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JACKSON TOWNSHIP – Mike Nakano has wrestled Brad Galassi enough times to know what to look for, but stopping the Jackson Memorial senior’s dangerous top game comes down to execution of that knowledge. It’s easier said than done.

In a matchup of the top two 220-pounders in the Shore Conference, the Toms River North senior found a way to counter his opponents’ biggest strength and help deliver the Mariners another impressive victory.

Nakano hit a reversal and put Galassi to his back early in the second period for a five-point move that fueled a 5-2 decision and sent Toms River North, ranked No. 3 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, to an emphatic 40-17 victory over No. 6 Jackson Memorial in an important Class A South match on Wednesday night.

“I’ve wrestled Galassi over the summer so I know he’s good on top but I can also catch him when he puts the boot in,” Nakano said. “The first time he put the boot in I lifted it up and teepeed up and he went right to his back and I held him there.”

Galassi was ranked No. 1 in the Shore at 220 pounds by and Nakano was ranked No. 2.

“Me and Mike work out a lot and he’s got (Toms River North heavyweight) Johnny O’Donnell in the room who loves to go double boots and stretch people, so we’re really versed in what to do when legs are coming in from the top,” said Toms River North head coach Bill Wilbert. “Mike’s wrestled Galassi, I’m going to say five times over the last four years, and every single time it’s a one-point match or something like this where one thing happens and it’s out of reach. Mike Nakano with a five-point lead I think is near unbeatable.”

Nakano’s victory was one of 10 by Toms River North, which earned bonus points in five of those wins as the reigning Class A South champions took the first major step in defending its division title. Nick Boggiano (160), O’Donnell (285) and Ryan Rosenthal (120) won by fall, Justin Burkert (182) and Alex Danelson (113) won by major decision and Nakano, Jake Rosenthal (126), Mark Fedeli (132), O’Neil Forbes (145) and Sergio Borda (152) battled to decision victories. It was an impressive display of balance.

“Top to bottom we have a lot of tough guys and I feel confident sending everybody out,” Wilbert said. “And with the schedule we’ve had so far these guys are prepared for a battle.”

One week ago, Toms River North suffered a gut-wrenching 32-30 loss to Howell in the final bout but was able to bounce back with a strong showing at the Boresch Duals. The Mariners finished third with victories over defending Group 3 state champion South Plainfield and perennial Group 1 state champion Paulsboro. They suffered a close loss to defending Group 4 state champion Kingsway.

“We got a ton of confidence (from those wins),” Nakano said. “Even the Howell match knowing they are a really strong team and we came really close but came up just short in the end. We know we have the potential to be one of the best teams in New Jersey.”

Boggiano started the win over Jackson with a hard-earned fall over Rob Lagravenis at 160 pounds to stake the Mariners to a 6-0 lead. Hunter Smith got Jackson on the board with a dominant 5-0 decision over Matt Spalletta at 170 pounds.

At 182, senior Justin Burkert heard plenty of boos from the Jackson crowd but that didn’t prevent him from scoring a takedown with 12 seconds left to earn a 13-5 major decision over Dylan Fischer. Burkert spent his first three years at Jackson Memorial before transferring to Toms River North. The Mariners were docked one team point, however, following the bout when Burkert was called for unsportsmanlike conduct for making a gesture to the crowd (he waved his hands up and down and put his finger to his mouth to shush the crowd).

“There’s been a lot of negativity surrounding him coming over here – I’ve heard some bad things – but Justin has been great with us,” Wilbert said. “I have not a bad thing to say about him and I’m going to treat him based on how he’s been with us and he’s been good. He’s working hard and his gas tank is coming along.”

There was some other controversy surrounding Burkert. He was disqualified for unsportsmanlike misconduct during Toms River North’s loss to Kingsway, meaning he also had to sit out the next two matches. He did not wrestle against Paulsboro that same day and did not wrestle in Monday’s win over Toms River South. There was a question about whether the Paulsboro match should have counted as one of the two necessary matches to miss since it was part of a dual meet tournament.

“I called our rules interpreter for the Shore Chapter, called the state rules interpreter, called everybody I could to get a ruling on what happened,” Wilbert said. “They said years ago it was changed and that if he sat the third match on Saturday and on Monday against South he was good, so that’s the ruling I went off and that’s what we stuck with.”

North now led 9-3 but Jackson’s Kyle Epperly, the seventh-place finisher in the state at 195 pounds last season, won by 18-3 technical fall over James Elias at 195 to pull the Jaguars within one point.

Nakano followed with the victory over Galassi to put North up 12-8 and from there Toms River North began to pull away. O’Donnell pinned Antonio Farias in 1:22 to put North up 18-8 before the Mariners forfeited to Brett Blaess at 106 pounds.

At 113, Danelson went up 5-0 in the first period on his way to a 12-3 major decision over Lucas Lipari and Ryan Rosenthal pinned Andrew Cennamo in 4:33 at 120 to push the Mariners’ lead to 28-14. Jake Rosenthal used a third-period takedown to defeat Luke Temple, 4-2, at 126 and Fedeli scored five points in the second period on his way to a 7-3 win over Lance Hobbs.

Nick White broke Toms River North’s four-bout winning streak with a 5-2 win over Lucas Iovino at 138 but the Mariners won the final two bouts with Forbes eking out a 7-6 win over Luke Hamann at 145 and Borda outlasting Mike Rauch, 10-8 at 152 pounds, on a takedown with two seconds left in regulation.

While Wednesday’s win was certainly a good one the Mariners know there are many obstacles yet to come. They will face No. 1 Southern next Tuesday and travel to Phillipsburg next Thursday. They also still have a match with No. 4 Brick Memorial and have a matchup scheduled for Jan. 26 against defending Group 2 champion West Essex. The Mariners would love to win another division title and claim the Shore Conference Tournament team title, but everything they do going forward is geared toward winning the Group 5 title in their home gym in February.

“Right now, this is just practice for the end,” Wilbert said.

“Last year we were cleaning up the mats after Southern won,” Boggiano said. “Hopefully this year we’re the ones winning it.”


Box Score

No. 3 Toms River North 40, No. 6 Jackson Memorial 17 

160: Nick Boggiano (TRN) p. Rob Lagravenis, 4:53

170: Hunter Smith (JM) d. Matt Spalletta, 5-0

182: Justin Burkert (TRN) md. Dylan Fischer, 13-5

195: Kyle Epperly (JM) tf. James Elias, 4:27 (18-3)

220: Mike Nakano (TRN) d. Brad Galassi, 5-2

Hwt: John O’Donnell (TRN) p. Antonio Farias, 1:22

106: Brett Blaess (JM) by forfeit

113: Alex Danelson (TRN) md. Lucas Lipari, 12-3

120: Ryan Rosenthal (TRN) p. Andrew Cennamo, 4:33

126: Jake Rosenthal (TRN) d. Luke Temple, 4-2

132: Mark Fedeli (TRN) d. Lance Hobbs, 7-3

138: Nick White (JM) d. Lucas Iovino, 5-2

145: O’Neil Forbes (TRN) d. Luke Hamann, 7-6

152: Sergio Borda (TRN) d. Mike Rauch, 10-8

Records: at Jackson Memorial (2-3, 0-2); Toms River North (8-2, 3-0).


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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