TOMS RIVER – There usually isn’t room for Jake Rosenthal in Toms River North’s lineup, but on Tuesday night the Mariners called upon him to bring home one of the program’s biggest wins in three decades.

He did not disappoint.

In the final, winner-take-all bout at 106 pounds, Rosenthal, a freshman, won by 7-0 decision over fellow freshman Chris Lubeski to give the Mariners, ranked No. 2 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, a sensational 30-26 Shore Conference Class A South victory over No. 4 Southern at RWJBarnabas Health Arena. The win put North in the driver’s seat to bring home the outright division title for the first time in program history and was the program’s first victory over Southern since the early 1990s.

“My teammates kept telling me to block out all the stuff and just wrestle my match, and that’s what I did,” Rosenthal said. “I was thinking it could come down to me and I knew I just had to wrestle hard and put the pressure on him. I’ve beaten him before in close matches so I knew his style.”

“This is a guy who isn’t new to wrestling,” said Toms River North head coach Bill Wilbert, who got to celebrate his 36th birthday in style. “His older brother [Ryan] is a big part of our lineup so he’s been around these matches. Putting him in a spot like that, I feel like he’s been there before and he’s battle-tested even though he really hasn’t.”

With senior Louis Gagliardo at 106 and junior Ryan Rosenthal, Jake’s older brother, at 113 pounds there isn’t a regular spot for Jake Rosenthal in the lineup, despite his talent and potential. Wilbert has tried to get him in the lineup as much as he can and entered Tuesday night with a 6-1 record. The match vs. Southern was another opportunity to get Jake Rosenthal on the mat, but for an entirely different reason. This time, they needed him.

“When we pulled 113 (as the starting weight) I said this is a good place to start,” Wilbert said. “I knew I had a good guy down low so I said we’re going to let him go and get our guy up at 113.”

“I was really excited and I knew I had to perform my best.”

To win a dual meet of this magnitude a team needs more than one hero, and Toms River North received clutch performances up and down its lineup. Gagliardo, new to the A-South pressure-cooker after transferring back to New Jersey from Florida, won an overtime thriller in the opening bout at 113 pounds. Junior Mark Fedeli stymied a lineup move by Southern by beating a returning state qualifier at 132 pounds. Seniors Nick Reilly (126) and Jack Oleske (170) and junior Nick Boggiano (145) each earned critical bonus points. The Mariners won eight of the 14 bouts.

“It was a total team effort from top to bottom,” Wilbert said. “Guys had battles all the way through and I told them that’s what they were going to get tonight. Southern loves to turn it into a brawl and that’s what we got tonight. We were ready for a fight and our guys didn’t back down.”

Most important was the mindset Toms River North was armed with heading into the match. They weren’t intimidated by Southern and its storied tradition and longtime dominance, and it showed on the mat.

“I don’t know if we had the same attitude [in recent years],” Wilbert said. “We had guys good enough to get it done but the culture and the mentality were a little different. Now we’re starting to buy in and believe.”

Toms River North (11-1, 5-0) began the match with four straight wins to race out to a 15-0 lead and set the tone for the night. Gagliardo, who transferred back to Toms River after three years in Florida where he was a three-time 3A state medalist, scored a takedown with three seconds left to defeat Jayson Scerbo, 5-3 in sudden victory, at 113 pounds.

At 120, Ryan Rosenthal used a reversal in the second period and a takedown in the third to blank Matt Brielmeier, 4-0, and give the Mariners a 6-0 advantage. Southern’s first move came at 126 pounds where it decided to bump state qualifier Sebastian Delligatti up to 132 pounds and away from three-time district medalist Nick Reilly. With a backup in for the Rams, Reilly needed to get bonus points, and he delivered by pinning Gabriel Poueymirou in 1:50 to put North up 12-0.

Given the move and the fact Delligatti had defeated Fedeli, 8-1, in last season’s dual meet, the Rams were expecting at least a win and hopeful for bonus points.

Fedeli had other plans.

The returning Region 7 qualifier scored with a takedown early and led 2-1 heading to the second period, but a reversal by Delligatti in the second period gave him a 3-2 lead at the start of the third. Delligatti was riding tough and nearly had Fedeli turned a couple of times, but in the third Fedeli hit a reversal into a cradle with 50 seconds left in regulation. He wasn’t able to put Delligatti to his back, but the two points gave him a massive 4-3 victory and stretched Toms River North’s lead to 15-0.

