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BRICK TOWNSHIP – Ryan Zimmerman let out a roar and slapped the center of the mat with authority. It was a rare burst of emotion from the normally reserved Long Branch senior, but given the gravity of the moment, it was more than warranted. It’s not often you pin a returning state runner-up, after all.

Zimmerman sent shockwaves through the Brick Memorial gymnasium that surely reverberated through the state when he took down Paulsboro’s Jacob Eli-Perez, locked in a cradle and won by fall at the 1:50 mark of the first period to win the 138-pound title at the Mustang Classic on Friday afternoon.

Eli-Perez was second at the state tournament at 138 pounds last season while Zimmerman reached the second round of wrestlebacks each of the last three years, including last season at 126 pounds.

12/27/2019 - Mustang Classic Finals
Photo by Richard O'Donnell.

“Beating a guy like that, I don’t think I’ve ever done that, especially to pin somebody that good,” said Zimmerman, who was also voted the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler. “The goal this year is obviously to get on the podium (at the state tournament) and those are the kinds of kids I have to beat. To do it like that felt so good.”

“We’ve been to the tournament but hadn’t beat that next-level guy,” said Long Branch head coach Danny George. “He’s done everything right form all his training and camps, and for it to pay off in that moment, that’s why you come to this tournament. You find out how good you are.”

Zimmerman is long, he is funky and once the bout goes to the mat, he is a monster. Eli-Perez was the latest to find that out the hard way. As he usually does, Zimmerman countered a shot by Eli-Perez and turned it into a takedown of his own. Shortly after, he went to work using limbs and angles as only he can to cinch a cradle and fold up Eli-Perez like a lawn chair.

“I’ve been hitting that cradle since I was in eighth grade,” Zimmerman said. “I’m just so long that if I get his head down long enough I’m able to lock my hands and it’s so tight. I don’t know many people who can get out of it. I knew if I had enough time I was going to get the pin.”

12/27/2019 - Mustang Classic Finals
Photo by Richard O'Donnell.

“Zimm’s style is different, it’s odd and it’s not like anybody else I’ve pretty much ever coached,” George said.

As the No. 2 seed, Zimmerman made quick work of his first two opponents with first-period pins before facing Ocean senior Jack Nies, a two-time state qualifier, in the semifinals. After a scoreless first period, Zimmerman went up 1-0 when Nies cut him loose early in the second. A shot by Nies was countered and turned into a takedown and Zimmerman then turned Nies for two near-fall points to take a 6-0 lead. He added a takedown in the third period when he countered another shot by Nies and advanced to the final with an 8-2 victory.

“I feel like I’m one of the best in the state on top,” Zimmerman said. “I’m so confident there and that’s where I’m most comfortable.”

After three solid years where he reached the state tournament, including winning his first district and region titles last season, Zimmerman’s goals were clear for 2020: finish top eight in the state. The confidence was always there for him, but the tangible result from Friday showed him precisely what he is capable of.

“This is my last chance. It’s a kill-or-be-killed mentality. There’s no next year,” Zimmerman said. “I always thought I was good enough to get on the podium but I couldn’t get over the hump, mentally. Now I know I can wrestle with them.”

Zimmerman was one of eight Mustang Classic champions from the Shore Conference, matching the total from last season. Middletown North’s Tyler Klinsky and Brick Memorial’s Vincent Santaniello each won their second titles while Brick Memorial’s Anthony Santaniello and David Szuba, Middletown North’s Nico Cerbo, Wall’s Nico Vargas and Colts Neck’s Thomas Lidondici were each first-time champions.


Brick Memorial showcases firepower 

Brick Memorial tied a tournament-high with three individual champions and had a tournament-best five finalists to highlight a strong showing for the host Mustangs.

Junior Vincent Santaniello captured the 120-pound championship to claim back-to-back Mustang Classic titles while his freshman brother, Anthony, won the 106-pound title and junior David Szuba won the 195-pound crown. The Mustangs also had finalists at 126 and 170 with seniors Michael Richardson and Joe Colon, respectively.


Vincent Santaniello, who finished third in the state at 113 pounds last season, cruised to his second gold medal with three wins by fall and ultimately a 6-1 decision over Middletown North’s Fred Luchs. Santaniello had a takedown in the first period, a reversal in the second and another takedown in the third and yielded only an escape in the third period.

12/27/2019 - Mustang Classic Finals
Photo by Richard O'Donnell.

“I definitely feel more confident this season,” Santaniello said. “I was really confident going into the last year, too, but I think I’m way better than last year. I’ve been training way harder and my confidence is definitely higher.”

Vincent enjoyed his championship, but he took even greater pleasure in watching his brother inaugurate himself with a title of his own. In just two weeks, Anthony has shown why he was highly-touted coming into high school and capped a fantastic day by pinning St. John Vianney freshman Joe Giordano in 3:12 to win the 106-pound title.

“I was way more nervous for his match that I was for my own, but I knew he’s on another level,” Vincent said. “From middle school to high school he’s jumped levels and he’s on another plan than everyone else.”

