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BRICK TOWNSHIP -- Middletown North senior Brady Klinsky knows that to achieve his ultimate goal of winning a New Jersey high school wrestling state championship he is going to have to defeat the best the state has to offer. It's a challenge he relishes, so a December tournament featuring seven state qualifiers in the 113-pound weight class was right in his wheelhouse.

Klinsky beat two fellow state qualifiers and ultimately won by fall over Washington Township's Colton Hagerty in the second period of the championship bout to win his third Mustang Classic title and earn Most Outstanding Wrestler honors for the lowerweights on Wednesday at Brick Memorial High School.

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Middletown North senior Brady Klinsky works to finish a takedown versus Washington Township's Colton Hagerty during the 113-pound final at the Mustang Classic wrestling tournament on Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2023 at Brick Memorial High School in Brick, NJ. (Bob Badders | rpbphotography.com).
Middletown North senior Brady Klinsky works to finish a takedown versus Washington Township's Colton Hagerty during the 113-pound final at the Mustang Classic wrestling tournament on Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2023 at Brick Memorial High School in Brick, NJ. (Bob Badders | rpbphotography.com).
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Leading 2-0 after the first period, Klinsky chose bottom to start the second period and worked to break free from a stout ride by Hagerty, a sophomore who was a district and region champion last season. After being ridden for over a minute, Klinsky was able to counter Hagerty, score a reversal, and secure the win by fall at the 3:35 mark of the match. Middletown North has attended the Mustang Classic for many years and Klinsky is the Lions' first three-time champion at the event.

"He kept throwing the leg in and he tried to throw it again and I hit a changeover and wound up reversing him," Klinsky said.

Klinsky is a two-time state qualifier (both at 106 pounds) who advanced to the third round of wrestlebacks as a sophomore and the second round of wrestlebacks last season. In the semifinals, he responded from an early 2-0 deficit to win an 8-4 decision over Jackson Liberty's Anthony Urso, who was a region runner-up and reached the second round of state wrestlebacks at 113 pounds last season.

"It's good beating these guys who also made it to the state tournament last year," Klinsky said. "I'm just wrestling one match at a time and not getting ahead of myself. It feels good but you have to move on to the next match. It's a long season."

The weight also featured returning state qualifiers Michael DiBiase of Red Bank Catholic, Dom Digiacomo of Camden Catholic, Hayden Holmes from Paulsboro, and Gavin Martin from Brick Memorial.

The Mustang Classic has always been one of New Jersey's top tournaments with teams like Brick Memorial, High Point, Paulsboro, Camden Catholic, Kingsway, Ocean, and more. It's a chance for wrestlers to make an early statement and earn some criteria for the postseason tournaments. Top wrestlers like Klinsky crave that level of competition. It's why he didn't shy away from a matchup with Christian Brothers Academy uber-freshman Paul Kenny, who won a world championship over the summer and is ranked No. 2 in the nation by MatScouts, in a season-opening dual meet. It was a close bout on the scoreboard until Kenny won by fall in the second period.

"I just want to wrestle the best guys. I didn't ever think about forfeiting," Klinsky said. "I just want to get after it and I was excited for the match. He's always in a good position. I watched the match after to see what I needed to work on."

Minutes after winning the title on Wednesday, Klinsky posed for a picture on the medal stand and then went back to work inside the Brick Memorial wrestling room. His eyes are perpetually fixed on the prize, and he knows it's a long road to reach the center mat at Boardwalk Hall in March.

"I definitely want to get on that podium because I fell short last year," Klinsky said. "I want to win it all."


Wehner wins scramblefest between state medalists

For wrestling fans who enjoy a good scramble, the 120-pound final was for you.

In a highly-entertaining matchup between Donovan Catholic senior Kurt Wehner and Mount Olive senior Tyeler Hagensen, Wehner emerged with a 4-2 victory between two NJSIAA state medalists. Wehner had a takedown in the first period to lead 2-0 after the first two minutes, then added an escape in the second period and another in the third to outlast Hagensen.

"It's really something I've always been doing, it's kind of like a freestyle dance, just going through it and wrestling through all positions hoping to come out on top," Wehner said.

