Four-time state finalist Anthony Santaniello leads Shore Conference contingent of eight NJSIAA wrestling state finalists
ATLANTIC CITY -- The time has come. There is one more match left in the incredible high school wrestling career of Brick Memorial's Anthony Santaniello. All that's left to do is write the final chapter.
Santaniello stormed into the state finals for the fourth time on Friday at Boardwalk Hall, winning by 15-0 technical fall over Lower Cape May's Chase Hansen in the quarterfinals and then by 17-2 technical fall over Southern Regional's Wyatt Stout in the semifinals. The top seed and 2021 state champion has been untouchable in four bouts with three technical falls and one first-period pin.
"I love it here, this is where Brick Memorial thrives," Santaniello said. "I haven't won it here so I need to get that done. I'm focused, but also having fun with it."
Santaniello's state title came in 2021 when the state tournament was held at Phillipsburg High School during the Covid pandemic. Once again, he's back on the center mat at Boardwalk Hall, but he's different this time. A better wrestler, sure. A wiser person, definitely.
"I just want to go out and have fun," Santaniello said. "The whole attitude coming in here is to not be too serious, to keep it light. When I'm too serious the first period is always tight for me and I'm scared to shoot, scared to create action. Now, it's if they take me down I'll just get out and take them down or get a reversal and get a turn."
Santaniello has just three career losses, two of which have come on the very mat he'll wrestle on Saturday afternoon. He doesn't dwell on that fact but has absolutely learned from those moments.
"I think it helped me learn a lesson that I'm not going to win a match if I don't take a shot," Santaniello said. "I don't think I've ever scored only one point other than in the state finals. I just have to have a different approach; don't be conservative, go out, score points, and the outcome will be good."
Santaniello's opponent will be Mount Olive's Jack Bastarrika, the No. 3 seed, who won 6-4 in sudden victory over St. Peter's Prep's Donovan Chavis. Bastarrika was sixth in the state at 106 pounds as a sophomore and reached the fourth round of wrestlebacks at 120 pounds last season.
"I've wrestled him at club a handful of times," Santaniello said. "He's a great kid, I actually went on a visit to Virginia Tech with him. I'm excited to scrap, excited to go out there and score points and put on a show for the crowd."
Ludington tops Portella, returns to 175-pound state final
Santaniello won't be the only Brick Memorial Mustang in the finals. For the fourth straight year, Brick Memorial has multiple state finalists.
Sophomore Harvey Ludington, last season's 175-pound state champion won by 8-0 major decision over Red Bank Catholic senior Sabino Portella in the semifinals to return to the championship bout. A 2-0 bout heading into the third period turned into a major when Ludington turned Portella twice for a total of six near-fall points. Ludington won by fall in his first two bouts and then by 15-0 technical fall over Paramus Catholic's Edward Terreri in the quarterfinals.
"I was super happy," Ludington said about when Portella elected to start the third period on bottom. "Anthony told me before the match to just go in and score, score, score, but that's not an easy guy to move. He's a strong man."
The 175-pound weight class, as stacked as it is, has had the feel of an inevitable collision between Ludington and Delbarton senior Simon Ruiz. Ludington was the 175-pound state champ as a freshman last season. Ruiz won the 157-pound title last year, was second at 145 as a sophomore, and third at 132 as a freshman. Ruiz, who is committed to Cornell, won the Princeton Open in November. Yes, a high school senior won a college wrestling tournament. Along the way, he defeated a former national qualifier and last season's 165-pound state champion Hunter Mays (Howell), who now wrestles for Rider.
I'm super stoked," Ludington said. "I'm the defending champion, he won last year, and now he's at my weight. I want to get that second title."
Ludington is a beast on the mat, of course, but his superpower might be his demeanor. There is no sense of nervousness surrounding him, not even on the biggest stage.
"It doesn't get to me," Ludington said. "I wanted the harder weight class. I want the best guy. This bracket is stacked and I just wanted to attack it. I love it."
Ludington has one loss this season, which came in the finals of the Beast of the East Tournament to Gage Wright of Parkersburg South (WV), 3-1. It snapped him back into focus just a few days into the season.
"It kinda showed me I wasn't as high up as I thought I was and that anybody can beat you," Ludington said.
Since then, he's ripped off 35 straight wins with 28 of those victories coming by fall. Just one of his bouts all season has been decided via decision, and that was a 10-3 victory.
Ludington vs. Ruiz. State champ vs. state champ. It's one of - if not the - marquee final of 2023.
