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COLTS NECK -- A glance at the walls of the school's wrestling room and gymnasium is all it takes to be reminded of what the annual goals and expectations are for Brick Memorial's storied wrestling program. When the calendar turns to February, the Mustangs hit another level.

The formula and culture that has produced the most sectional championships in Shore Conference history was on full display Wednesday night when the second-seeded Mustangs won the first six bouts and rolled to a dominant 51-15 victory over top-seeded Colts Neck to win the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 4 state sectional championship.

(Bob Badders | rpbphotography.com).
(Bob Badders | rpbphotography.com).
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Brick Memorial dropped the hammer on the host Cougars early to open a 27-0 lead on its way to winning 10 of 14 bouts and securing the program's Shore Conference-best 18th sectional title. Southern Regional, which is the defending Group 5 champions, is second with 17 sectional championships after winning the South Jersey Group 5 title on Wednesday.

"I knew this could happen because we're battle-tested," said Brick Memorial head coach Mike Kiley. "We've been in tough matches and that helps you when you get to this point. I really think my team was ready tonight because of the matches they've been in the last couple weeks."

Colts Neck was denied the program's first sectional title in its second appearance in a sectional final. The Cougars received a major decision from sophomore Matt Anderson at 150 pounds, a technical fall from senior Tyler Russ at 157, and decisions from seniors Nicholas Fischer and Matt Liggio at 165 and heavyweight, respectively.

"The result definitely wasn't what we wanted," said Colts Neck head coach Brett Jankos. "I thought we would get a couple of those (bouts from 113-144) but hats off to them, they just outwrestled us. It's on the coaches. We have to prepare our kids better. We have to thrive in tough situations and we didn't do that tonight. We have to demand more of ourselves and keep moving forward."

Sophomore Michael Napolitano won by major decision at 113 pounds when Brick Memorial defeated Colts Neck, 51-15, to win the 2024 NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 4 sectional championship on Wednesday, February 7, 2024 at Colts Neck High School. (Bob Badders | rpbphotography.com).
Sophomore Michael Napolitano won by major decision at 113 pounds when Brick Memorial defeated Colts Neck, 51-15, to win the 2024 NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 4 sectional championship on Wednesday, February 7, 2024 at Colts Neck High School. (Bob Badders | rpbphotography.com).
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Sophomore Mike Napolitano got the party started with a major decision at 113 pounds, sophomore Kson Young added a technical fall at 120, and senior Ryan Henderson produced a stunning defensive pin at 132 during the Mustangs' red-hot start. Senior Jack Torre (144), sophomore Trey Tallmadge (175), junior Ben Szuba (215), and freshman Sonny DiMatteo (106) added to the lead with wins by fall while junior Gavin Martin (126) and senior Tommy Prince (138) won by decision and junior superstar Harvey Ludington received a forfeit at 190 pounds.

The sectional championship is Brick Memorial's third in the last four seasons (no team tournament was held in 2021) and sends the Mustangs into the Group 4 semifinals. They will travel north to meet North 1, Group 4 champion Mount Olive on Friday night. The other Group 4 semifinal pits South Jersey Group 4 champion Northern Burlington against North 2, Group 4 champion Ridge, which ousted defending Group 4 champ North Hunterdon in their sectional final. The winners will wrestle for the Group 4 state championship on Sunday at Rutgers University's Jersey Mike's Arena.

"I think it's about making this the most important thing," Kiley said about Brick Memorial's propensity for postseason success. "I talk about this week all year long. You're defined in this sport as a coach and a wrestler by minutes on the mat. This is the only week people care about, this is the last ranking people care about as a team so I put a lot of emphasis on that. This is our season and we know it coming into the year."

"It’s the biggest part of the season and we peak at the right time," Napolitano said.

Brick Memorial High School opened in 1981 and it took just a few seasons for the Mustangs to win their first sectional title under head coach Tony Caravella in 1984. Since then, Brick Memorial has won nine NJSIAA state championships, 18 sectional titles, 32 district team titles, 15 Shore Conference Tournament titles, and 16 division championships. On the individual side, the Mustangs have 14 state champions and a total of 71 state medalists. The program's reach and influence are spread far and wide, including both head coaches and assistants on both teams Wednesday night.

Senior Jack Torre won by fall at 144 pounds when Brick Memorial defeated Colts Neck, 51-15, to win the 2024 NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 4 sectional championship on Wednesday, February 7, 2024 at Colts Neck High School. (Bob Badders | rpbphotography.com).
Senior Jack Torre won by fall at 144 pounds when Brick Memorial defeated Colts Neck, 51-15, to win the 2024 NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 4 sectional championship on Wednesday, February 7, 2024 at Colts Neck High School. (Bob Badders | rpbphotography.com).
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"You go in our room and look at the tradition on the walls," said Kiley, a 2009 Brick Memorial graduate who was a key member of the Mustangs' 2008 and 2009 Group 4 state championship squads. "You have team banners everywhere, No. 1 teams in the state banners. It's embedded in our room and I preach it every single day."

Jankos understands that aura better than most. A 2002 Brick Memorial graduate, Jankos was a two-time state medalist who placed fourth in the state at 189 as a senior and was a freshman on the Mustangs' 1999 NJSIAA Group 3 championship squad. His older brother, Adam, the former head coach at Steinert, was also a standout upperweight for Brick Memorial.

