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RUMSON – When Brick Memorial head coach Mike Kiley decided to forfeit the 195-pound bout with only one more bout remaining, he knew it put Brick Memorial in a spot where it could lose on criteria. But by forfeiting to Rumson-Fair Haven state medalist Jack Kelly to try to break the momentum, he was also delivering a vote of confidence to senior Ruben Lizardi.

With Brick Memorial leading by six heading into the final bout and Rumson needing a pin to send the match to tiebreaking criteria, Lizardi won big by losing small, holding Rumson standout freshman Hudson Skove to an 8-2 decision at 220 pounds and clinching the victory as Brick Memorial, ranked No. 1 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, held off a furious rally by No. 4 Rumson-Fair Haven for a 40-37 triumph in a thrilling Saturday morning dual.

Brick Memorial led 40-6 eight bouts into the match, which started at 285 pounds, before Rumson won the final six bouts. Bonus points, or the lack thereof in the final bout, made the difference.

“I wouldn’t have made that decision unless I believed Ruben wasn’t going to get pinned,” Kiley said. “I know Skove is a great wrestler with high potential, but my kid is a senior, he’s a three-year starter; I watch what he does in practice every day and I had the ultimate confidence in him.”

If Skove recorded a fall to tie the match at 40 it would have gone to criteria. The teams would have been even on bouts (7), falls/forfeits (6), technical falls (0) and major decisions (1). The next tiebreaker would have been the least number of forfeits surrendered. Brick Memorial had one and Rumson had zero

“Don’t give up six, give up anything but six,” Lizardi said were the final words of encouragement before he stepped on the mat. “I just had to go fight my butt off. Every day in the last half of practice I usually go with Szuba (returning state runner-up and nationally-ranked heavyweight David Szuba) to prepare for anything that comes my way. If I can stand up against Szuba and not get pinned I can go against anyone and not get pinned.”

“I screamed that to him in the third period, ‘You go with Szuba every day, this is nothing!’,” Kiley said.

Skove scored a takedown in the first period to lead 2-0 and then extended his lead to 4-1 heading to the third period. Lizardi was called for stalling three times in the bout, which resulted in two points for Skove during the third period. Skove also had a takedown to take an 8-2 lead and continued to press the action, but Lizardi did his job by staying off his back.

In a match that was dominated by a total of seven state medalists between both teams, it was the “program kids” who ended up deciding the match. In addition to Lizardi’s bonus-saving loss that clinched the dual, senior Victor DiPianta delivered a 14-5 major decision at 145 pounds thanks to a takedown with eight seconds left. Pins by Szuba at 285, junior Evan Tallmadge at 113, sophomore Anthony Santaniello at 120 and Vincent Santaniello were foregone conclusions, but six was not such a guarantee at 132 or 138. Senior Nick Torre and junior Braden Scott, respectively, made sure they delivered wins by fall to secure those six critical points.

“They fought for six and they knew they had a job,” Kiley said of Torre and Scott. “That was the difference. They went out there to get six and you could see it in them. They were fishing for the fall and they got it.”

“I’m sure (Rumson) knew what they were getting from their guys and we knew what we were getting from our guys,” Kiley said. “We knew it was going to be that program kid that wins it. We have a kid like Victor DiPianta that gets a major and a kid like Ruben Lizardi fighting at the end and everybody doing their job.”

Brick Memorial junior Cory Martin was also able to save bonus points at 170 via a 10-2 loss to Ryan Boyer, a Bulldogs’ standout who has had limited opportunities being stuck behind Max and Tyler Brignola and Shay Addison in the lineup but is nonetheless very talented.

Aside from those three bouts at 145, 170 and 220, every other contested bout ended with a pin and only two made it to the second period. Szuba started with a fall at 285 pounds before Rumson freshman Julian DuQue equaled the pin at 106 to tie the bout. Then, Brick Memorial went on its run.