"He's a really good kid off the mat, really humble, and on the mat, he's super technical and aggressive, which is my type of style," Ludington said of Ruiz. "He's a wrestler that will adapt to your wrestling style to beat you. And if he's going to adapt to me I'm going to have to adapt to him."
Southern Regional has two state finalists, looking for first champ since 2009
With a stalling warning already levied against him and the most important 30 seconds of his wrestling life staring him square in the face, Southern Regional junior Matt Henrich knew he had to find a way to get the job done.
Henrich, the No. 1 seed at 150 pounds, won two grueling matches on Friday, including a 2-1 tiebreaker win over Bergen Catholic's Christopher Bacchioni in the semifinals to punch his ticket to the state championship bout.
"The first 30 seconds with me on bottom I knew I had to get out and the hold him down in the next period," Henrich said. "After the stalling warning, I had to stay tough on top and keep my hips on top of him. I stayed in good position, out to the side, and the 30 seconds went by pretty quick."
In the quarterfinals, Henrich won 3-2 over Delran's Drew Roskos in a rematch of the Region 7 final won by Henrich in ultimate tiebreaker.
In the 150-pound state final, Henrich will meet St. Augustine's Brady Conlin, who is a two-time state medalist. Conlin was eighth in the state as a freshman at 113 and third in the state as a sophomore at 126. He moved to Florida and competed for Lake Highland Prep his junior year before moving back to New Jersey and enrolling at St. Augustine.
"We haven't wrestled each other in high school but we did when we were younger," Henrich said. "We went back and forth, he was always tough."
Southern hasn't had a state champion since Glenn Carson won the 215-pound title in 2009, a stat that's hard to believe for a program as successful as the Rams. Henrich would love to be the one to end that streak.
"It would mean the world."
Joining Henrich in the state finals is Southern Regional senior Riley O'Boyle, who advanced to the 215-pound state final as the No. 4 seed. The bracket was wide open from the beginning and the semifinals proved it to be true with the 4, 5, 6, and 7 seeds the last four standing in the championship bracket.
Like Henrich, O'Boyle gutted out a 2-1 win in tiebreaker, his over returning state medalist Brendan Raley of North Hunterdon, to reach the state championship bout. His quarterfinal bout was also dramatic. He pinned Mount Olive's Anthony Moscatello at the 8:25 mark of a 2-2 bout that went to the ultimate tiebreaker.
Last season, O'Boyle finished one win short of a state medal. His obvious goal was to return as a senior and get on the podium, but he also had loftier goals stashed away.
"My short-term goal was more to place, but in the back of my head I had that goal to be a state champ," O'Boyle said. "I would come here as a little kid and watch all the great wrestlers and I always wanted to be in the state final."
It will be an All-Shore final at 215 as O'Boyle faces Rumson-Fair Haven's Hudson Skove. Southern does not enter the Shore Conference Tournament so the two did not face each other this year.
Skove becomes Rumson-Fair Haven's first state finalist in program history
The Skove name is legendary in Shore Conference wrestling. Their names were etched into the history books countless times during their illustrious careers at Long Branch. Now, more history is being made by the latest Skove.
Rumson-Fair Haven junior Hudson Skove pulled off an incredible quarterfinal victory, then backed it up with a win in the semifinals to advance to the NJSIAA 215-pound state final and become the first state finalist in RFH wrestling history.
"It's great. I love my school, my dad ran the youth program, so it means a lot to do it for the school," Skove said.
In the quarterfinals, Skove was locked in a 1-1 tie with the No. 2 seed, St. Joseph (Montvale)'s Aidan Schlett. In the first tiebreaker period, Schlett took a 3-1 lead and looked to have Skove on the ropes. But in the second 30-second tiebreaker period, Skove escaped, forced a second stalling call on Schlett and received a point, and then secured the go-ahead takedown with three seconds left to win 5-3.
In the semifinals, Skove had a takedown in each period to win 7-3 over Warren Hills' Jarett Pantuso.
"It was a spectacular bout," Skove said of his quarterfinal win over Schlett. "I gave up two in the first double overtime and at that point, I knew I had to hustle so hard and I ended up getting four points to win. I'm not one to celebrate too much but I screamed twice. I was absolutely jacked up."
Skove will wrestle Southern Regional's Riley O'Boyle in the state final.
