HOLMDEL — It started with a pin. And another. And another. And...well, you get the idea.

Visiting Raritan, ranked No. 9 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, won the first five bouts of the match, including four straight pins, to open up a big lead on its way to taking down rival St. John Vianney, 39-20, in a critical Shore Conference Class A Central match on Wednesday night.

The super sophomore trio of Christian Sookdeo at 113, A.J. Erven at 120 and Russell Benson at 126 each won by fall to give the Rockets (1-0, 1-0) an 18-0 lead before junior Jimmy Vanfechtmann's pin at 132 pounds opened up a 24-0 advantage. When freshman Anthony Aquilano won by 8-3 decision over Joe Vasile at 138 pounds, Raritan held a 27-0 advantage with five victories, and that was plenty of cushion to cruise to a victory that put the Rockets in the driver's seat to claim their sixth straight division title.

Raritan sophomore Christian Sookdeo won by fall at 113 pounds in the Rockets' 39-20 win over St. John Vianney. (Photo by Bob Badders).
Raritan sophomore Christian Sookdeo won by fall at 113 pounds in the Rockets' 39-20 win over St. John Vianney. (Photo by Bob Badders).

"It couldn't have started at a better place," said Raritan head coach Rob Nucci, who picked up his 301st dual-meet victory. "We knew we had to get a bunch down low and hang on up top. We got a bunch and our guys (up top) did their jobs."

"It's huge," said senior Nick Bohal about the Rockets' standout underclassmen lowerweights. "We need them every match to come up big and they all have that ability to get bonus every single time."

Bohal also won by fall for Raritan at 160 pounds and the Rockets also received decision wins by senior Adam Bryant at 170 and sophomore Ethan Wolf at 220. The Rockets won eight of the 14 bouts with five total pins, but more importantly stayed off their own backs in allowing just two bonus points.

"I (knew we would get bonus down low) but I was a little nervous we would give up some bonus," Nucci said. "Not giving up any pins is very key. We struggled with that last year against the better teams and we didn't give up one fall today. When you can get bonus and not give up bonus, that's big."

St. John Vianney senior Kahlil Haskins won by technical fall at 145 pounds and the Lancers (0-1, 0-1) received decision victories from sophomore Nick Caracappa at 152, sophomore Steven Giannios at 182, senior Calvin Beaty at 195, junior Micah Clarke at heavyweight and junior Luke Ecklof at 106.

Raritan, which has won five straight Class A Central titles and 11 division titles in the last 12 seasons, will be heavily favorited in its remaining divisional matches.

In the first bout, Sookdeo built a 14-2 lead on SJV junior Jack Whalen before recording the fall in 5:26. Sookdeo had a pair of takedowns in the first period and turned Whalen for three near-fall points in the second period. Starting neutral in the third, Sookdeo picked up a pair of takedowns before turning and sticking Whalen with just over 30 seconds left in the bout.

Erven followed with a quick pin of Lancers freshman Pat Smith, locking in a cradle near the edge of the circle for a fall in just 31 seconds. At 126, Benson worked a bar-and-tilt into a tight double arm-bar hold on junior Nick Ruggiero for a pin in 1:13.

Vanfechtmann led 2-0 after the first period at 132 pounds, then turned up the pressure in the second period with three takedowns on senior Dan Keough. After building a 9-2 advantage, Vanfechtmann turned Keough with a half nelson near the line to record the fall at 3:47.

At 138, Aquilano, who won Most Outstanding Wrestler at the Hawk Classic on Monday, opened an 8-1 lead on Vasile in the second period when he trapped Vasile's arm to his head on a headlock and threw him to his back for a five-point move. Aquilano's 8-3 victory put the Rockets up 27-0.

"We have a lot of those 'young guns', as I like to all them," Nucci said. "They're the nucleus of the team. Even our 106-pounder (freshman Charles Barrale) is an absolute stud. Between the two freshman and the three sophomores that's the heart of our lineup."

Haskins put St. John Vianney on the board with a 17-2 technical fall of Andrew Bohal in 5:45 at 145 pounds. Haskins had a takedown and two near-fall points in the first period, a takedown and three more near-fall points in the second, and two takedowns and one final set of three back points to pick up bonus points for the Lancers.

