Freehold Township’s Christian Mangini surprises, Wall’s Rob Kanniard and Freehold’s Nico Messina make history at District 21
WALL TOWNSHIP – The end of the line was staring Christian Mangini in the face, and as the No. 5 seed in his bracket, the odds weren’t great his career would extend beyond Saturday.
“I had to go all in,” Mangini said. “This is my final time being here and everything was on the table. I had to take it.”
The Freehold Township senior did more than just extend his career, he won the NJSIAA District 21 title at 138 pounds on Saturday at Wall High School. Mangini defeated fourth-seeded Cameron Rafalko of Raritan in the quarterfinals, upset top-seeded Ethan Dzenis of Manasquan in the semifinals and scored late to top Northern Burlington’s Thomas Breslin in the championship bout to win his first district title.
“This is great, the best feeling in the world,” Mangini said. “I always wanted to win districts and I did it today.”
Mangini beat Rafalko, 6-4, in the quarterfinals to set up a rematch with Dzenis in the semifinals. Dzenis, who was looking to become Manasquan’s first district champion in 14 years, defeated Mangini, 3-1, when their teams wrestled on Dec. 22.
“I knew he was the No. 1 seed but we had a very close match in the past so I knew I had a chance,” Mangini said.
Mangini defeated Dzenis, 7-5, in a back-and-forth bout to officially lock up a trip to the Region 6 Tournament. Now he had to square off against a wrestler making an impressive run of his own. Breslin had defeated the No. 3 seed, Wall’s Nicholas Zamaloff, and the No. 2 seed, Freehold’s Michael Gagliardo, to reach the final as the No. 6 seed.
“Beating the Raritan kid and then beating Dzenis who was the No. 1 seed, I felt unstoppable,” Mangini said. “I just had to go out and do my job.”
With the bout tied at one late in the third period, Mangini came out on the winning end of a scramble to secure the go-ahead takedown with 17 seconds left. He rode out Breslin the rest of the way to win 3-1 and claim the 138-pound championship.
“I just had to make moves and, I don’t know, I came out on top,” Mangini said. “It’s just one of those things you train for.”
Although it was an anticlimactic conclusion, Wall senior Rob Kanniard won his fourth district title to become the third Crimson Knight to accomplish such a feat. Kanniard won by fall in the quarterfinals and by 19-3 technical fall in the semifinals before accepting a medical forfeit by Raritan’s Anthony Aquilano in the final. Aquilano injured his shoulder during a win in the quarterfinals before gutting out a close win in the semifinals.
“It’s really annoying; I wanted to go out and perform for a crowd and for the last time in my home gym at Wall, but I know where they’re coming from,” Kanniard said. “I can’t force them to wrestle and if they’re hurt I can’t blame them. It’s individual at this point and they’re also looking at bigger stuff.”
Kanniard joined Brett Donner and Blaine Wosczcak as four-time district champions for Wall and also moved within striking distance of the Shore Conference’s all-time wins record. His three victories on Saturday gave him a 157-10 career record. Raritan’s Dan Seidenberg and Howell’s Kyle Slendorn are tied for the most wins in conference history with 158. Kanniard can tie the record on Friday during the Region 6 quarterfinals and break the record on Saturday in the semifinals.
District titles and wins records are nice, but Kanniard has eyes on a singular goal: state champion. The Rutgers recruit is 38-0 this season and 83-1 over the past two seasons. The lone loss came in last season’s 160-pound state final.
“Every day since sixth grade I’ve been dreaming of winning state titles,” Kanniard said. “Being undefeated and losing in the final was heartbreaking considering that’s been my goal for so long. But when I lost I think it just motivated me and was fuel for my fire. I lost for a reason, it was on me, and I just have to be better, have to train harder and get after it this year.”
“That night I went home dreaming: 2019 state champ.”
Freehold’s Nico Messina also entered his school’s record book by winning his third district championship. The junior won by 11-3 major decision over Freehold Township’s Justin Schifter to complete a dominant run to the 120-pound title. He won by fall in 35 seconds in the quarterfinals and by fall in 20 seconds in the semifinals. Messina is just the second Freehold wrestler to win three district titles, joining Carlos Fontanez, who accomplished the feat from 1962-1964.
Raritan won the team title with 176 points to out-point Wall (148.5) and Northern Burlington (147.5). It is the Rockets’ second straight district team title and ninth overall. The Green Machine had only one champion but had six total finalists and advanced eight wrestlers to the Region 6 Tournament.
Junior Mike Lonnay won the 126-pound bracket out of the No. 2 seed, defeating Wall’s Jacob Glantzman, 9-3, in the championship bout. Glantzman was the No. 4 seed and upended Freehold Township’s Avery Clarke in the semifinals.
