Final SSN Wrestling Top 10
Going wire to wire as the No. 1 team in the Shore Conference isn’t easy, but that’s exactly what Howell did in completing an all-time season to finish as the top team in the land.
The Rebels are the Shore Sports Network Team of the Year as the top-ranked team in the final SSN Top 10 of the 2017-2018 season. From the season-opening John and Betty Vogeding Tournament in Paulsboro through the postseason Howell was dominant in winning multiple titles. Big things were expected from the Rebels’ deep and talented lineup and they did not disappoint, finishing as the top public school in New Jersey in both the NJWWA Top 20 and the NJ.com Top 20.
While Howell finishing No. 1 and usual suspects like Southern, Raritan and Long Branch finishing among the top five were not unexpected, the season was not without its surprises.
St. John Vianney turned in a banner season with its first division and conference titles while also having a state finalist for the first time in program history and three state place-winners.
Point Boro put together arguably the best season in program history with its first sectional title in 11 years while also winning division and district championships.
Toms River North made waves in Class A South and also won its first district championship since 1971.
Without further ado, here is the final Shore Sports Network Wrestling Top 10 for the 2017-2018 season.
1. Howell (32-0)
The Rebels captured their second straight NJSIAA Group V championship and finished undefeated for the first time in program history to highlight an all-time season. The season began with a dominating victory at Paulsboro’s John and Betty Vogeding Tournament and continued through the state tournament in Atlantic City where they had three state place-winners among a Shore Conference-high nine state qualifiers. Howell won the Class A North division title for the 13th straight season, finished second in the team standings at the Shore Conference Tournament, won their third straight sectional title and then won the Group 5 title for the second year in a row. Among the Rebels’ regular-season victories were a 53-14 win over Kittatinny and a 41-14 win over Group III champion South Plainfield
In the individual postseason, Howell won the District 22 team title for its third straight district championship. At the Region 6 Tournament Darby Diedrich and Christian Murphy won individual titles and the Rebels sent nine wrestlers to the state tournament. At Boardwalk Hall, Kyle Slendorn finished second at 132 pounds, sophomore Shane Reitsma took sixth at 170 and senior Jerry Lleshi made a great run to place eighth at 113 pounds. Howell graduates several standout seniors but will return eight starters in 2018-2019 as it looks to continue its run as one of the top teams in New Jersey.
2. Southern (19-3)
The Rams reached the Group V state final to highlight another successful season for one of the Shore’s most consistent programs. Southern claimed its 10th Class A South division title and fourth in the last five seasons, won the South Jersey Group V championship for its 12th sectional title and 11th in the last 14 seasons and won the District 29 championship for its eighth straight district team title. The Rams sent 12 of their wrestlers to the Region 8 Tournament where Matt Barnett, Nick O’Connell and John Stout won region titles and eight wrestlers overall qualified for the state tournament. Southern will bring back nine starters next season and should once again be in the mix for several championships.
3. St John Vianney (14-2)
The Lancers broke through in a major way this season by claiming the program’s first division, conference tournament and district titles while also putting together a record performance in Atlantic City. Their second-place finish at the star-studded Sam Cali Invitational followed by a 31-29 win over Raritan opened eyes around New Jersey, and the dual-meet win over the Rockets cleared the way for SJV to win the Class A Central division title for the first time in program history. Then, at the inaugural Shore Conference Individual Championships, the Lancers out-pointed Howell for the team title with Dean Peterson, Nick Caracappa, Steven Giannios and Paul Liseno winning SCT titles.
The Lancers’ quest for a sectional title came to an end via a 37-31 loss to St. Augustine in the Non-Public South A semifinals, but they rebounded to win the District 19 team title with five champions and 10 region qualifiers. Caracappa won a Region 5 title while Peterson, Giannios and Tyler Pepe also qualified for the state tournament. In Atlantic City, Peterson finished second at 106 pounds to become the Lancers’ highest state place-winner in program history while Caracappa took third at 170 and Giannios placed fourth at 220. Prior to this season, St. John Vianney had just two state medalists, both of whom finished eighth. The Lancers lose an important senior class of Caracappa, Giannios, Josiah Walker and Charles Peterson, but will return eight starters next season and should remain a championship contender.
4. Raritan (27-3)
The Rockets overcame nemesis Delaware Valley to win their first state sectional title since 2012 and advanced to the NJSIAA Group II final before falling to High Point, 30-25. After beating the Terriers, 50-9, in the semifinals and rocking Holmdel, 56-12, to win the Central Jersey Group II title, Raritan overcame Hanover Park, 34-32, in a thrilling Group II semifinal match. At the Shore Conference Tournament, the Rockets finished fourth and had four top-three finishers. Their top regular-season wins came over Cherokee, Kingsway, North Hunterdon, Long Branch, Middletown North and Toms River North.
The District 20 Tournament saw Raritan win the team title for the second straight season. Robert Taddeo, Russell Benson, A.J. Erven, Christian Sookdeo, Anthony Aquilano and Ethan Wolf won district titles and 12 Rockets overall reached the Region 5 Tournament. Benson and Wolf won region titles while Erven, Aquilano, George Burdick and Justin Acevedo finished in the top four to reach the state tournament. Acevedo was the No. 10 seed at 195 pounds and defeated the No. 7, No. 2 and No. 3 seeds to reach the region final. The Rockets will lose seven starters to graduation but should remain contenders at the division, section and district levels.
