BRICK TOWNSHIP – After missing out on an opportunity to compete in the postseason last year, Friday’s Mustang Classic was a chance for Luke Rada to show he’s among the best wrestlers in New Jersey.

Message: received.

In one of New Jersey’s premier tournaments featuring several of the best teams and individuals in the Garden State, Rada conquered the 145-pound bracket with a pair of wins over returning state qualifiers, defeating Paulsboro’s Gabe Onorato, 3-2, in the championship bout en route to being selected as the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler.

Seeded third at 145 pounds, Rada took down the No. 2 seed, Delsea’s Tim Spatola, 5-1, in the semifinals before taking out the top-seeded Onorato in the final.

“I’ve been waiting a whole year, been working every day to get down to [Atlantic City] and do work down there,” Rada said. “This is a stepping stone to the postseason and I definitely wanted to show out.”

Rada spent his first two high school years at Howell and as a freshman went 29-11, won a District 22 title and qualified for the state tournament out of Region 6. Last season, however, Rada was a victim of circumstance in Howell’s deep and crowded lower half of the lineup. He wrestled the season at both 126 and 132 pounds, went 26-5 and was a key component who helped Howell repeat as NJSIAA Group 5 champions. But when it came time for the postseason the Rebels had state medalist Darby Diedrich at 126 and state runner-up Kyle Slendorn at 132. Rada was the odd man out.

Transferring within the Freehold Regional High School District, Rada landed at Colts Neck where he’s off to a 10-0 start.

“I had tunnel vision for this year no matter where I was going to be,” Rada said. “I appreciated my time at Howell but I’m a Cougar now. I’ve been taking it all in and I’m excited to go to battle with my new teammates.”

“I’ve known the Rada family for a long time so I’ve been watching him wrestle for a long time, and that kind of kid coming into our room really sets the bar high,” said Colts Neck seventh-year head coach Brett Jankos. “He walked in and was an immediate leader on the team. He does everything we ask and sets a good pace and mentality for our program.”

Rada opened his tournament with a 17-1 technical fall over Brick Memorial’s Jared Crippen in the pre-quarterfinals before besting Freehold’s Tony Dushku, 9-2, in the quarterfinals. At this point, Rada was going to have to get through two returning state qualifiers to get to the top of the medal stand, and he made it through the first leg with a 5-1 victory over Spatola. Holding a 3-1 lead, Rada escaped danger where it looked like Spatola was going to secure the tying takedown, but Rada instead scored two of his own to seal the match.

In the championship bout, Rada escaped and then took down Onorato in the second period to go up 3-0. Onorato escaped to cut the lead to 3-1 and then nearly had Rada on his back during a scramble, but Rada was able to avoid even a takedown to hold a lead into the third period. He then rode out Onorato for basically the entire third period, only pushing him away for an escape in the final second, to win 3-2 and take the title.

“He’s very composed,” Jankos said. “He’s never in trouble because he’s one of the best scramblers I’ve ever coached. “You think you have him and he’s almost like a cat who just lands on his feet and keeps moving.”

“There’s no panicking,” Rada said. “You’re always taught to wrestle through every position and that’s how you win big matches. Being able to score from anywhere is how you beat good kids.”

After a frustrating conclusion to his sophomore season, Rada is forging a new identity at Colts Neck. If this season ends as well as it’s started it’s going to be a special 2019 on Five Points Road.


Vincent’s Revenge

To say Brick Memorial sophomore Vincent Santaniello was looking forward to the Mustang Classic and a potential rematch with Allentown’s Joey Lamparelli would be quite the understatement.

After losing to Lamparelli in last season’s Region 6 final and again during the offseason, Santaniello finally broke through with a dramatic 3-2 decision to win the 113-pound title.

“I’ve never beat him; he beat me in region finals and in double overtime at Journeyman, so I’ve definitely been looking forward to this match,” Santaniello said. “It’s been on my mind, 24/7.”