The Rockets’ strength in the upper weights was on display as they had finalists at 160, 170, 182, 195 and 285. Aquilano’s injury forced him to forfeit to Kanniard at 160. George Burdick lost by fall to Northern Burlington’s Anthony Giampietro in a wild bout at 170. The two had each other on their backs multiple times and at one point a fall was called for Burdick but quickly rescinded. The officials ruled Burdick’s knees were out of bounds.
Anthony Bailey fell to Wall’s Jake Whitworth, 10-3, in the 182-pound final before Justin Acevedo fell to Northern Burlington’s Tommy Hill, 3-2, at 195. Hill remained undefeated and also secured his 100th career win. At heavyweight, Matt Spirko was edged by Ewing’s Christopher Seifert, 3-2.
Vin Mangano (145) and James Ecklyn (152) each finished third to advance to the Region 6 Tournament.
Wall had a tournament-high four champions. Joining Kanniard and Whitworth were juniors Nico Vargas and Cole Meyer. Vargas defeated Freehold’s Tony Dushku, 3-2, to win the 145-pound title and Meyer repeated as district champ when Northern Burlington’s Garrett Totten medically forfeited in the championship bout.
Team Standings (top five)
Northern Burlington, 147.5
Freehold Township, 117
Most Outstanding Wrestler: Anthony Giampietro, Northern Burlington
Coach of the Year: Chris Lynne, Lawrence
Assistant Coach Year of the Year: Jim Becker, Nottingham
113: 1-Travis Kotelnicki (Northern Burlington) tf. 2-Tyler Ferris (Wall), 4:00 (15-0)
120: 1-Nico Messina (Freehold) md. 2-Justin Schifter (Freehold Township) 11-3
126: 2-Mike Lonnay (Raritan) d. 4-Jacob Glantzman (Wall), 9-3
132: 1-Reece Schenck (Lawrence) d. 2-Jason Schifter (Freehold Township), 7-6
138: 5-Christian Mangini (Freehold Township) d. 6-Thomas Breslin (Northern Burlington), 3-1
145: 1-Nico Vargas (Wall) d. 2-Tony Dushku (Freehold), 3-2
152: 1-Jerry Andaluz (Nottingham) d. 2-Ryan Feig (Northern Burlington), 4-3 in tiebreaker
160: 1-Rob Kanniard (Wall) wins by medical forfeit over 2-Anthony Aquilano (Raritan)
170: 2-Anthony Giampietro (Northern Burlington) p. 1-George Burdick (Raritan), 3:23
182: 1-Jake Whitworth (Wall) d. 3-Anthony Bailey (Raritan), 10-3
195: 2-Tommy Hill (Northern Burlington) d. 1-Justin Acevedo (Raritan), 3-2
220: 1-Obifunna Ezeigbo (Ewing) p. 3-Jarrid Markowitz (Freehold Township), 3:55
285: 1-Christopher Seifert (Ewing) d. 2-Matt Spirko (Raritan), 3-2
106: 1-Cole Meyer (Wall) wins by medical forfeit over 2-Garrett Totten (Northern Burlington)
106: 3-Isaiah Sweeney (Freehold) p. 4-Michael Borromeo (Freehold Township), 3:13
113: 3-Sudesh Gurung (Nottingham) d. 4-Alexander Samayoa (Ewing), 5-2
120: 4-Mike Bruno (Wall) p. 6-Matt Vargas (Raritan), 0:30
126: 1-Avery Clarke (Freehold Township) p. 3-Miraj Patel (Lawrence), 4:29
132: 5-Keegan Roche (Freehold) by medical forfeit over 6-Jacob Spirko (Raritan)
138: 1-Ethan Dzenis (Manasquan) md. 2-Michael Gagliardo (Freehold), 13-5
145: 4-Vin Mangano (Raritan) md. 6-Alexander Reyes (Northern Burlington), 12-3
152: 3-James Ecklyn (Raritan) md. 4-Sean Mills (Lawrence), 12-1
160: 3-James Kim (Ewing) d. 4-Jake Dallarda (Lawrence), 1-0
170: 3-Connor Verga (Lawrence) p. 4-Joshua Almanzar (Nottingham), 1:04
182: 2-Franklin Hytegha (Nottingham) p. 4-Brandon Rzuczek (Northern Burlington), 1:44
195: 3-Michael Abelowitz (Ewing) p. 4-Jared Vasquiez (Freehold), 1:44
220: 2-Ryan Toro (Nottingham) d. 4-Kevin Lind (Raritan), 12-5
285: 3-Moaamen Nasr (Lawrence) p. 5-Antonio Martinez (Freehold Township), 1:08
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.