Dean of Dominance: St. John Vianney’s Dean Peterson wins second state title
ATLANTIC CITY – One of the greatest careers in the history of Shore Conference wrestling is unfolding right before our eyes.
On Saturday night at Boardwalk Hall, St. John Vianney junior Dean Peterson completed another unbeaten season by defeating Brick Memorial junior Vincent Santaniello, 1-0, to claim the 2020 NJSIAA 120-pound state championship and become a two-time state champion. He continues to make the SJV wrestling record book his autobiography as the program’s only state champion.
“It feels amazing,” Peterson said. “I’m putting my school on the map and repping it the best I can.”
A rideout of Santaniello in the second period and an escape in the third was all Peterson needed to win his second state title in his third appearance on the center mat. His impenetrable defense was once again on display, not just in the final, but throughout the entire three-day tournament in Atlantic City. Incredibly, Peterson did not allow a single point in five bouts to win in dominant fashion.
The state final was the fifth meeting between Peterson and Santaniello over the past three years and Peterson has now won all five. Their previous meeting came in the finals of the Shore Conference Tournament and was the closest one to date. Santaniello took Peterson down – one of the few times he’s been taken down in his career – and held a 3-0 lead before Peterson roared back to win 5-3 and claim his third SCT title.
Against a wrestler the caliber of Santaniello, who is a now a three-time state medalist and two-time top-three finisher, Peterson knows he has to continue to make adjustments.
“I wanted to win by more but I wasn’t on top of my game and my gameplan didn’t really work too well,” Peterson said. “I wanted to get into the tie and work from there because when I wrestled him in Shore Conference I stayed from the open and my shots weren’t on point. He’s a good counter-scorer so I wanted to stay inside and control the elbows.”
After a scoreless first period, Santaniello had choice and chose defense. He worked tirelessly from the bottom but Peterson stayed with him every step of the way. Santaniello came close to a reversal and then nearly escaped in the final 30 seconds of the period but Peterson kept control to keep it scoreless going into the third. Peterson then earned an escape point in the final period and kept Santaniello at bay to repeat as a state champion.
“I think (another difference) is my gas tank,” Peterson said. “In that second period as soon as I rode him for about a minute I could tell he was breaking and getting tired. I could go for another hour if I wanted to on that mat.”
Peterson has now won 72 consecutive bouts since losing in the 106-pound state final as a freshman. His only two losses of his career came during his freshman year and both came to state champions: Hunter Central’s Brett Ungar in the 2018 Region 5 final and Hanover Park’s Joey Olivieri in the 2018 state final. Ungar is now at Notre Dame (Green Pond) High School in Pennsylvania and ranked fifth in the country at 113 pounds. Olivieri won the 132-pound state title on Saturday to become a two-time state champion. Peterson is now a three-time Shore Conference champion, three-time district champion, two-time region champion, two-time state champion, three-time state finalist and ranked No. 3 in the nation at 120 pounds.
The Princeton University commit is 108-2 for his career and can join an exclusive list next year with another state championship, joining Central’s Mark Worthy, Jackson’s Scott Winston, Lakewood’s Damion Hahn, Long Branch’s Luke Skove, Manchester’s Jimmy Lawson, Middletown South’s Glenn Pritzlaff and Southern’s Frank Molinaro as three-time state champs from the Shore.
“I can’t wait to come back down here next year and win it again,” Peterson said.
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.