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Donovan Catholic senior Kurt Wehner looks for back points versus Mount Olive's Tyeler Hagensen during the 120-pound final at the Mustang Classic wrestling tournament on Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2023 at Brick Memorial High School in Brick, NJ. (Bob Badders | rpbphotography.com).
Donovan Catholic senior Kurt Wehner looks for back points versus Mount Olive's Tyeler Hagensen during the 120-pound final at the Mustang Classic wrestling tournament on Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2023 at Brick Memorial High School in Brick, NJ. (Bob Badders | rpbphotography.com).
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Down 3-0, Hagensen chose neutral to begin the third period and scored a takedown to trim the gap to 3-2. Wehner escaped to take a 4-2 lead and held on through multiple scrambles to secure a standout win over a fellow state medalist. Hagensen dealt him a brief scare when he hit a lateral drop that sent Wehner flying to his back, but Hagensen stepped out of bounds on the throw and no points were awarded.

"I got a little sloppy toward the end and he was able to throw me," Wehner said. "That woke me up and told me it was time to go."

Wehner is a three-time state qualifier who finished seventh in the state at 106 pounds as a sophomore and placed fifth in the state at 113 pounds last season. He is committed to Rutgers University. Hagensen was fourth in the state at 106 pounds as a sophomore and reached the third round of wrestlebacks last season at 113 pounds.

"I was super happy about (the potential matchup)," Wehner said. "I knew I was capable of winning, I just had to show everybody."

Wehner was dominant in his run to the championship bout with two first-period falls in the pre-quarterfinals and quarterfinals. In the semifinals, he pinned Washington Township returning state qualifier Christian Hoopes.


Big Ben's big day

Brick Memorial junior Ben Szuba continued his strong start to the season by winning the 215-pound title with an 8-4 decision over Mount Olive junior Tyler Cumming.

Szuba had a great run through the wrestlebacks to finish third at last season's Region 6 Tournament and secure his spot in Atlantic City. He has continued to progress this season and went 2-2 at the prestigious Beast of the East Tournament before Wednesday's championship victory.

Versus Cumming, Szuba was locked in a cradle in the first period but avoided giving up any back points and made it to the second period down just 2-0. From there he made Cumming pay for choosing bottom to start the second period by using his 6-foot-7 frame to secure back points of his own en route to the title.

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Bob Badders | rpbphotography.com
Bob Badders | rpbphotography.com
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"He's pretty solid on his feet so I thought he would choose neutral, but he chose bottom," Szuba said. "But I'm ready for everything. My practice partner (Harvey Ludington) prepares me for that."

Szuba, who was the No. 1 seed, won by technical fall in the pre-quarterfinals and semifinals and won by fall in 25 seconds in the quarterfinals.

Like his older brother, David, who won the NJSIAA heavyweight state title as a senior in 2021 and is currently Rider University's starting heavyweight, Szuba entered high school with plenty of physical attributes but raw on the technical side. He has rounded into form and learned to use his unique wrestling stature to his advantage.

"You see the body types he's wrestling. It's very mismatched," said Brick Memorial head coach Mike Kiley. "It's hard for them to impose their will on Ben and it's hard to deal with a body that big. It allows him to have an arsenal of holds that kids (at 215) can't even hit."

The biggest area of growth for Szuba, however, has been his mentality.

"I knew I was up there and one of the best in the state but I needed to get my mind in the right position to help me perform how I should," Szuba said. "My coaches really helped me with that."

"Confidence," Kiley said. "He's starting to believe in himself and that's half the battle in this sport. I think drilling and working with the No. 1 guy in the country (Ludington) in our room allows him to have that confidence."

"I love coaching Szubas," Kiley said. "They are tough as nails, they work their butt off, they're focused, and they're coachable. You're going to win up being good if you have that recipe.


Ludington rolls to second Mustang Classic title

Brick Memorial junior Harvey Ludington won a hard-fought battle with Mount Olive's Tyler Bienus, 7-3, to win his second Mustang Classic championship.

