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Giovanni Scafidi is pretty good at this walk-off thing.

Wrestling in the final bout of the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 5 championship with Howell training Hunterdon Central by one point, the sophomore came through in the clutch by pinning Henry Wilkinson in 2:31 to give Howell a 31-26 win and the program's fifth state sectional title.

Senior state champion Hunter Mays and junior Thomas Richards won by fall along with Scafidi, and senior Mike Edmundson won by major decision to put Howell over the top. DJ Henry, Ian Soutar, and Sebastian Ortega won by decision.

Photo by Steve Meyer.
Photo by Steve Meyer.
Photo by Steve Meyer.
Photo by Steve Meyer.

Howell will host Livingston in the Group 5 semifinals on Friday. The four Group 5 sectional champions were seeded by power points and Howell earned the No. 1 seed. Livingston is the No. 4 seed. Southern is the No. 2 seed and will host No. 3 seed Phillipsburg in the other semifinals. Livingston actually had more power points than Phillipsburg but the Stateliners jumped them because of a head-to-head victory this season.

Howell and Hunterdon Central split the 14 bouts seven apiece and the Rebels had the edge in bonus points, 10-5, thanks to timely victories and stingy defeats. Hunterdon Central had seven wrestlers in its lineup that had region criteria, including state sixth-place finisher Tanner Peake and state qualifiers Nick Canonica and Anthony Rossi. Six of the seven won their bouts. On the other side, Howell got wins from its standouts and some memorable performances from some of its unheralded wrestlers.

Aidan Portnoy, Canonica, and Peake staked Hunterdon Central to an 11-0 lead through three bouts, but Rob Wiessel and Gavin Merkel holding Portnoy (R5-PQ in 2020) and Canonica (2x state qualifier) to decisions at 144 and 150 were big results for Howell. Peake won by technical fall over Nick Acque at 157, but Howell getting through that stretch allowing only two bonus points was a net win.

The Rebels started to make their run at 154 where Mays won by fall in just 52 seconds. Standout junior DJ Henry then won 7-1 at 175 pounds and senior Ian Soutar won a key toss-up bout at 190 with a 6-3 decision over Ryan Seemon, giving Howell a 12-11 lead through six bouts.

Bennet Cayero gave Hunterdon Central the lead back, 14-12, with a 3-2 decision over Dane Colfer at 215 pounds. But at heavyweight, Richards flattened and pinned Charles Cowart in 1:09 for a massive pin that gave Howell an 18-14 lead through eight bouts.

Hunterdon Central won by fall at 106 pounds and then got a big result of its own at 113 pounds when Ross, a region runner-up last season, scored an 8-5 decision over Howell standout freshman Xavier Ortega. The Red Devils now led 23-18 with three bouts left.

Edmunson followed with an 11-3 major decision at 120 and Sebastian Ortega, the state fifth-place finisher at 113 pounds last season, won 4-0 over William Cella at 126 to give Howell a 25-23 lead with two bouts left. Bruen held Evan Thompson, a region qualifier last season, to an 11-4 decision and by limiting bonus points made Scafidi's job simple at 138. All he needed to do was win, but he added some flair by walking off with a pin to give Howell a sectional championship.


Box Score

Central Jersey Group 5 Final

1-Howell 31, 2-Hunterdon Central 26


Aidan Portnoy (Hunterdon Central) over Rob Wiessel (Howell) (Dec 10-4)
Nick Canonica (Hunterdon Central) over Gavin Merkel (Howell) (Dec 7-2)
Tanner Peake (Hunterdon Central) over Nick Acque (Howell) (TF 24-9 0:00)
Hunter Mays (Howell) over Jackson Call (Hunterdon Central) (Fall 0:52)
DJ Henry (Howell) over Thomas Brunetti (Hunterdon Central) (Dec 7-1)
Ian Soutar (Howell) over Ryan Seemon (Hunterdon Central) (Dec 6-3)
Bennett Cayero (Hunterdon Central) over Dane Colfer (Howell) (Dec 3-2)
Thomas Richards (Howell) over Charles Cowart (Hunterdon Central) (Fall 1:09)
Peter Plesh (Hunterdon Central) over Mason Hultman (Howell) (Fall 0:36)
Anthony Rossi (Hunterdon Central) over Xavier Ortega (Howell) (Dec 8-5)
Michael Edmundson (Howell) over Ahmed Hussain (Hunterdon Central) (MD 11-3)
Sebastian Ortega (Howell) over William Cella (Hunterdon Central) (Dec 4-0)
Evan Thompson (Hunterdon Central) over Kieran Bruen (Howell) (Dec 11-4)
Giovanni Scafidi (Howell) over Henry Wilkinson (Hunterdon Central) (Fall 2:31)


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