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Since the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association expanded wrestling to five groups, a Shore Conference team has won the title every time. Each season, that winner has also finished as the No. 1 team in the Shore, and 2020 was no different.

Once again, Southern Regional rose to the top in the postseason to claim another state championship and finish the 2019-2020 season as the top wrestling squad at the Jersey Shore. The Rams didn’t win their division as Toms River North repeated as Class A South champion, but Southern got its revenge in the state tournament to avenge its only defeat en route to the Group 5 title.

Class A South was again the deepest division in the Shore with four teams ranked in the Top 10, including three in the top five. Class A North was right behind with three ranked teams while Class A Central, Class B North and Class B South had one ranked team each.

 

FINAL SHORE SPORTS NETWORK WRESTLING TOP 10 

Photo by Richard O'Donnell. Artwork by Steve Meyer/Townsquare Media NJ.

 

1. Southern (20-1)

The Rams captured the NJSIAA Group 5 state championship to repeat as state champs, claim the program’s fourth state title and finish as the No. 1 team in the Shore Conference for the second straight season.

Along the way, Southern earned wins over seven teams that finished the season ranked in the NJ.com Top 20. The Rams also avenged their only loss, a 28-26 setback to Class A South rival Toms River North, by defeating the Mariners, 35-26, in the South Jersey Group 5 semifinals. Southern then knocked off Howell, 36-30, in a matchup of the top two teams in the Shore to win the program’s 14th sectional title. Southern crushed Passaic Tech (63-6) in the Group 5 semifinals before a 38-24 win over Manalapan in the state championship match. Southern then captured the District 29 team title, its 21st district title in program history and 10th in a row.

Southern had a Shore Conference-high eight state qualifiers and finished with three all-state wrestlers. Senior JT Cornelius finished second at heavyweight, senior Robert Woodcock placed third at 160 pounds and junior Eddie Hummel took third at 138 pounds. Additionally, freshman Conor Collins, senior Jayson Scerbo and Woodcock were Region 8 champions while Collins, Scerbo, junior Matt Brielmeier, Hummel, Woodcock, senior Ben LoParo and junior Stephen Jennings won District 29 titles.

Southern loses several standouts to graduation, including Woodcock and Cornelius and state qualifiers Scerbo and LoParo but will return a very strong core with Hummel, Brielmeier, Jennings, Collins and freshman Cole Velardi leading the way.

 

2. Howell (24-2) 

It was a challenging season for the Rebels but one that still included plenty of high points for one of the top teams in New Jersey. Howell repeated as Shore Conference Tournament team champion and captured the Class A North division title for the 15th consecutive year. Howell’s two losses came to Group 5 champion Southern and Non-Public A champion Delbarton, which finished as the No. 1 team in the state. The Rebels reached the South Jersey Group 5 sectional final where they lost to Southern. They also placed 12th at the prestigious Powerade Tournament. Howell finished second to Camden Catholic at the District 25 Tournament. The Rebels’ top victories came over Toms River North, High Point, Jackson Memorial, Long Branch, South Plainfield and Manalapan.

Howell had five state qualifiers and two state medalists with senior Shane Reitsma finishing as the state runner-up at 170 pounds and senior Justin Wright placing sixth at heavyweight. Reitsma was also a Region 7 champion where he claimed his third region title. Bradshaw, Malone, Reitsma and Wright won District 25 titles.

Reitsma, an all-time great in Howell wrestling history, along with Wright and 106-pounder Ethan Liptzin will graduate but the Rebels return plenty of talent next season with juniors Nieko Malone, Paul Jakub, Kyle Nase and Hunter Lino and freshmen Colin Bradshaw and Isaiah Fenton leading the charge.

 

3. Toms River North (19-5) 

Toms River North had a very good season that was, at the same time, disappointing in a few regards. A senior-laden Mariners squad had its sight set on winning the program’s first state group title but was defeated by division rival Southern in the South Jersey Group 5 semifinals. Toms River North posted wins over South Plainfield, Phillipsburg, Group 1 champion Paulsboro, Group 3 finalist West Essex, Central Jersey Group 4 champion Brick Memorial and Group 5 champion Southern during the regular season. The regular-season win over Southern gave Toms River North its second straight Class A South division title. The Mariners also finished second at the Shore Conference Tournament and second to Paulsboro at the District 26 Tournament.

