haven’t had all 14 guys doing their jobs and tonight we did and got the win.”


Wrestling editor Bob Badders can be reached at badders@allshoremedia.com. 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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