FARMINGDALE -- As senior Dylan VanSickell walked back to the Christian Brothers Academy bench after securing one of the biggest wins in program history, he couldn't have been more disappointed.

"We actually missed marking down the 113-pound bout as a win, so I thought I needed a major decision," said VanSickell, who won by 10-3 decision over Howell's Dan Esposito at 132 pounds in the final bout of the match that tied the team score at 27. "I was disappointed and walked off in a sulk. I was really upset. Then they told me we actually had the criteria, 8-6. I still can't believe it."

"It wasn't until we walked back (to the coach's office) and turned the lights on that I realized we won," said CBA head coach Russ Witt. "I was pretty sure we needed a major decision."

VanSickell's win not only tied the match at 27, but gave the Colts eight wins out of 14 for the tie-breaking criteria. CBA, ranked No. 5 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, did what no team over the last 10 seasons had been able to accomplish by taking down No. 1 Howell in a Class A North match, 28-27 on Thursday night to end the Rebels' 73-match divisional winning streak. The Colts won the final four bouts to erase a 27-14 deficit, including an 8-5 win by Rich Koehler over Kyle Slendorn at 113 pounds and an 8-0 major decision by Sebastian Rivera over Nick Ciaccia at 126.

It is Howell's first division loss since losing to Ocean in 2005.

"It's one of the best wins I've ever been a part of," Rivera said. "We just came together as a team and believed in ourselves."

CBA sophomore Rich Koehler (bottom) defeated Howell's Kyle Slendorn 8-5 in a crucial bout at 113 pounds. (Photo by Robert Samuels.)
CBA sophomore Rich Koehler (bottom) defeated Howell's Kyle Slendorn 8-5 in a crucial bout at 113 pounds. (Photo by Robert Samuels.)

After Darby Diedrich edged Nick Shutzenhofer 2-0 in overtime at 106 pounds to put Howell up 27-14, CBA (3-2, 2-0) knew it needed to win the remaining four bouts to take the match. The run started with Koehler defeating Slendorn in a marquee matchup. Koehler was sixth in the state tournament at 106 pounds last season, defeating Slendorn in the Region VI semifinals while Slendorn won when they met during the regular season. Koehler led 4-1 after the first period, but Slendorn closed the gap to 4-3 with a reversal in the second period.

"I was good in the first period and I got a little flat-footed and gassed in the second, but my conditioning stayed true," Koehler said.

Koehler escaped to start the third period, but Slendorn took him down to tie bout 5-5. Koehler appeared to be fading, so Slendorn cut him loose one more time and looked for the go-ahead takedown. Koehler was able to find his second-wind, however, and turned the tables after a shot by Slendorn to secure a takedown late in the bout and win 8-5.

"I know he's tough on top and I thought he'd try to ride me, but they gave me a chance back on my feet," Koehler said.

"He's got guts," Witt said. "If you shoot on Richie nothing is guaranteed because he's funky."

"I trust Richie when the lights are on in the big matches," Witt added. "That's where he shines. He went out and did what he was supposed to do, and that really fired up the rest of our team."

"I personally don't let the matches before me effect how I'm going to wrestle, but obviously in terms of scoring and just morale on the bench Richie's win was huge," VanSickell said.

Koehler had a tough start to the season with losses at the Colts Classic and Walter Woods Tournament, and did not wrestle in quad match last weekend against Don Bosco Prep,  Hanover Park and Newark Academy. His belief in his own abilities never wavered, however.

"I knew everybody on my team had full confidence in me, I just had to get on my offense and wrestle my match," Koehler said. "I have huge respect for Kyle. We've been around wrestling for all these years. It's just another win. I had some silly losses to (Roselle Park's Chris) Gural and (Camden Catholic's Lucas) Revano but those won't hold me back. I'll just get them when it counts in March."

Kosher's win kept CBA alive, and when Howell sent out sophomore Eli Orford at 120 pounds it allowed the Colts to make the move they had in their back pocket. Freshman Sam LaCorte, usually a 126-pounder, was able to cut down and make weight at 120 for the match. The flexibility was huge for CBA, as LaCorte defeated Orford 5-0 to make it 27-20 with two bouts left and Rivera and VanSickell on deck.

"I thought we had to gamble at 120, and Sam was someone who was close (to 120 pounds)," Witt said. "He's a team guy, and when we asked him if he could make 120 he said yes. He cut down and it paid off."

"As soon as I saw (Orford) come out I was like, 'send Sam, I'll take one for the team and go up'," Rivera said.

