TOMS RIVER – Shane Reitsma finished sixth in the NJSIAA Tournament as a sophomore and was already regarded as high-level wrestler heading into the season. The difference in him during his junior year has been noticeable, however. He’s patient, yet decisive; aggressive and calm. He’s made all the right moves so far, even avenging his only loss in the same tournament it occurred.

“It’s just the mindset this year, staying focused and calm on the mat and not forcing anything; just waiting for the opportunities,” Reitsma said. “ That focus and mindset has really helped.”

Reitsma authored another impressive victory on Saturday night inside RWJBarnabas Health Arena when he defeated Paulsboro’s Brandon Green, 6-4, to capture the NJSIAA Region 7 170-pound championship in a matchup of the top two 170-pounders in New Jersey. Reitsma entered the tournament ranked No. 1 by NJ.com and Green was ranked No. 2. The bout was tied at four late in regulation before Reitsma secured the winning takedown with a mere nine seconds left. It is the second region title for Reitsma, who won the Region 6 170-pound title as a freshman.

Photo by Richard O'Donnell.

Click here for more images from the Region 7 finals!

“It feels really good. You still have a little nerves because you never know what’s going to happen but I felt good and was really excited for the level of competition in my bracket.”

In the semifinals, Reitsma battled past Camden Catholic standout freshman Martin Cosgrove, 3-1, also on a takedown in the final 30 seconds.

In the championship bout, Green struck first with a takedown and was able to ride Reitsma out for the remainder of the first period. Reitsma was active on bottom and got to his feet a few times, but wasn’t able to break free to neutral. His efforts did yield a stalling warning on Green, however, which would pay dividends later in the bout.

Reitsma escaped to start the second period and took a 3-2 lead when he took Green down on the edge of the circle. Green escaped to tie the bout at three, but Reitsma went ahead, 4-3, when Green was banged for stalling again, this time at neutral.

It was Green’s choice to begin the third period and he started on defense before escaping to tie the bout at four. Reitsma got in on a single-leg attempt with 1:16 left, but Green was able to scramble and avoid giving up points as the two rolled out of bounds. Reitsma got to Green’s leg twice more but was unable to finish, but his sweep single found its mark with 17 seconds on the clock. Green swung his right leg over Reitsma’s back and latched onto his right leg, desperately trying to avoid the takedown, but Reitsma stayed on his single before coming out the back for the two points to win another region championship.

“I got in on his leg and felt him going for a Falcon or something, and I just tried to keep my hips flat to the mat,” Reitsma said. “I felt him let go and I came out [the back].”

Down by two after the first period, Reitsma didn’t panic.

“He’s quick in the first period but I know I have a really good gas tank,” Reitsma said. “He got a takedown but I knew if I stayed calm I could kind of wear him down. When you have a good wrestler like that it’s hard to score a lot of points, so I knew if I kept pushing the pace I could get a takedown. Just weathering the storm and not forcing any shots, just waiting for the right opening.”

Reitsma will likely be the No. 1 seed in the state tournament since he is the highest returning state medalist at 170 pounds and is unbeaten against New Jersey opponents this season.

“I feel a lot more confident after that match,” Reitsma said. “But I feel if I just believe in my ability I can win next weekend.”

Reitsma was one of three region champions for Howell, which was the highwater mark in Region 7 and gave the Rebels multiple region champs for the fourth consecutive year.

At 138 pounds, senior Darby Diedrich clipped Camden Catholic’s Anthony Croce, 4-3, to win his third region title and join Zac Cunliffe (2001-2003) as the only three-time region champions in Howell’s program history.

“It’s been a good run,” Diedrich said. “In Howell I guess you’re always prepped to live for these moments. Growing up wrestling with Kyle (Slendorn) and Eric (Keosseian) before me who did big things, I’m just trying to follow in their footsteps. Even before my match I was saying to myself I gotta live for the moment and blow the roof off for the crowd.”

The bout was tied at one in the third period when Diedrich took Croce down with 45 seconds left. Croce scored a reversal shortly after to tie the bout, 3-3, and locked in a cradle to put Diedrich in a precarious spot. Diedrich was able to get to his feet and roll out for the escape with 17 seconds left, giving him a 4-3 victory.