5. Long Branch (23-4)
Long Branch won the Central Jersey Group IV title for its sixth sectional title and first since 2013 while also winning division and district titles to highlight its season. The Green Wave defeated Brick Memorial, 30-29 on criteria, to win the state sectional title and then defeated Highland, 49-21, to reach the Group IV final. They were defeated by Phillipsburg, 35-21, in the Group IV final. Along the way, Long Branch won the Class B North division title by defeated Middletown North, 31-28, and Ocean, 36-23. At the Shore Conference Tournament, the Wave finished third as a team with senior Pete Wersinger winning the 195-pound title.
Long Branch won the District 23 team title with four champions – Chris Dean, Ryan Carey, Dan Santos-Silva and Wersinger – and advanced nine wrestlers to the Region 6 Tournament. Wersinger and junior Kevin Cerruti (285) each won region titles to give Long Branch multiple region champs for the first time since 2010. Sophomore Ryan Zimmerman was second at 113 and also advanced to the state tournament. In Atlantic City, Cerruti placed seventh and Wersinger was eighth to give Long Branch multiple state medalists for the first time since 2010. Eight starters will return next season as Long Branch looks to remain in contention for division, conference, section and district titles.
6. Point Boro (19-2)
The Panthers turned in arguably the best season in program history by capturing division, section and district championships while sending a program-record six wrestlers to the state tournament. The Panthers won their second sectional title in program history and first since 2007 by defeating Haddonfield, 34-22, in the South Jersey Group II final. They were defeated by eventual Group II champion High Point, 37-23, in the group semifinals. Point Boro also claimed the Class B South division title for the second straight year and 12th time overall.
At the District 21 Tournament, the Panthers secured the team title for their first district championship since 1991. Ben Sabo, Spencer Robinson, Francis Marshall and Anthony Bonavito each won district titles to lead a group of 10 wrestlers to the Region 6 Tournament. Marshall won the 152-pound title at Region 6 and a total of six wrestlers advanced to the state tournament. Point Boro graduates seven starters but has several solid underclassmen returning next season.
7. Middletown North (17-7)
The story of the 2017-2018 season for the Lions was a series of near-misses, but they still turned in a very good season. Middletown North was second in Class B North, sixth at the Shore Conference Tournament, second in District 17 and the runner-up in the North 2, Group IV sectional tournament. The Lions took eight bouts from Phillipsburg in the sectional final but ended up on the wrong side of a 32-30 match. They also had close losses to Long Branch, Hunterdon Central, Seton Hall Prep and Raritan.
Tyler Klinsky, Stanley Wojdylak, Nicko Cofone and Jacob Anderson each won district titles and 10 Lions wrestlers advanced to the Region 5 Tournament. Klinsky, Wojdylak and Cofone each won region titles to give Middletown North three region champs for the first time in program history and mark the program’s first time with multiple region champions since 1974. Cofone finished fourth in the state at 182 pounds while also setting the Shore Conference single-season wins record with 45. Klinsky, Wojdylak and Anderson also made deep runs in Atlantic City. The Lions lose some impact seniors but return nine starters next season.
8. Brick Memorial (19-3)
At the start of the season it looked to be a rebuilding year for Brick Memorial, but the Mustangs came together as the season progressed to end on a string of high notes. The Mustangs were third in Class A South behind Southern and Jackson Memorial and finished 10th at the Shore Conference Tournament, but caught fire once the postseason began. They avenged a loss to Jackson with a 39-28 win over the Jaguars in the Central Jersey Group IV semifinals and nearly stunned Long Branch in the sectional final before losing, 30-29, on criteria.
The Mustangs then finished second at the District 21 Tournament with Vincent Santaniello, Ean Mueller and Sam Williams winning titles and four more wrestlers reaching the Region 6 Tournament. Mueller put together a tremendous tournament to win the Region 6 title at 170 pounds while Santaniello (106) and Williams (195) took second and freshman David Szuba took fourth at 160 as the No. 10 seed to advance to the state tournament. Santaniello navigated a brutal 106-pound weight class to finish eighth in the state. The Mustangs lose eight starters to graduation but will return most of their top wrestlers next season.
9. Toms River North (18-7)
The Mariners showed glimpses of what the future may hold by turning in a solid season that included wins over Monroe, Jackson Memorial and Colts Neck. The feather in the Mariners’ cap, however, was winning the District 28 team title for their first district championship since 1971. The Mariners also wrestled strong in losses to Group II champion High Point (31-22) and Group III finalist Delsea (40-35). Ryan Rosenthal, Nick Reilly, Nick Boggiano and Juan Nakano each won district titles to lead the way to the team title, while four more TRN wrestlers qualified for the Region 7 Tournament. Boggiano was third at 138 and Nakano was fourth at 170 to qualify for the state tournament. The Mariners return a whopping 11 starters next season so the potential is there for them to make a big jump in 2018-2019.
10. Colts Neck (16-7)
Colts Neck, Manalapan and Ocean were in the mix at No. 10. Manalapan had a win over Ocean, but the Cougars get the final spot in the rankings thanks to their 33-25 win over Manalapan during the regular season. Colts Neck was second to Howell in Class A North and third at District 21 behind Point Boro and Brick Memorial. Senior Joey King and junior Michael Jannucci each won district titles as six Colts Neck wrestlers reached the Region 6 Tournament. King finished second while senior Dyon Womack took third to reach the state tournament. King had a memorable run to a fifth-place finish at 120 pounds in the state tournament by defeating longtime nemesis Richie Koehler in overtime. King and Womack are among the six starters the Cougars will lose to graduation while Jannucci, Joseph Barsky and Kenny Koenig lead the cast of returners.
Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at email@example.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.