The reality was CBA needed bonus points from either Rivera or VanSickell in the final two bouts even though the Colts thought they needed eight points total. Rivera, a two-time state fifth-place medalist who is ranked No. 6 in the county at 120 pounds and is signed to Northwestern, delivered with an 8-0 major decision over Ciaccia, a District 21 runner-up, at 126. He led 2-0 after the first period and 4-0 after two. In the third, Rivera scored a reversal before turning Ciaccia for just long enough to get two near-fall points, making it 8-0.

"It was storybook," Witt said. "He needed eight points and he got eight points. When he was on top you saw the look in his eyes. That guy was not getting out no matter what."

VanSickell then took the mat needing to simply win, even if he thought otherwise. He held a 2-0 lead after the fist period before taking down Esposito three times in the second period to open a commanding lead he would not relinquish.

"It was pretty awesome," Koehler said. "We saw they hadn't lost since 2005. We wrestled them last year and got little too excited, and we ended up getting blown out. We came in today saying 'we had nothing to lose, let's get after it and get it done'."

CBA senior Jack LaCorte won by technical fall at 195 pounds. (Photo by Robert Samuels).
CBA senior Jack LaCorte won by technical fall at 195 pounds. (Photo by Robert Samuels).

Senior Ben Kuhn at 152, senior Chris Koutzen at 170 and senior William Oxley at heavyweight each won by decision, while senior Jack LaCorte recorded a technical fall at 195 pounds for CBA. Sophomores Sam Houstan at 160 and Cameron DiGiorgio at 182 also came up big by limiting bonus points. Houstan lost by technical fall to Frank Leonardis, but fought out of a cradle three times. DiGiorgio lost 5-0 to Zack Barnes.

"Those guys deserve as much credit as anyone," Witt said. "They are second-year wrestlers going against guys that I'm sure have wrestled a lot longer."

"It was a total team effort, not just from the guys with state rankings," VanSickell said. "We had first- and second-year wrestlers saving us points, and you see how valuable that was in the end."

Even more impressive was that CBA won the match despite forfeiting to Peter Dee at 145 and Eric Keosseian at 220. They were also without senior Garret Fitzgerald, a district medalist. Howell was also without a key wrestler, senior Kris Lindemann, a state medalist in 2014. Neither have wrestled yet this season.

"You never want to go into a match spotting teams points, but we tried to get matchups that we think were ideal for us," Witt said.

Pending the results of Saturday night's match between Howell and No. 2 Southern, CBA could end up as the No. 1 team in the Shore next week. They will also gain much respect around New Jersey after beating a top-10 team in the state.

"They have been the standard in this division and in the Shore over the last few years," Witt said of Howell. "I have so much respect and admiration for John and the way he runs his program. We weigh in and he has 60-to-70 guys that are lining up. I would love to have that problem. Success breeds success and he's been able to do some fantastic things there."

The challenge now for CBA is to carry the momentum forward. The Colts know any win, no matter how big, doesn't guarantee future success.

"It was a great win, but we have to have short-term memory loss," VanSickell said. "We have big one against Delsea (ranked No. 3 in NJ) on Saturday. Coming back and wrestling tough in every dual meet is the key. We have to carry the same mindset throughout the entire season."

That, is something VanSickell is certainly sure of.


Box Score

No. 5 CBA 28, No. 1 Howell 27

*CBA wins on criteria, most bouts won (8-6)*

138: Anthony Gagliano (Howell) md. Carl Vasti 13-2

145: Peter Dee (Howell) by forfeit

152: Ben Kuhn (CBA) d. Christian Murphy 6-4

160: Frank Leonardis (Howell) tf. Sam Houstan 5:59 (19-4)

170: Chris Koutzen (CBA) d. Jack Kirk 5-1

182: Zack Barnes (Howell) d. Cameron DiGiorgio 5-0

195: Jack LaCorte (CBA) tf. Ryan Marter 5:07 (24-9)

220: Eric Keosseian (Howell) by forfeit

Hwt: William Oxley (CBA) d. Jacob Nash 1-0

106: Darby Diedrich (Howell) d. Nick Shutzenhofer 2-0 OT

113: Rich Koehler (CBA) d. Kyle Slendorn 8-5

120: Sam LaCorte (CBA) d. Eli Orford 5-0

126: Sebastian Rivera (CBA) md. Nick Ciaccia 8-0

132: Dylan VanSickell (CBA) d. Dan Esposito 10-3

Records: at Howell (7-1, 2-1); CBA (3-2, 2-0).


Wrestling editor Bob Badders can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook.

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