Ludington was the NJSIAA 175-pound state champion as a freshman and the 175-pound state runner-up last season. He was dominant in winning a Beast of the East title earlier this month and is committed to Arizona State University. Bienus is a senior and a two-time state qualifier who was seventh in the state at 175 pounds last season.

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Bob Badders | rpbphotography.com
Bob Badders | rpbphotography.com
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Bienus showcased a strong ride in the second period to keep Ludington on the mat for most of the middle stanza, but Ludington eventually got back to his feet to take a 5-2 lead and continued to control the bout at neutral. He had two takedowns in the first period to build a 4-2 lead and added another takedown in the third period to go up 7-2.

Ludington won by fall in the first period in each of his first three bouts, including pins of 5 and 22 seconds in the pre-quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively.


Portella wins standout heavyweight battle

Red Bank Catholic senior Lorenzo Portella won a potential preview of the Shore Conference Tournament championship by defeating Donovan Catholic's Sam Rock III, 5-1, to win the Mustang Classic heavyweight crown.

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Bob Badders | rpbphotography.com
Bob Badders | rpbphotography.com
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After a scoreless first period, Rock escaped to take a 1-0 lead. Portella scored a takedown late in the second period to go ahead 2-1 and an escape to start the third period made it 3-1. He added a takedown in the final seconds of the match.

Portella was seventh in the state at heavyweight as a sophomore and is a two-time region champion. Rock was a state qualifier last season.

Portella, seeded first, and Rock, seeded second, both pinned their way into the championship bout.


A barnburner between South Jersey rivals

Camden Catholic sophomore Kage Jones won a wild bout with Paulsboro senior Roman Onorato to win the 157-pound title. It appeared as if Onorato had won the title with a takedown late in regulation but the officials determined that Jones also earned an escape to send the bout to overtime tied 2-2. Jones put Onorato to his back off a scramble in rideouts and held on during another scramble to win 6-2. He was voted as the Most Oustanding Wrestler among the upperweights.

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Camden Catholic sophomore Kage Jones smiles as he accumulates back points versus Paulsboro's Roman Onorato in overtime during the 157-pound final at the Mustang Classic wrestling tournament on Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2023 at Brick Memorial High School in Brick, NJ. (Bob Badders | rpbphotography.com).
Camden Catholic sophomore Kage Jones smiles as he accumulates back points versus Paulsboro's Roman Onorato in overtime during the 157-pound final at the Mustang Classic wrestling tournament on Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2023 at Brick Memorial High School in Brick, NJ. (Bob Badders | rpbphotography.com).
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Complete results

Finals

106: 2-Carmine Sipper (Caldwell) d. 9-Chase Martino (Camden Catholic), 2-0

113: 1-Brady Klinsky (Middletown North) p. 6-Colton Hagerty (Washington Township), 3:35

120: 2-Kurt Wehner (Donovan Catholic) d. 1-Tyeler Hagensen (Mount Olive), 4-2

126: 1-Sammy Spaulding (Camden Catholic) p. 3-Tucker Pazinko (Jackson Liberty), 1:09

132: 5-Justin Bullock (Mount Olive) p. 3-Owen Entrekin (West Deptford), 3:56

138: 1-Geoff Whelan (Mountain View) tf. 3-Justin Fearon (Middletown North), 4:25 (15-0)

144: 1-Tyler Traves (Mountain View) p. 3-Michael Volek (Ocean), 0:53

150: 1-Austin Craft (Camden Catholic) d. 2-James Farina (Ocean), 6-3

157: 2-Kage Jones (Camden Catholic) d. 1-Roman Onorato (Paulsboro), 6-3 (2OT)

165: 1-Gabriel Cortes (Mountain View) d. 2-Benjamin Dryden (Kingsway), 4-0

175: 2-Jaden Simpson (Camden Catholic) p. 1-Trey Tallmadge (Brick Memorial), 5:30

190: 1-Harvey Ludington (Brick Memorial) d. 3-Tyler Bienus (Mount Olive), 7-3

215: 1-Ben Szuba (Brick Memorial) d. 3-Tyler Cumming (Mount Olive), 8-4

285: 1-Lorenzo Portella (Red Bank Catholic) d. 2-Sam Rock III (Donovan Catholic), 5-1

 

 

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