MANALAPAN — A 19-year drought between district team championships came to an end for Manalapan on Saturday as the Braves crowned five champions en route to winning the NJSIAA District 21 Tournament for the first time since 1997.

Manalapan out-pointed district rival Colts Neck, 216.5 to 181.5, to claim the team championship and will advance 11 of its 14 wrestlers to the the NJSIAA Region VI Tournament. Matt Mustillo at 145, Ronny Ghaida at 152, Jake Staklinski at 170, Paul Santomarco at 106 and Kareem Ghaida at 120 each emerged from the field as individual champions.

Manalapan District 21 champs
Manalapan had five individual champions and 11 medal winners to win its first District 21 team title since 1997.

“One of the things we discussed was getting the team back up on the wall,” said Manalapan head coach Scott Pressman. “It’s been too long. Manalapan wrestling has a great history and the town deserves it. There’s a lot of people that put a lot into it.”

Kareem Ghaida’s comeback win over Bordentown’s Billy Moore was the highlight of the championship bouts as the sophomore rallied from a 5-0 deficit to pin Moore in sudden victory overtime. Ghaida scored two takedowns in the third period to tied the score at six and force overtime. In the one-minute sudden victory period, Ghaida countered a shot by Moore and threw him to his back where he finished off his first district title with a pin in 6:49.

“After the tying takedown, once I stepped back into the line I got a burst of energy and I knew he was dead tired,” Ghaida said. “He got in on a double and once I had the double under-hooks I knew what to go for.”


Ghaida lost to Moore during the regular season, 8-4, and was hoping for a rematch in the district tournament.

“I knew if I wrestled him again I would beat him,” Ghaida said. “By wrestling him the first time I knew exactly what I had to do. The first time he got in on like 10 shots and I wasn’t covering my legs. I dropped to a knee and I shut down his whole offense.” "

It sounds cliche but it doesn’t surprise me,” Pressman said. “During the match he was up against it, but he was scrappy, that that’s him. He has a style where he just goes for it. It’s very fitting, not only getting the win in OT, but the way he finished the match off. He deserved it.”

Mustillo won by fall in 3:33 over Colts Neck’s Ben Sammarco at 145 and Ronny Ghaida held off Brick Memorial’s Chris Richardson, 8-6 at 152, to win his second district championship. Ghaida took a 4-0 lead with a takedown and two near-fall points in the first period, but a reversal by Richardson toward the end of the first cut it to 4-2. Richardson then scored another reversal in the second period to tie the bout at four. Ghaida chose neutral to start the third period and sealed the win with a pair of takedowns.

At 170 it was Staklinski winning by fall in 2:44 over Colts Neck freshman Kenny Koenig to all but lock up the team title. Santomarco’s 8-0 major decision over Burlington Township’s Craig Cook gave Manalapan its fourth individual champ.

Colts Neck had three champions with senior Steven Kramer winning 3-2 over Point Boro’s Spencer Robinson at 138, sophomore Michael Jannucci defeating Manalapan’s Justin Obermeyer 9-2 at 182 and junior Joey King winning by major decision over Point Boro’s Ben Sabo at 113.

Six weeks ago it was doubtful Jannucci would even be able to compete in the individual postseason. He suffered a broken left hand in a match with Freehold on Jan. 7, and was initially told he would be out until March.

“When it first happened my doctor told me there was a high chance I wouldn’t be able to wrestle for the rest of the season,” Jannucci said. “They said it wouldn’t be fully healed until March and I said I can’t do that. I need to come back. This is my sport.”

Jannucci was placed in a hard cast which he wrapped in foam to practice. The fact that he was still able to work out with the team actually helped doctors notice he was healing quicker than expected.

“Since I was practicing with it on it was getting really sweaty and gross, so I must have had like four casts during the process,” Jannucci said. “Every time they would cut one off and put an new one on they could go back and x-ray it, and they saw it was healing faster than it was supposed to.”

Jannucci came back a week later wrestling with the hard cast wrapped in foam and officially had the cast removed on Feb. 3. He won by fall in his first two bouts Saturday before the decision over Obermeyer to win his first district title. He is now 19-4 on the season.

“I’m ecstatic,” he said. “It feels great.”

Brick Memorial had two champions as seniors Gianni Ghione and Nick Rivera cruised to titles at 132 and heavyweight, respectively. Ghione won by fall in all three of his bouts, pinning Manalapan’s Alex Baran in 4:19 in the final, for his third district crown. He was selected as the District 21 Outstanding Wrestler. Ghione is ranked No. 1 in New Jersey at 132 pounds.

Brick Memorial senior Gianni Ghione won his third district title and was selected as District 21 Outstanding Wrestler.
Brick Memorial senior Gianni Ghione won his third district title and was selected as District 21 Outstanding Wrestler.