The individual postseason saw senior Nick Boggiano cap a great career by winning the 152-pound NJSIAA title, becoming the fourth wrestler in program history to win a state championship. Senior Ryan Rosenthal finished sixth in the state at 113 pounds while senior Mike Nakano (220) and junior John O’Donnell (285) both reached the third round of wrestlebacks. Rosenthal and O’Donnell won Region 7 titles while Rosenthal, Boggiano and O’Donnell were champions at District 26.

The Mariners will lose nine starters to graduation. O’Donnell leads the group of returners along with sophomore Jake Rosenthal and junior Alex Danelson.

 

4. Brick Memorial (17-4)

The Mustangs returned to championship form by winning the Central Jersey Group 4 title and claiming the District 27 team title. The sectional crown was Brick Memorial’s 16th all-time and first since 2015. The district title was the program’s 30th and also the first since 2015. Brick Memorial had a pair of wins over both Jackson Memorial and Colts Neck and also defeated South Jersey Group 3 champion Delsea. Brick Memorial’s losses came to Toms River North, Group 4 finalist Kingsway (twice) and Group 5 champion Southern.

The Mustangs shined in the individual postseason, which culminated with three state runners-up and four total state medalist in Atlantic City. Freshman Anthony Santaniello (106) and juniors Vincent Santaniello (120) and David Szuba (195) each finished second in the state while senior Joe Colon placed fourth at 182 pounds. Senior Michael Richardson (126) and sophomore Ryan Smith (132) were also state qualifiers. The Santaniello brothers and Richardson also won Region 7 titles. Anthony Santaniello, sophomore Braden Scott (113), Vincent Santaniello, Richardson, Smith, Colon and Szuba won district titles.

Although big losses, Richardson and Colon are the only two starters the Mustangs will lose to graduation. The Santaniello brothers, Scott, juniors Victor DiPianta (138), JT Henderson (160), Ruben Lizardi (170) and Szuba lead the group of returners for next season.

 

5. Manalapan (26-4)

Manalapan won its first sectional title since 1992 when it defeated Hunterdon Central to claim the Central Jersey Group 5 championship. The Braves then reached the Group 5 state final where they were defeated by top-ranked Southern Regional. Manalapan finished second behind Howell in Class A North and was second in District 20 behind Group 4 champion North Hunterdon. Manalapan had wins over Long Branch, Colts Neck, Wall, Delaware Valley, Middletown South and Watchung Hills, as well.

Senior Matt Benedetti finished fourth at 160 pounds at the NJSIAA Championships to become a two-time state medalist. Junior Gavin Claro reached the fourth round of wrestlebacks at 195 pounds and seniors Hunter Konstantoulas (145) and Justin Schifter (113) were also state qualifiers. Schifter, Benedetti and Claro were also district champions.

Benedetti, who finished as Manalapan’s all-time wins leader, is one of six starters the Braves will lose to graduation. A good nucleus returns with Claro, juniors Chris Balzano (120), Calvin Burke (126), Jason Porcaro (138), James Grande (152) and George Zavalnik (220) and freshmen Anthony Vitola (106) and Vincent DePierro (132).

 

6. Middletown North (25-2)

The Class B North champion Lions advanced to the North 2, Group 4 semifinals where they were defeated by Phillipsburg. Middletown North was also the team runner-up behind Colts Neck at the District 22 Tournament. The Lions’ top victories were over Central Jersey Group 3 champion Ocean and CJ-3 finalist Wall, Point Boro, Middletown South, Raritan and Colts Neck.

At the NJSIAA Championships, senior Tyler Klinsky won the 113-pound state title to become Middletown North’s first state champion since 1974 and also finished as the Shore’s all-time wins leader with 169. Senior Fred Luchs finished eighth in the state at 120 pounds, senior Thomas O’Keefe finished top 12 at 126 pounds and senior Chris McCarthy was also a state qualifier. Klinsky became the seventh Shore Conference wrestler to win four region titles when he won at Region 6. Luchs also won a Region 6 title. Klinsky, O’Keefe, senior Eddie Farrell (162) and junior Nico Cerbo (220) won district titles.