After a scoreless first period, Lamparelli escaped in the second period and took a 1-0 lead into the third. In the third period, Santaniello scored a reversal to take a 2-1 lead. During the sequence, Lamparelli was called for locking hands, which gave a penalty point to Santaniello. Lamparelli also got back to his feet after the exchange, making it 3-2. Santaniello was able to hold the lead by staying offensive, getting to Lamparelli’s legs twice and keeping him at bay to take home the title.

“The main focus was to be offensive throughout the whole match,” Santaniello said. “That’s really what we worked on in the room: being more offensive on my feet and getting in on shots.”

Santaniello was the No. 1 seed via his eighth-place finish at the NJSIAA Tournament at 106 pounds last season, but Lamparelli had to be considered the favorite given his record against Santaniello.

“It was time for Vincent to beat that kid,” said Brick Memorial head coach Mike Kiley. “It’s something he trained for and it had to feel good to get that monkey off his back.”


Kanniard and Peterson Dominate

Wall senior Rob Kanniard and St. John Vianney sophomore Dean Peterson, both of whom were state runners-up at last season’s NJSIAA Tournament, cruised titles in their respective weight classes.

Kanniard won his third Mustang Classic title with three pins and finally an 18-6 major decision over St. Augustine’s Sal Manera in the 160-pound championship bout. Kanniard, who is committed to Rutgers University and ranked No. 6 in the nation by InterMat and No. 9 by FloWrestling, took Manera down seven times, including throwing him to his back for a five-point move in the second period.

Peterson was the state runner-up at 106 pounds last season, and after not wrestling at the Beast of the East Tournament last weekend returned with a vengeance to claim his second Mustang Classic title. Peterson held a 3-2 lead on High Point’s Devin Flannery after the first period before opening up a 9-3 lead by putting Flannery to his back during the second period. He added a takedown in the third period to win 11-5.

Peterson, who is ranked No. 10 in the nation at 113 pounds by InterMat and No. 20 by FloWrestling, won by fall in his first two bouts, including a 16-second pin in the pre-quarterfinals, before shutting down talented St. Augustine freshman Trey McLeer, 4-0, in the semifinals. McLeer had made a run to the semis as the No. 13 seed.


Liseno, Klinsky, Messina and Nies also win titles

St. John Vianney’s Paul Liseno, Middletown North’s Tyler Klinsky, Freehold’s Nico Messina and Jack Nies also won titles to give the Shore Conference eight total Mustang Classic champions.

Liseno came out on top in a stacked heavyweight bracket by defeating Long Branch’s Kevin Cerruti, 5-1, in the final.  After pinning Ocean’s Joe Teresi in 42 seconds in the semifinals, Liseno used a four-point move in the first period to defeat Cerruti and win his second Mustang Classic title. Cerruti was the seventh-place finisher in the NJSIAA Tournament last season. Liseno was the Shore Conference Tournament champion last season but did not advance out of the Region 5 Tournament because of an injury.

After going 34-4 last season and becoming Freehold’s first region champion in 54 years, Nico Messina got off to a rocky start with a fourth-place finish in the season-opening Garden State Classic. He has since rattled off eight straight wins, including four victories on his way to the 126-pound Mustang Classic title.

Messina made a dramatic rally in the semifinals when he trailed 5-1 and later 8-5 to St. Augustine’s Dan Martini before hitting a headlock for the fall with 30 seconds left. In the championship bout he squared off against his most familiar rival, Long Branch’s Ryan Zimmerman, and came away with a 6-4 victory thanks to takedowns in the first and third periods and a reversal in the second period.

Klinsky was the top seed at 106 pounds and encountered virtually no resistance with two falls and two technical falls to cruise to the title. He pinned St. Augustine’s Ryan Defoney in just 49 seconds in the final.

Ocean’s Jack Nies captured the 132-pound title by blanking St. Augustine’s Mike Albergo, 1-0, in the championship bout. Nies, who was seeded fourth, defeated the No. 1 seed, Highland’s Matt Hoelke, 4-3 in double overtime, in the semifinals.


Managing 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.


More From Shore Sports Network