Anthony Santaniello has yet to have any of his bouts go the distance with seven pins and one win by technical fall.

12/27/2019 - Mustang Classic Finals
Photo by Richard O'Donnell.

“He’s very, very impressive in the way he doesn’t ever teeter to his competition,” said Brick Memorial head coach Mike Kiley. “He looks the same, he wrestles the same, his technique is the same. It’s very impressive to watch a young kid have that type of mentality to not be even a little sloppy in certain situations where you know you can still win. He keeps a high level of pace and he’s fun to watch.”

At 195 pounds, Szuba wasn’t tested much en route to securing the title. After receiving a first-round bye, Szuba pinned his quarterfinal and semifinal opponents in the first minute before defeating Colts Neck’s Kenny Koenig, 14-8, in the championship bout. Szuba opened a 6-2 lead after the first period and continued to attack and pile on the points. It was his second win over Koenig in as many weeks and widened the gap after 7-6 victory in the TCNJ Pride Tournament final.

In the 126-pound final, Richardson fell to Paulsboro’s Georgio Mazzeo, 3-1. Leading 1-0, Richardson was called for an illegal hold (over scissor) at the start of the third period and the penalty point awarded to Mazzeo tied the bout. Richardson was called for his second stalling infraction while trying to ride out Mazzeo in the third and the point gave Mazzeo a 2-1 lead. Richardson cut Mazzeo loose to make it 3-1 and Mazzeo was able to hold on for the win.

At 170, Colon ran into a buzz saw in the form of High Point sophomore Brian Soldano, who authored a 9-3 victory.

The Mustangs also received top-six finishes from sophomore Ryan Smith (4th at 132) and junior Victor DiPianta (6th at 138). DiPianta earned a signature win when he defeated Wall state qualifier Jacob Glantzman, 7-6, in the pre-quarterfinal round. Although team scores were not officially kept,  High Point scored 155.5 points to Brick Memorial’s 145.5 points. High Point, however, had two entrants in three weight classes which resulted in an additional 22 points.

“Every time a kid stepped on the mat in a Memorial singlet I thought they competed hard, and that’s what we preach as coaches,” Kiley said.

There is excitement surrounding this Brick Memorial group, which has the look of a Group 4 championship contender once its lineup is intact. The Mustangs have to wait until Jan. 18 to get junior 113-pounder Nick Torre into the lineup after he sits 30 days after transferring from Point Boro. That will give them a brutal stretch from 106 to 132 with Santaniello, Torre, Santaniello, Richardson and Smith. Up top they have the 1-2 punch of Colon and Szuba.

“We know it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish, but these are all little battles to prepare you for the end,” Kiley said. “We know the ultimate goal is to win a group and have individual success. That’s the goal every year.”


Klinsky repeats

12/27/2019 - Mustang Classic Finals
Photo by Richard O'Donnell.

Middletown North senior Tyler Klinsky was dominant in winning his second Mustang Classic title. Last year’s 106-pound state runner-up, Klinsky had one fall, one technical fall and two major decisions on his way to the 113-pound title, ultimately winning 16-7 over High Point sophomore Clayton Utter in the championship bout.

Klinsky, who is committed to Rider University, is ranked 15th in the nation by InterMat.


Cerbo, Vargas, Lidondici win first Mustang Classic titles 

Colts Neck senior Thomas Lidondici earned a statement win and threw his name into the hat as perhaps the Shore Conference’s best heavyweight by defeating Ocean’s Joe Teresi to win the Mustang Classic.

With a takedown late in the third period, Lidondici earned a 3-2 victory over the Spartans junior who was second in the Shore Conference Tournament and reached the fourth round of wrestlebacks in the state tournament last season.

12/27/2019 - Mustang Classic Finals
Photo by Richard O'Donnell.

“It obviously brings a lot of confidence for the season to come,” Lidondici said. “We’ll see each other a lot more times and he’s a great opponent and a great wrestler. Our new assistants, Nick Costa and Mike Oxley, have really been putting me to work and (this win) is a true testament to our teamwork.”

As the season started, the shortlist of the top heavyweights in the Shore included Teresi, Barnegat’s Griffin Jackstadt and Howell’s Justin Wright along with sometimes 220, sometimes heavyweights Brad Galassi of Jackson Memorial and JT Cornelius of Southern. Now it’s time to add Lidondici to that list.

“The goal has always been the same to be at the top of the podium, and that’s not going to change,” Lidondici said.

At 152 pounds, the second-seeded Vargas ended the Cinderella run of Delsea freshman Jared Schoppe with a 9-3 win in the championship bout. Shoppe, the No. 8 seed, had defeated top-seeded Jurius Clark of Highland and No. 4 seed Michael Gagliardo of Freehold. Vargas won by fall in his first two bouts before an impressive 13-0 major decision over Long Branch’s Ryan Carey in the semifinals.

12/27/2019 - Mustang Classic Finals
Photo by Richard O'Donnell.

