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For Point Beach’s Macky Liotta, just having a chance to compete during his senior year was all he was asking for. What happened on Wednesday night was beyond anything he anticipated.

With the match tied against Class B Central rival Shore Regional, Liotta took to the mat in the final bout and delivered a walk-off pin late in the second period to give the Garnet Gulls a dramatic 42-36 victory over the Blue Devils to effectively clinch the division title.

Down 15-0 after the first three bouts and trailing by six with two bouts left, the Gulls rallied with wins by fall in all four of their on-mat victories. They were also aided by three forfeits, including back-to-back forfeits at 106 and 113 where Shore has no wrestlers available.

After standout senior Mike McGhee gave Shore a 36-30 lead with two bouts left, Point Beach received a pin from Jason Schulz at 170 pounds to tie the bout and set up Liotta for the final-bout heroics.

“My coaches came up to me and said, ‘It’s all on you, everything is on the line, go down swinging’,” Liotta said. “The room went quiet and it was time to step it up and take matters into my own hands to get the team on top. It was our only chance to get our names on the wall this year with a division title."

"I couldn’t be happier to get the job done and be able to remember this moment for, honestly, the rest of my life."

“I was confident with how it was ending with our four seniors there,” said Point Beach head coach Jeff Bower. “You always want to end with a senior and especially when it’s a senior who had a great offseason. You can see he got a lot bigger and a lot stronger and is moving much better.”

Liotta was limited to just 17 bouts last season because of injuries but still managed to help the Garnet Gulls win their fourth Central Jersey Group 1 sectional title before placing second in the District 23 Tournament. Injuries also limited him to under 20 bouts as a sophomore. Finally, he’s healthy and ready to make the most of his final season even though it won’t be a typical year.

“I just couldn’t be more grateful for this season,” Liotta said. “I haven’t been completely healthy since my freshman year so just having that coming into the season, being 100 percent and even having the season is awesome.”

The division title isn’t officially Point Beach’s just yet. They still have to defeat Keansburg, Asbury Park and St. Rose, but wins in those matches are a foregone conclusion. It will be Point Beach’s 23rd division title, fourth in the last five years and the ninth during Bower’s 11-year tenure. Wednesday’s victory was also Bower’s 200th career win.

“All I ever wanted here was to have a good program,” Bower said

Despite having one of the smallest schools in New Jersey, Point Beach always has very good numbers in its wrestling room, routinely approaching a level where a quarter of all the boys in the school are members of the wrestling team. It’s allowed them to build a program that can sustain losses to graduation that other programs, even larger ones, cannot.

“We just want to be competitive every year, that’s the biggest thing,” Bower said. “We always want to be able to compete for a division and a sectional title. We have a great group of kids.”

Point Beach and Shore split the bouts right down the middle, 7-7, although Shore had a 7-4 edge in the contested bouts. The Blue Devils do not have a 106 or a 113-pounder and will be forfeiting those weights all season, Shore head coach Dave Porta confirmed. They also forfeited to Point Beach senior standout Riley Simon at 145 because they didn’t have anyone weighed in at 145. But the Blue Devils were right in it because they have a handful of hammers. Senior Jack Maida is a former state medalist and won by fall at 132 pounds, McGhee is a region champ and won by fall at 152. Cade Torres (285) and Gabe Scalise (138) also won by fall and Jamie Mazzacco made his much-anticipated return to the mat and looked great in recording a first-period fall at 195 pounds. Shore also received a clutch, last-second win by Layne Raposo at 220 pounds and a decision from Brendan Nichols at 120.

Bower knew what was going to happen in most of those matches and knew he was going to need some fireworks from his younger or less-experienced wrestlers. They delivered.

Junior Rowan McLoughlin locked in a cradle and delivered a huge pin at 126 pounds and sophomore Joe Beley came through with another much-needed fall at 152 pounds.

“That’s the thing with (Shore), those guys have hammers,” Bower said. “You’re not saving (bonus points) against Maida, you’re not saving against McGhee. You’re not doing it, no matter how tough you fight and belly down and all that. Those kids are just studs, so for our young guys to step up was just huge. 126 was huge with Rowan McLoughlin going out and pinning and Joe Beley, he’s a JV quarterback for us, just a tough kid and another one who goes out and pins in a match between two inexperienced guys.”

Now, the Garnet Gulls will move forward one small step at a time. They still have their annual rivalry match with Point Boro, which will take place outside on Point Boro’s football field. After that, it’s all about preparing for the individual postseason and hoping the season continues as smoothly as possible. The pandemic is slowing down but it’s still affecting sports teams on a daily basis.

“I’m just so happy for the seniors and that we even have a season,” Bower said. “I’m shocked we’re wrestling, especially with all these teams shutting down. These seniors for four years now have done everything for the team, so I’m hoping this individual thing happens at the end for them because that’s what it’s all about.”

CLICK HERE FOR A PHOTO GALLERY BY RICHARD O'DONNELL PHOTOGRAPHY

 

Box Score

Point Beach 42, Shore 36

195: Jamie Mazzacco (S) p. Ryley Thomas, 1:12

220: Layne Raposo (S) d. Rowan Doyle, 6-5

285: Cade Torres (S) p. Josh Ramos, 1:35

106: Aidan Loughran (PB) by forfeit

113: Michael Storino (PB) by forfeit

120: Brendan Nichols (S) d. Teddy Jarahian, 6-4

126: Rowan McLoughlin (PB) p. Daniel Bonner, 0:49

132: Jack Maida (S) p. Justin Mazzatta, 0:52

138: Gabe Scalise (S) p. Josh Golda, 1:40

145: Riley Simon (PB) by forfeit

152: Joe Beley (PB) p. Tyler Husar, 2:51

160: Mike McGhee (S) p. Kip Lovgren, 2:50

170: Jason Schulz (PB) p. Liam Rosa, 1:22

182: Macky Liotta (PB) p. Dylan Drahos, 3:52

 

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