Caracappa followed with a 2-1 victory over Raritan senior Jared Lonnay at 152 pounds. Caracappa picked up a point in the second period when Lonnay was called for fleeing the mat. Caracappa cut Lonnay loose later in the period after picking up a stalling warning, as the two repeatedly went out of bounds just seconds after restarts. Caracappa scored the winning point when he escaped from Lonnay's grasp with 10 seconds left in the third period.

Any momentum St. John Vianney was starting to build was quickly halted by Bohal, who sacked Duffy in just 1:15 at 160 pounds to give Raritan a 33-8 lead with six bouts left.

"I knew we needed to get the momentum back," Bohal said. "My job was to go out there and get a pin, and I was able to get it."

"He's a pinner," Nucci said. "He's going to come up big with a lot of pin points for us this season. He's a senior and our captain, and he's going to lead those upperweights all season."

Raritan's wrestlers from 170 up hold the key to how far the Rockets can go this year. If Wednesday night was any indication, they have improved mightily from last season when they combined for just 24 wins. Bryant scored a 12-6 win over Josiah Walker at 170 pounds, using two takedowns and three near-fall points in the second period to propel him to the win. Bryant had his fireman's carry working, taking Walker down with it three times during the bout.

Giannios defeated senior Joe Stabile 9-4 at 182 pounds to make it 36-11. Stabile took a quick 2-0 lead, but Giannios scored a reversal and two back points before Stabile escaped late in the first period to make it 4-3. Giannios had a takedown in the second period and a reversal in the third to put him up 9-4. He had a cradle locked in with under 30 seconds left in the bout, but Stabile was able to keep from getting turned to save bonus points.

With Stabile holding Giannios to a decision, the Rockets clinched the match with a 25-point lead and just four bouts remaining.

Beaty downed junior Ryan Dickens 9-5 at 195 pounds with two takedowns in the first period, another in the second and a reversal in the third period. Wolf had a takedown in each period against Jacob White at 220 pounds and had a turn for two back points in the third on his way to a 9-2 victory.

"If we want to be successful those guys have to come through," Nucci said of his upperweights. "Last year's records aren't indicative. They were okay, but we worked hard with those guys in the offseason. Now they're pretty darn good. Hopefully they can help carry us pretty far."

Raritan senior Aaron Daniels held a 3-0 lead on Clark, a state qualifier last season, and was up 4-1 in the second period before Clark put him to his back for a two count with a headlock. The four-point move put Clark up 5-4, and he added a takedown in the closing seconds of the third period to win 8-5.

"Up 4-1 late in the match like we were, we have to pull those out," Nucci said. "He wrestled well. Is he capable of beating (Clark)? Absolutely. We hope we see him down the road."

Ecklof improved to 7-1 this season with an 8-2 victory over Barrale at 106 pounds in the final bout. Ecklof had one takedown in each period to go along with a pair of escape points. Barrale had a reversal in the second period.

Box Score

No. 9 Raritan 39, St. John Vianney 20

113: Christian Sookdeo (R) p. Jack Whalen 5:26

120: A.J. Erven (R) p. Pat Smith 0:31

126: Russell Benson (R) p. Nick Ruggiero 1:13

132: Jimmy Vanfechtmann (R) p. Dan Keough 3:47

138: Anthony Aquilano (R) d. Joe Vasile 8-3

145: Khalil Haskins (SJV) tf. Andrew Bohal 5:45 (17-2)

152: Nick Caracappa (SJV) d. Jared Lonnay 2-1

160: Nick Bohal (R) p. John Duffy 1:15

170: Adam Bryant (R) d. Josiah Walker 12-6

182: Steven Giannnios (SJV) d. Joe Stabile 9-4

195: Calvin Beaty (SJV) d. Ryan Dickens 9-5

220: Ethan Wolf (R) d. Jacob White 9-2

Hwt: Micah Clarke (SJV) d. Aaron Daniels 8-5

106: Luke Ecklof (SJV) d. Charles Barrale 8-2.

Records: at St. John Vianney (0-1, 0-1); Raritan (1-0, 1-0).

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