Getting to the state final is something many people might have expected when they saw his last name. His uncle Luke was a three-time state champion. His uncles Jude and Andrew won one state title each and were two-time state medalists. His other uncle, Matt, and his father, Thomas, were both state third-place finishers.
"I have a lot of respect for what my uncles and dad did," Skove said. "they were just crazy good, something insane was happening down in that basement. But on the other hand, I never really think about that going into matches. I just focus on myself."
Silva scores late takedown to reach 157-pound state final
In finishing third in the state at 157 pounds as a junior, Christian Brothers Academy's Zander Silva proved to himself that he could compete with the best in New Jersey. It also left him wanting more.
"There is always an opportunity to get better," Silva said. "I wanted the most I could get and I worked my butt off to get here."
"Here" will be the center mat at Boardwalk Hall on Saturday afternoon when Silva wrestles in the 157-pound state final.
With time winding down in the third period of the semifinals, Silva scored a takedown with 11 seconds left and held off a reversal attempt in the closing seconds to win 5-4 over Cranford's Jordan Chapman and advance to the state final.
Silva led 2-1 after the first period but Chapman escaped and took Silva down to lead 4-2 heading to the third period. Silva escaped to make it 4-3, then shoot and secured the winning takedown with less than a dozen seconds remaining.
"I knew if I kept my composure and wrestled through every position I could be victorious," Silva said. "I saw he was stepping really heavy with that foot and I just fired it off. It's senior year and I would be cheating myself if I wasn't letting it fly."
It was a hectic final 30 seconds with Silva trying to score and then trying to hold on.
"Recently I've been working on my shots and finishing cleanly and al that practice showed right there," Silva said. "I had no stalls so I just held on for dear life."
In the quarterfinals, Silva won 3-1 over Damian Weaver of Lyndhurst/North Arlington.
To win a state title, Silva will have to get through Delbarton sophomore wunderkind Alessio Perentin. Seeded fourth, Perentin has won all four of his bouts by fall with none lasting past the 2:22 mark.
"He's a great friend of mine, actually," Silva said. "We'll be friends before the match and friends after it, but it will be six minutes of straight war, and I'm excited for that."
Knox dominates at 120, Queen powers into 165-pound final
St. John Vianney has two state finalists for the second straight season with sophomore Anthony Knox at 120 and senior Jasiah Queen at 165.
Knox, last season's 113-pound state champion and one of the top pound-for-pound high school wrestlers in America, has looked as good as ever. After a technical fall victory in the quarterfinals, Knox won by 18-5 major decision over returning state champ Adrian DeJesus of DePaul. DeJesus was the 106-pound state champion last season.
Knox will take on Delbarton's Daniel Jones in the 120-pound state final, a rematch from last season's 113-pound state semifinal won by Knox, 5-1.
At 165, Queen won by fall in 5:12 over Paramus Catholic's Daniel Rella in the quarterfinals, then won 5-1 over Ryan Burton of St. Joseph (Montvale) in the semifinals. Queen, who was fifth in the state last season at 157, will meet Delbarton's Louis Cerchio in the state final. The two wrestled in the Beast of the East final with Cerchio winning by 10-1 major decision.
Shore Conference totals 26 state medalists
Just over 25 percent of the Shore Conference's 103 state qualifiers will be on the podium Saturday afternoon.
Here are the state medalists by weight for the Shore with placements to be determined:
Matthew Gould, Fr., St. John Vianney
Kurt Wehner, Jr., Donovan Catholic
Anthony Knox, So., St. John Vianney
Conor Collins, Sr., Southern
Jack Zaleski, Sr., Middletown South
Anthony Santaniello, Sr., Brick Memorial
Wyatt Stout, So., Southern
Patrick O'Keefe, So., St. John Vianney
Alex Nini, Jr., CBA
Zach Reilley, Jr., Raritan
Joe Giordano, Sr., Long Branch
Julian George, Sr., CBA
Hayden Hochstrasser, So., Southern
Matt Henrich, Jr., Southern
Tyler Barrett, Sr., CBA
Zander Silva, Sr., CBA
David Hussey, Sr., Middletown South
Jasiah Queen, Sr., St. John Vainney
Cole Velardi, Sr., Southern
Harvey Ludington, So., Brick Memorial
Sabino Portella, Sr., Red Bank Catholic
DJ Henry, Sr., Howell
Hudson Skove, Jr., Rumson-Fair Haven
Riley O'Boyle, Sr., Southern
Robert Canterino, Sr., CBA
Ryan Fischer, Sr., Jackson Memorial