Tallmadge, Anthony Santaniello, Vincent Santaniello, Torre and Scott delivered consecutive pins to give Brick Memorial a 36-6 lead halfway through the dual. Then it was DiPianta’s turn at 145. He led 2-1 after the first period and 6-2 heading to the third. Brick Memorial wanted a pin but shifted gears after DiPianta scored a reversal to take an 8-2 lead early in the third. He cut Alex Simpson loose and went back to work on his feet, scoring three more takedowns to secure a major decision and give Brick Memorial a 40-6 lead with six bouts left.

His bonus-point victory meant Rumson had to earn 34 out of a possible 36 remaining points in order to tie the match.

“I live for the team duals,” DiPianta said. “I usually never do well in the individual (tournaments) but if I can suck it up for the team that’s 10 times better. I missed wrestling so just being out here with the guys was great.”

Rumson began to close the gap with back-to-back pins by Max Brignola and Tyler Brignola at 152 and 160 pounds. Boyer’s major decision over Martin at 170 made it 40-22 with four bouts left and Shay Addison then won by fall in just 22 seconds over JT Henderson at 182. Rumson trailed by 12 with two bouts left and the clear task ahead was to secure to pins. Then the forfeit to Kelly opened the door for Rumson to win on criteria if Skove won by fall.

Instead, Lizardi rewarded his coach’s trust by doing his job.

“We started out strong and with the weight we started at we expected to rack up points quickly, and that’s exactly what we did,” Lizardi said. “It came to 145 and from there we needed everyone to go out and fight hard to push through.”

It was a dramatic match between two top-five teams in the Shore who are also ranked in the state top 20, but what stood out more is how normal it felt. Even with just two parents per wrestler allowed as spectators because of COVID-19 protocols, the gym was rocking. Both team benches were on their feet the entire time. The tension was palpable.

“It felt like we were back (to normal), Kiley said. “The stands were going crazy, the bench was fired up. It was great.”

“We train hard and the kids are putting in the time,” said Rumson head coach Bryan Heller, whose program continues to rise up the ranks. “I loved this match. We’ve been wanting to wrestle a team like Brick Memorial and it’s been tough to get them on the schedule, so for them to schedule us and get it in our home gym and get after it like this, it’s awesome.”

While the team portion of the season is reduced to 12-to-15 duals and the only prize available is a division title, both teams were fully invested.

“Even given the circumstances with COVID-19 we’re all doing our best to keep everyone safe, so having the opportunity to come out here and wrestle as a senior, even with the shortened season, it feels great," Lizardi said. "Nothing like it.”

“That’s what we are at Brick Memorial,” Kiley said. “When we found out there wasn’t going to be team state these kids were very upset. We take pride in being a team, we take pride in competing as a team and we take pride in winning as a team. That’s what we preach and that’s how it’s been since Dan O’Cone was my coach here.”

Click here for a photo gallery by Richard O'Donnell



Box Score

No. 1 Brick Memorial 40, No. 4 Rumson-Fair Haven 37

285: David Szuba (BM) p. Justin Kuo, 0:45

106: Julian DuQue (RFH) p. Ryan Henderson, 1:05

113: Evan Tallmadge (BM) p. Shane Sullivan, 0:34

120: Anthony Santaniello (BM) p. Declan Fry, 0:58

126: Vincent Santaniello (BM) p. Patrick Simpson, 1:02

132: Nick Torre (BM) p. Logan McGinn, 3:10

138: Braden Scott (BM) p. Tyler Izzo, 1:32

145: Victor DiPianta (BM) md. Alex Simpson, 14-5

152: Max Brignola (RFH) p. Joe Gambarony, 1:30

160: Tyler Brignola (RFH) p. Josh James, 2:31

170: Ryan Boyer (RFH) md. Cory Martin, 10-2

182: Shay Addison (RFH) p. JT Henderson, 0:22

195: Jack Kelly (RFH) by forfeit

220: Hudson Skove (RFH) d. Ruben Lizardi, 8-2

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