Rivera needed to win just two bouts to become a four-time district champion and recorded pins in both. He needed just 59 seconds to win by fall over Colts Neck’s Vinnie Gargiulo in the final. Rivera, a two-time Region VI champion and a state finalist in 2015, is the sixth four-time district champion in Brick Memorial history.

Point Boro sophomore Billy Borowsky won the 195-pound title with a pin over Colts Neck’s A.J. Royle in 2:40. Also, Point Boro head coach Pat Brady was selected as the District 21 Coach of the Year and Point Boro assistant Brian Grainer was selected as District 21 Assistant Coach of the Year.

Point Boro head coach Pat Brady (left) and assistant Brian Grainer were selected as District 21 Coaches of the Year.
Point Boro head coach Pat Brady (left) and assistant Brian Grainer were selected as District 21 Coaches of the Year.

Point Boro finished 16-6 and won the Class B South division title.

“It’s about the kids and what they accomplished during the year; this is a team award,” Brady said. “We lost 24 people from the end of last year’s roster, so to come back and have the season they did is pretty impressive.”


Teams Standings

1. Manalapan 216.5

2. Colts Neck 181.5

3. Point Boro 135.5

4. Bordentown 103.5

4. Brick Memorial 103.4

6. Burlington Township 99

7. Trenton 46

8. New Egypt 16

9. Burlington City 11


138: 3-Steven Kramer (Colts Neck) d. 4-Spencer Robinson (Point Boro) 3-2

145: 1-Matt Mustillo (Manalapan) p. 2-Ben Sammarco (Colts Neck) 3:33

152: 1-Ronny Ghaida (Manalapan) d. 2-Chris Richardson (Brick Memorial) 8-6

160: 1-Christian Hannigan (Burlington Twp.) p. 6-Joe Levach (Bordentown) 0:44

170: 1-Jake Staklinski (Manalapan) p. 6-Kenny Koenig (Colts Neck) 2:44

182: 2-Michael Jannucci (Colts Neck) d. 1-Justin Obermeyer (Manalapan) 9-2

195: 1-Billy Borowsky (Point Boro) p. 2-A.J. Royle (Colts Neck) 2:40

220: 2-Jajuan Hayes (Bordentown) p. 1-Eric Saunders (Burlington Twp) 0:36

HWT: 1-Nick Rivera (Brick Memorial) vs. 3-Vinnie Gargiulo (Colts Neck) 0:59

106: 2-Paul Santomarco (Manalapan) md. 1-Craig Cook (Burlington Township) 8-0

113: Joey King (Colts Neck) md. 2-Ben Sabo (Point Boro) 13-0

120: 2-Kareem Ghiada (Manalapan) p. 1-Billy Moore (Bordentown) 6:49

126: 1-Herbert Edwards (Trenton) vs. 2-Verslensky Joachim (Bordentown) 9-2

132: 1-Gianni Ghione (Brick Memorial) p. 3-Alex Baran (Manalapan) 4:19

Third Place

106: 4-Joe Rotundo (Brick Memorial) md. 6-James Latendorf (Point Boro) 14-2

113: 3-A.J. Sortino (Manalapan) d. 5-Michael Richardson (Brick Memorial) 4-2

120: 3-Alexander LoPrinzi (Burlington Twp.) d. 5-Tyler Tweedie (Point Boro) 7-5

126: 3-Dyon Womack (Colts Neck) d. 4-Ty Bailey (Point Boro) 10-5

132: 2-Matthew Potash (Bordentown) d. 4-Anthony Lombardo (Colts Neck) 5-0

138: 2-Anthony Coposky (Manalapan) d. 1-Kyle Leinheiser (Burlington Twp.) 10-4

145: 4-John McTaggert (Point Boro) md. 3-Michael Limone (Burlington Twp.) 18-7

152: 4-Dominick Esposito (Colts Neck) p. 3-Brandon Felkins (Burlington Township) 1:45

160: 4-Matt Benedetti (Manalapan) md. 7-Jared Marshall (Point Boro) 10-2

170: 2-Isaiah Wesley (Burlington City) d. 5-Brian Shawsam (Trenton) 11-6

182: 3-Dylan Ippolito (Point Boro) d. 5-Ron Hopping (Brick Memorial) 5-2

195: 4-Ryan Brazil (Bordentown) d. 6-Naze Washington (Trenton) 2-1

220: 6-Anthony Jomo (Manalapan) d. 6-Rayshawn Austell (Trenton) 8-3

HWT: 2-Anthony Bonavito (Point Boro) d. 4-Richie Peters (Manalapan) 3-1


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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