"Brick Memorial has so much tradition where kids in that program, the youth program, they grow up wanting to be Brick Memorial wrestlers," Jankos said. "They see the success they've had, they demand that success of themselves, and they don't want to be the ones to break the tradition. They put out a quality product on the mat every single year and always seem to step up this time of year in sectionals and groups. It's something I've tried to bring over to Colts Neck from all the time I had at Memorial and my time coaching at Howell."

Napolitano scored a 10-2 major decision over Nicholas Zecchino at 113 to begin the match before Young piled up 11 takedowns and one reversal during a 25-10 technical fall over Will Stapleton at 120. After Martin's 9-3 decision over Alexis Yale at 126 made it 12-0 Brick Memorial, Henderson blew the match open with a defensive pin over Michael Borao at 132 pounds. Henderson nearly won by fall in the first period and led 5-0 in the second when the defensive pin occurred.

Brick Memorial senior Ryan Henderson won by defensive fall at 132 pounds when Brick Memorial defeated Colts Neck, 51-15, to win the 2024 NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 4 sectional championship on Wednesday, February 7, 2024 at Colts Neck High School. (Bob Badders | rpbphotography.com).
Brick Memorial senior Ryan Henderson won by defensive fall at 132 pounds when Brick Memorial defeated Colts Neck, 51-15, to win the 2024 NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 4 sectional championship on Wednesday, February 7, 2024 at Colts Neck High School. (Bob Badders | rpbphotography.com).
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"I just grabbed his elbows and leaned into him and when I heard the smack (of the mat) I knew that was it," Henderson said. "It was a great moment. It made me feel secure about us winning the match."

"It's not like we were winning and that happened so it wasn't that big of a swing but I have to coach my kids better on that," Jankos said. "He came straight back and planted there for one second. Was it quick? Yeah. But was he pinned? Yeah."

Prince followed with a 5-1 decision over Christian Cleary at 138 before Torre locked up a spladle late in the third period and pinned Mykhailo Schvets at the 5:55 mark to give Brick Memorial a commanding 27-0 lead through the first six bouts.

"I said to them we can be in a barnburner match or we could do this and send a message," Kiley said. "I'm very proud they chose this path."

Colts Neck got on the board when Anderson scored an 8-0 major decision over Jack Marotta at 150 and Russ followed with a 21-6 technical fall over Frank Bongiovanni at 157. Holding a comfortable lead allowed Kiley to rest senior 165-pounder Mason Pirnik, a returning state qualifier who had been out of action with an injury before returning during Monday's sectional quarterfinals and semifinals. Fischer won 8-2 over Malachi Saint-Vil at 165 to pull Colts Neck within 27-12, but Brick Memorial's looming firepower meant the match was all but over at that point.

Junior Ben Szuba won by fall in 54 seconds over Amir Shakhnavazov at 215 pounds when Brick Memorial defeated Colts Neck, 51-15, to win the 2024 NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 4 sectional championship on Wednesday, February 7, 2024 at Colts Neck High School. (Bob Badders | rpbphotography.com).
Junior Ben Szuba won by fall in 54 seconds over Amir Shakhnavazov at 215 pounds when Brick Memorial defeated Colts Neck, 51-15, to win the 2024 NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 4 sectional championship on Wednesday, February 7, 2024 at Colts Neck High School. (Bob Badders | rpbphotography.com).
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Tallmadge, a returning state qualifier, pinned Brody Kaplan in 47 seconds and Colts Neck forfeited to Ludington, a 2022 state champion and two-time state finalist, at 190. That put Brick Memorial ahead to 39-12 and officially clinched the sectional title. Szuba then pinned Amir Shakhnavazov in 54 seconds for a 45-12 advantage. Liggio edged Steven Gobraiel, 3-1 in sudden victory, at heavyweight before DiMatteo put the exclamation point on the victory by pinning Griffin Walsh in 3:30.

On Friday night, Brick Memorial will travel to western Morris County to face a familiar postseason foe in Mount Olive. The two met in the 2022 Group 4 final with Mount Olive winning 32-29.

"If we wrestle like that we're in the thick of things with everybody," Kiley said. "Are there some tough teams? Heck yeah. Mount Olive is the horse in the race, I think, but we're ready to go."

 

Box Score

(2) Brick Memorial 51, (1) Colts Neck 15

Shore Conference-best 18th sectional title for BM

113: Mike Napolitano (BM) md. Nicholas Zecchino, 10-2

120: Kson Young (BM) tf. Will Stapleton, 5:06 (25-10)

126: Gavin Martin (BM) d. Alexis Yale, 9-3

132: Ryan Henderson (BM) p. Michael Borao, 3:22

138: Tommy Prince (BM) d. Christian Cleary, 5-1

144: Jack Torre (BM) p. Mykhailo Schvets, 5:55

150: Matt Anderson (CN) md. Jack Marotta, 8-0

157: Tyler Russ (CN) tf. Frank Bongiovanni, 4:37 (21-6)

165: Nicholas Fischer (CN) d. Malachi Saint-Vil, 8-2

175: Trey Tallmadge (BM) p. Brody Kaplan, 0:47

190: Harvey Ludington (BM) by forfeit

215: Ben Szuba (BM) p. Amir Shakhanavazov, 0:54

285: Matt Liggio (CN) d. Steven Gobraiel, 3-1 SV

106: Sonny DiMatteo (BM) p. Griffin Walsh, 3:30

 

 

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