BRICK -- A disqualification win on an illegal slam could've made Colts Neck's historic postseason victory on Monday controversial, but the Cougars erased any doubt by piling up bonus points against Brick Memorial.

The Cougars, seeded fifth in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV Tournament, recorded five pins out of their seven victories while winning by DQ and forfeit in the other two to take down the reigning Group V champion Mustangs 42-31 in the sectional quarterfinals. The victory is the first state tournament win for Colts Neck in program history.

Freshman Michael Jannucci turned the tables on Jack Tango at 170 pounds with a thunderous pin that set the tone for the rest of the match and let the Cougars (17-4) into the semifinals. They will face top-seeded Jackson Memorial at 7 p.m. on Wednesday night.

Colts Neck freshman Michael Jannucci won by fall at 170 pounds in the Cougars' 42-31 win over Brick Memorial in the quarterfinals of the 2016 NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV Tournament. (Photo by Robert Badders).
Colts Neck freshman Michael Jannucci won by fall at 170 pounds in the Cougars' 42-31 win over Brick Memorial in the quarterfinals of the 2016 NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV Tournament. (Photo by Robert Badders).

The match that helped turned the tide came at 182 pounds where Brick Memorial sophomore Ron Hopping was leading 8-0 in the third period when he failed to safely bring Colts Neck sophomore A.J. Royle back to the mat. Royle was slammed hard on his left shoulder and stayed down on the mat for several minutes. He was examined by Brick Memorial trainer Brittany Ullah and it was determined he could not continue. By rule, that meant he won by disqualification, and the resulting 10-point swing was huge for Colts Neck.

"He looked like he came down on his shoulder/neck, and immediately he laid there," said Colts Neck head coach Brett Jankos. "I went out there and I was just waiting to hear. The trainer was out there immediately and I let her do her work. She asked if he was dizzy and he said yes, and she said 'you're done'. That was pretty much the end of it. It wasn't my decision."

"I hate to win that way. It didn't look like he was going to get pinned but it didn't look like he was going to win either. It was definitely a swing in our favor, but you never want to win like that. That's not how I run my program."

One bout before, Jannucci whipped the Colts Neck bench into a frenzy when he drove Tango to the mat with a cement mixer for a fall in 2:52, putting the Cougars up 6-3. Tango had opened a 6-2 lead with a tilt for two near-fall points early in the period, then appeared to be ready to lock up and turn Jannucci for a fall. Instead, Jannucci got to his feet, then countered a shot attempt by Tango to deliver important bonus points and start a trend that continued through the match.

"He went for a double and I kind of mixered him," Jannucci said. "It was insane. It felt really good to pull off the win."

"Mike's a finisher and a dangerous kid," Jankos said. He can pin you at any time, and he really stepped up big."

"It really pumped us up," said junior Steven Barsky. "He's been pretty good all season and has had sparks of greatness. You really don't know when it's going to come out but it seems to in big spots."

The illegal slam call at 182 made it 12-3 Colts Neck, and the Cougars never looked back. Barsky won by fall in just 27 seconds over Dakota Wade at 195 pounds for an 18-3 lead, and that allowed Colts Neck to weather the storm at 220 pounds and heavyweight where Brick Memorial senior Chris Hayes won by 19-6 major decision and Nick Rivera was awarded a forfeit.

It was 18-13 Colts Neck when the lineup turned over, but Brick Memorial was at a stark disadvantage down low with 106-pound starter Joe Rotundo and 113-pound starter Matt Wardlaw out with injuries. The Mustangs also were without senior 170-pounder Anthony Mitchell (18-3, 2015 District 23 champ), who is awaiting the results of an MRI after he injured his knee in practice.

Colts Neck capitalized with three straight six-point wins to put the match out of reach. Sophomore Jerry Lleshi improved to 25-2 with a pin of Liam Rivera in 1:38, and sophomore Joey King moved to 24-2 with a forfeit at 113. Sophomore Dyon Womack then registered a pin in 1:47 over Chris Lawrence at 120 pounds to put the Cougars up 36-13 with five bouts left.

"I stressed to my kids, especially at the lower weights, that we needed bonus," Jankos said.

Brick Memorial junior Gianni Ghione (24-1) continued his torrid season with a pin in 48 seconds over Dominick Esposito (21-5) at 126 pounds, but that was the last big moment for the Mustangs (10-8). Ben Sammarco followed with another pin for Colts Neck by decking Ryan Andrus in 1:15 at 132 pounds, putting the Cougars up 42-19 and clinching the match with three bouts left.

Brick Memorial senior Luke Vescovi (18-3) edged Steven Kramer (21-6) with an 8-5 decision at 138 pounds and junior Chris Richardson clipped Liam Hoagland 3-2 at 145 to bring Brick Memorial closer, but they could not change the final outcome. Colts Neck forfeited to Jake Geoffrey at 152 in the final bout and left Brick Memorial with a major victory.

Jankos, a 2002 Brick Memorial graduate where he was a two-time District 23 champ, a region champ in 2001 and a two-time state medalist, didn't downplay the significance of his team's win just because Brick Memorial wasn't at full strength.

"It's still Brick Memorial," Jankos said. "They're a young team with some tough boys. We're a young team too, but we've been through some battles. They're starting to believe and buy in, and it's starting to show on the mat."

Jankos was part of many battles with Jackson Memorial during his high school days, so he knows what to expect when his Cougars step inside Joe Perry Gymnasium on Wednesday night.

"In any year for the past 20 years, it seems, Jackson Memorial is a tough matchup," Jankos said. "When I was in high school we'd go there and up and down the lineup it was tough kid after tough kid. They have quality kids at every weight class. We have to win some close bouts, grind it out, get bonus where we need it and limit theirs'. We do that and hopefully come out on top."


Box Score

5-Colts Neck 42, 4-Brick Memorial 31

160: Ean Mueller (BM) d. Garret Thesing 5-2

170: Michel Jannucci (CN) p. Jack Tango 2:52

182: A.J. Royle (CN) defeats Ron Hopping (BM) by disqualification (injury after illegal slam)

195: Steven Barsky (CN) p. Dakota Wade 0:27

220: Chris Hayes (BM) md. Vinnie Gargiulo 19-6

HWT: Nick Rivera (BM) by forfeit

106: Jerry Lleshi (CN) p. Liam Rivera 1:38

113: Joey King (CN) by forfeit

120: Dyon Womack (CN) p. Chris Lawrence 1:47

126: Gianni Ghione (BM) p. Dominick Esposito 0:48

132: Ben Sammarco (CN) p. Ryan Andrus 1:15

138: Luke Vescovi (BM) d. Steven Kramer 8-5

145: Chris Richardson (BM) d. Liam Hoagland 3-2

152: Jake Geoffrey (BM) by forfeit


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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