Cerbo claimed the 220-pound title as the No. 2 seed by defeating Stone Summers from Mountain View, Virginia, 7-5 in a back-and-forth championship bout. Cerbo won by fall in his opening bout, defeated Colts Neck’s Matt Jannucci in the quarterfinals and won by 8-0 major decision over Ocean’s Alejandro Villaraga in the semifinals.


Mustang Classic

Brick Memorial, Colts Neck, Freehold, Long Branch, Middletown North, Ocean, St. John Vianney, Wall

Most Outstanding Wrestler: Ryan Zimmerman (Long Branch)


113: 1-Tyler Klinsky (Middletown North) md. 2-Clayton Utter (High Point), 16-7

120: 1-Vincent Santaniello (Brick Memorial) d. 3-Fred Luchs (Middletown North), 6-1

126: 2-Georgio Mazzeo (Paulsboro) d. 4-Michael Richardson (Brick Memorial), 3-1

132: 2-Devon Leibl (High Point) p. 1-Nico Messina (Freehold), 2:20

138: 2-Ryan Zimmerman (Long Branch) p. 1-Jacob Eli-Perez (Paulsboro), 1:50

145: 2-Billy Talmadge (High Point) d. 1-Elijah White (Mountain View), 8-2

152: 2-Nicholas Vargas (Wall) d. 8-Jared Schoppe (Delsea), 9-3

160: 1-Anthony Spera (Mount Olive) d. 7-Alex Marshall (St. Augustine), 3-1

170: 1-Brian Soldano (High Point) d. 2-Joe Colon (Brick Memorial), 9-3

182: 1-Brandon Green (Paulsboro) md. 2-Luke Rada (Colts Neck), 9-1

195: 1-David Szuba (Brick Memorial) d. 2-Kenny Koenig (Colts Neck), 14-8

220: 2-Nico Cerbo (Middletown North) d. 1-Stone Summers (Mountain View), 7-5

285: 2-Thomas Lidondici (Colts Neck) d. 1-Joe Teresi (Ocean), 3-2

106: 2-Anthony Santaniello (Brick Memorial) p. 5-Joe Giordano (St. John Vianney), 3:12




2-Anthony Santaniello (Brick Memorial) p. Kaden Naame (St. Augustine), 3:38

5-Joe Giordano (St. John Vianney) d. 1-Michael Lyristis (Colts Neck), 8-2


2-Clayton Utter (High Point) md. 3-Cole Meyer (Wall), 11-2

1-Tyler Klinsky (Middletown North) md. D'amani Almodover (St. Augustine), 19-8


1-Vincent Santaniello (Brick Memorial) p. 4-Chase Stehman (Daniel Boone), 4:26

3-Fred Luchs (Middletown North) p. 2-Eli Novoselov (Colts Neck), 1:23


4-Michael Richardson (Brick Memorial) d. 1-Thomas O'Keefe (Middletown North), 2-1 2OT

2-Georgio Mazzeo (Paulsboro) d. 3-Jon Prendergast (Highland), 4-2


1-Nico Messina (Freehold) d. 12-Brock Zurawski (St. Augustine) 8-4

2-Devon Leibl (High Point) d. 3-Ryan Smith (Brick Memorial), 7-2


1-Jacob Eli-Perez (Paulsboro) md. 5-Logan Waller (Colts Neck), 9-3

2-Ryan Zimmerman (Long Branch) d. 3-Jack Nies (Ocean), 8-2


1-Elijah White (Mountain View) d. 4-Tim Spatola (Delsea), 5-1

2-Billy Talmadge (High Point) d. 3-Alex Poniros (Ocean), 5-2


8-Jared Schoppe (Delsea) p. 4-Michael Gagliardo (Freehold), 3:37

2-Nicholas Vargas (Wall) md. 3-Ryan Carey (Long Branch), 13-0


1-Anthony Spera (Mount Olive) d. 4-Shawn Williams (Paulsboro), 5-2

7-Alex Marshall (St. Augustine) d. 3-Asa Walton (Delsea), 2-0


1-Brian Soldano (High Point) p. Izaiah Otero (Highland), 1:20

2-Joe Colon (Brick Memorial) p. 3-Hunter Perez (Mount Olive), 3:45


1-Brandon Green (Paulsboro) p. 5-Colby Pyle (Daniel Boone), 1:24

2-Luke Rada (Colts Neck) d. 3-Blake Clayton (St. John Vianney), 9-4


1-David Szuba (Brick Memorial) p. Sean Van Wingerden (High Point), 0:54

2-Kenny Koenig (Colts Neck) 3-Gavin Camoia (Mount Olive), 10-8


1-Stone Summers (Mountain View) d. Justin Klass (High Point), 7-2

2-Nico Cerbo (Middletown North) md. 6-Alejandro Villaraga (Ocean), 8-0


1-Joe Teresi (Ocean) d. 5-Brandon Armstrong (Paulsboro), 6-4

2-Thomas Lidondici (Colts Neck) p. 3-Branden Jones (St. Augustine), 0:34



Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.


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