The Lions will lose the incomparable trio of Klinsky, Luchs and O’Keefe to graduation along with McCarthy, Farrell and 22-match winner Gabe Lubrano (182). Cerbo (39-7) leads the cast of returners along with juniors Jack Butler, Lucas Santos and Jake Jankowski and freshmen Colin Oden and Jack Lopez.

 

7. Jackson Memorial (12-9) 

The Jaguars were Central Jersey Group 4 finalists and won the District 28 team title to highlight and up and down season against a grueling schedule that featured seven teams that finished ranked in the state top 20. The Jaguars’ top wins came against Monroe, Colts Neck and Long Branch.

Senior Kyle Epperly won his second state medal by placing fifth in the state at 195 pounds. Seniors Brad Galassi (285) and Hunter Smith (170) and junior Luke Temple (120) were also state qualifiers. Junior Nick White (138), sophomore Mike Rauch (152), Epperly and Galassi won district titles.

Epperly, Galassi, Smith, Lance Hobbs (126), Dylan Fischer (182). Mike Fiore (195/220) and Antonio Farias (285) are the starters who will graduate. Juniors Brett Blaess (106), Rob Lagravenis (160) and White, sophomores Rauch George Ebid and freshmen Lucas Lipari (113) and Luke Hamann (145) are the starters who will return.

 

8. Rumson-Fair Haven (15-4) 

It was a banner season for the Bulldogs, who reached a sectional final for the first time in program history and had three all-state wrestlers for the first time in program history. Rumson also won the Class A Central title for its first division title since 2003. Rumson had a final-bout win over Point Boro to reach the Central Jersey Group 2 final where it was defeated by South Plainfield. Rumson was also second to Hunterdon Central at the District 18 Tournament. Rumson’s dual-meet season was highlighted by wins over Lacey, Colts Neck, Raritan and Point Boro.

At the NJSIAA Championships, junior Jack Kelly placed fifth at 170 pounds, sophomore Shay Addison placed fifth at 160 pounds and junior Max Brignola finished eighth at 145 pounds. Junior Tyler Brignola and sophomore Aidan Shaughnessy were also state qualifiers. Shaughnessy and Addison won Region 5 titles and in District 18, Shaughnessy, Max Brignola, Kelly and senior Liam Horan placed first.

Rumson graduates just four starters: Horan, Mike Ponenti, Tristian Izzo and James Greeley. With all five of their state qualifiers returning next year the Bulldogs will look to continue their ascent.

 

9. Long Branch (18-4)

The Green Wave won the District 23 team title, reached the Central Jersey Group 4 semifinals, finished tied for second in Class A North and had two all-state wrestlers. Wins over Raritan, Middletown South, Point Beach and Hightstown highlighted their dual-meet season.

Senior Ryan Zimmerman finished fourth in the state at 138 pounds to earn his first state medal and senior Patrick O’Dwyer made an unlikely run at 195 pounds to finish eighth in the state as the No. 19 seed. Seniors Ryan Carey (152) and Tracey Taylor (220) were also state qualifiers. Zimmerman won his second Region 6 title, as well, while he, O’Dwyer and Taylor won district titles to lead Long Branch to the team championship.

A total of six starters will exit the program via graduation. Juniors Joseph Conlon (126), Jack Friedman (170) and Andrew Conklin (182) and sophomore Angel Bonnano (132) are among the returners for next season.

 

10. Point Boro (14-4) 

The Panthers won their fourth straight Class B South title for the program’s 29th division championship. Point Boro also reached the Central Jersey Group 2 semifinals and placed third at District 23. Along the way, the Panthers defeated Central Jersey Group 3 champion Ocean, Lacey and Hightstown to highlight the dual-meet season.

Sophomore Lucas Torre (106) was Point Boro’s lone state qualifier. Senior James Latendorf (120), junior Jack Bailey (152) and senior Ty Bailey (160) each won District 23 titles.

James Latendorf and Ty Bailey are the only senior starters who will graduate so the Panthers will enter the 2021 season with an experienced roster.

Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at bob.badders@townsquaremedia.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.