“I lost to the kid last year and he’s a very good wrestler,” Fedeli said. “I was just confident in my preparation and I went out there and beat him. I told my coaches I got him, I can beat him.”

Southern got on the board when Robert Woodcock won by 22-6 technical fall over O’Neill Forbes at 138 pounds, but Toms River North got those points right back when Nick Boggiano won by 21-6 technical fall over Jason Sari at 145 pounds.

Southern’s second move was bumping Nick Pepe up to 152 and away from Boggiano. Boggiano, a two-time state qualifier, usually wrestles at 138 pounds but weighed in at 145. Pepe was a District 29 champion last season. With Pepe now taking on Matt Spalletta, the Rams were expecting bonus points, but again it was the Mariners turning the tables. Pepe held on to win, 10-9, in a wild back and forth match thanks to a takedown with 23 seconds left in regulation, but Spalletta holding him to a decision was a win for Toms River North, which held a 20-8 lead heading to 160 pounds.

Southern senior Nick O’Connell, a returning Region 8 champ and a state medalist in 2017, pinned Nick Mancuso in 3:44 at 160 pounds to cut Toms River North’s lead to 20-14. But at 170, Jack Oleske continued his great season with a dominant 13-1 major decision over Haven Tatarek, giving the Mariners a 24-14 lead with five bouts left.

Southern went on a three-bout winning streak from 182 to 220 to take its first and only lead of the match as senior John Stout pinned Alex Murillo in 1:41 and Ben LoParo outlasted Mike Nakano, 3-2 in ultimate tiebreaker, at 195 pounds. Toms River North bumped John O’Donnell to heavyweight and away from undefeated junior J.T. Cornelius at 220 pounds. Southern could have chased him there, but elected to send Cornelius out at 220 against backup Vinny Palmieri. Once more, Toms River North got a clutch performance as Palmieri held Cornelius to a 5-0 decision.

Southern now led, 26-24, but Toms River North had the match right in front of them. All the Mariners needed was to win the last two bouts, both of which they were favored in. O’Donnell did his part by defeating Gabe Murray, 3-0, at heavyweight to make it 27-26 and set up Jake Rosenthal to bring home the victory.

“It was just a gritty effort all the way through and that’s what we kept preaching to them all week,”  Wilbert said.  “The Jackson match (a 32-28 win on Jan. 3) helped us because you see the kind of crazy stuff that goes on. You don’t know when your number is going to be called or a match is going to go to overtime and we’re depending on you. We train with that aspect in mind and they came through tonight.”

Toms River North has division matches left with Brick Memorial on Jan. 23 and Central on Jan. 30 left to close out their first outright division title in history. The Mariners only division championship came in 1971 when they shared the A Division crown with Lakewood and Middletown.

“This is a huge goal North has been striving for since I was a freshman,” Fedeli said. “There’s no feeling like it.”


Box Score

No. 2 Toms River North 30, No. 4 Southern 26 

113: Louis Gagliardo (TRN) d. Jayson Scerbo, 5-3 SV

120: Ryan Rosenthal (TRN) d. Matt Brielmeier, 4-0

126: Nick Reilly (TRN) p. Gabriel Poueymirou, 1:50

132: Mark Fedeli (TRN) d. Sebastian Delligatti, 4-3

138: Robert Woodcock (S) tf. O’Neil Forbes, 5:48 (22-6)

145: Nick Boggiano (TRN) tf. Jason Sari, 5:36 (21-6)

152: Nick Pepe (S) d. Matt Spalletta, 10-9

160: Nick O’Connell (S) p. Nick Mancuso, 3:44

170: Jack Oleske (TRN) md. Haven Tatarek, 13-1

182: John Stout (S) p. Alex Murillo, 1:41

195: Ben LoParo (S) d. Mike Nakano, 3-2 in UTB

220: J.T. Cornelius (S) d. Vinny Palmieri, 5-0

285: John O’Donnell (TRN) d. Gabe Murray, 3-0

106: Jake Rosenthal (TRN) d. Chris Lubeski, 7-0

Records: at Toms River North (11-1, 5-0); Southern (9-3, 3-2).


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