COLTS NECK – As Middletown North was piling up bonus points and building a 24-point lead on Colts Neck, it looked like the Lions were on their way to a blowout victory. But this one was not going to be a laugher. The Lions needed all of those points to hold off the Cougars.

An early-match run that saw Middletown North secure five wins by fall and one by technical fall to build a big lead and sophomore Nico Cerbo played the role of closer with a major decision in the final bout as the Lions knocked off No. 7 Colts Neck, 39-33, in a key Shore Conference Class B North match on Thursday evening.

Colts Neck came into the match looking to clear its last major hurdle to winning its first division title. Instead, the Lions used their prowess for pins to stop the Cougars in their tracks and force a three-way tie atop the division. Barring any major upsets the rest of the way, the B North title will be shared by Colts Neck, Middletown North and Ocean.

“All the components we needed came together,” said Middletown North head coach Matt Sirchio. “We knew up top we had to take a couple from them and we knew down low we were going to get what we needed. The flip helped a lot. We were able to get some matchups we wanted and made some moves the way we thought we were going to do it.”

Winning the pre-match flip allowed Middletown North to get the matchup it wanted in the final bout at 195 pounds where Cerbo won by 13-3 major decision over Jovani Velazquez-Ruiz. Instead of Cerbo being at his normal 182-pound weight class and senior Jacob Anderson being at 195, both moved up a weight and combined for 10 points. A pin by Colts Neck’s Michael Jannucci at 182 pulled the Cougars to within 35-33, but Cerbo was Middletown North’s ace in the hole.

“We wanted Cerbo on Velazquez at the end and it worked out for us,” Sirchio said.

“One thing is certain: it’s definitely nerve-racking,” Cerbo said. “It gets your mind flowing and thinking about what you have to do out there as a wrestler, but as soon as you step on that mat you have a job to do.”

The match started at 220 pounds with Anderson, a returning state qualifier, winning by fall over Thomas Lidondici and staking the Lions to a 6-0 lead. Bryce Blakie equaled the score by pinning Andrew Kanski in 49 seconds at heavyweight, but Middletown North would begin to open a sizeable advantage by winning five of the next six bouts with bonus points being accrued in each.

Junior Tyler Klinsky, a two-time Region 5 champion, pinned Michael Lyristis in 3:52 and 106 and junior Thomas O’Keefe, a returning region qualifier, pinned Eli Novolesov in 4:33 at 113 pounds to give Middletown North an 18-6 lead. Colts Neck closed the gap when district runner-up Logan Waller won by 17-2 technical fall over Jack Butler at 120, but Middletown North got those points right back when junior Fred Luchs, a returning district runner-up, scored a late set of back points to win by 15-0 technical fall over Nick Moldaver at 126.

At 132, senior Nate Pujols, a region qualifier last season, worked a standing cradle and pinned Harry Weber in 2:31 to give the Lions a 29-11 lead. Junior Chris McCarthy followed by pinning Ford Zajac with seven seconds left in the first period to open a commanding 35-11 lead.

“We knew where we were going to get our damage done,” Anderson said. “It worked out for us where it started and we got a big lead and kept rolling.”

Now it was Colts Neck’s turn to make a run.

At 145, Joe LaPorta scored all the offensive points in the bout to defeat Kyle Puzo, 7-5, to make it 35-14. Undefeated junior Luke Rada followed by pinning Shaun Sullivan at 152 and sophomore Joe Barsky won by 13-3 major decision over Eddie Farrell at 160, trimming Middletown North’s lead to 13-3.

Kenny Koenig then won by 6-2 decision at 170 pounds, but Middletown North was fine with that result as Gabe Lubrano was able to avoid giving up bonus points. Jannucci’s quick pin over Jack Jankowski at 182 made sure the match would come down to the final bout, but with Cerbo waiting in the wings, the Lions knew they were right where they wanted to be.

“We love the challenge,” Cerbo said. “We know our abilities and want to take it to a higher level each year. We want to test ourselves and grow as a team and keep this North legacy going.”


Box Score

Middletown North 39, No. 7 Colts Neck 33

220: Jake Anderson (MN) p. Thomas Lidondici 1:02

285: Bryce Blakie (CN) p. Andrew Kanski 0:49

106: Tyler Klinsky (MN) p. Michael Lyristis 3:52

113: Thomas O'Keefe (MN) p. Eli Novolesov 4:33

120: Logan Waller (CN) tf. Jack Butler 5:07 (17-2)

126: Fred Luchs (MN) tf. Nick Moldaver 5:42 (15-0)

132: Nate Pujols (MN) p. Harry Weber 2:31

138: Chris McCarthy (MN) p. Ford Zajac 1:53

145: Joe LaPorta (CN) d. Kyle Puzo, 7-5

152: Luke Rada (CN) p. Shaun Sullivan 4:53

160: Joe Barsky (CN) md. Eddie Farrell 13-3

170: Kenny Koenig (CN) d. Gabe Lubrano 6-2

182: Michael Jannucci (CN) p. Jake Jankowski 0:35

195: Nico Cerbo (MN) md. Jovani Velazquez-Ruiz 13-2

Records: at Colts Neck (11-2, 3-1); Middletown North (9-5, 4-1).


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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