Photo by Richard O'Donnell.

“I knew he was long and he goes for cradles, so when he locked it up I tried to keep my leg on the outside and hopefully he would force something so I could roll through and get a reversal,” Diedrich said. “But I popped out of it and that gave me enough space to create some movement on bottom and get out.”

The victory was Diedrich’s third over Croce this season. He defeated him, 4-1, during the Powerade Tournament and beat him, 3-2, in the District 25 final.

“He’s a great opponent,” Diedrich said. “Going back to Powerade it was a tough match and in districts, just like today, he came to wrestle. He controlled the ties today but I was able to gut it out.”

Diedrich wrestled at both 138 and 132 pounds this season, so he had a choice to make for the individual postseason.

“It came down to literally the last day before districts and I decided I’m not going to cut any weight,” Diedrich said. “I weigh in two pounds under now and I’m having fun with it. I’m in the right mindset.”

Diedrich finished seventh in the state at 120 pounds in 2017 but finished two wins short last season. Now a senior, the Brown University recruit is out to finish high school in style.

“I definitely want to go down there and win it, but my biggest concern is to go out and have fun because I realize that staying calm and having run on the mat gives you that extra spark to not make mistakes and be more fluid.”

On the other side of hammers like Reitsma and Diedrich who enter high school as highly-accomplished youth wrestlers with great expectations, there are program kids who work their way up the ranks to accomplish something special.

Wrestlers like senior Joe Sardina.

The musclebound Sardina powered his way to the Region 7 220-pound title by pinning all three of his opponents and wrestling for a total of just two minutes and 10 seconds. In the championship bout, Sardina pinned Lacey’s Vincent Ceglie in 1:10 using a front headlock and an inside trip.

Photo by Richard O'Donnell.

“This is awesome, it’s a great feeling,” Sardina said. “My coaches and teammates all helped me and I put in the work. I couldn’t have done it without the coaches and good teammates.”

Sardina missed his entire freshman year with an injury and as a sophomore was just 9-12 wrestling at 182 pounds. As a junior, Sardina turned the corner by going 19-9 and placing third in the District 22 Tournament. This season he’s 27-8 with a district title and a region title.

“It feels good when you put in the work and you get the results out of it,” Sardina said. “Sometimes you fall short but I definitely got the results today and it feels great.”

Sardina has won all five of his postseason bouts by fall. Each pin has come in the first period and only one – the Region 7 final – has taken more than a minute.

“Of course that’s the goal, right, but I just believed in myself and I did it,” Sardina said.

The 220-pound weight class in New Jersey is headlined by South Plainfield’s Zach DelVecchio, who is the heavy favorite to win the state title. There’s also state medalist Tyreke Brown of Penns Grove and several other returning state qualifiers. Sardina knows he can crack the top eight.

“I’m confident,” he said. “My goal is to place and I think I can do it.”

Happy Homecoming

Toms River North senior Louie Gagliardo grew up in Toms River, but in eighth grade his father had a job transfer that sent the family down to Florida. Gagliardo thrived in the sunshine state, placing fifth, third and third in the Florida 3A state tournament as a member of the Fleming Island High School team. He accumulated 180 career wins, a number that certainly confounded any spectator who picked up on the announcement during the introductions for the finals.

In his one and only year as a Mariner, Gagliardo has been a huge addition. His presence helped Toms River North win the Class A South division title and last week he captured a District 26 title. On Saturday he added a region title to his brief but impressive New Jersey resume.

Photo by Richard O'Donnell.

Gagliardo used takedowns in the first and third periods and a reversal in the second period to defeat Lacey freshman Brady Carter, 6-1, and take home the 106-pound championship. Coming from the No. 3 seed, Gagliardo avenged a loss to Brick Memorial’s Ryan Smith in the semifinals before beating Carter for the second time in seven days.

“It feels awesome,” Gagliardo said. “A lot of respect to these underclassmen, they’re good and they’re going to be awesome for years to come. I’m proud of myself but I can’t stop here.”

Gagliardo, who became Toms River North’s first region champion since Taylor Kau, John Morano and Brian Newman won titles in 2009, was the only senior in the 106-pound bracket. There were eight freshmen, one sophomore and two juniors. Gagliardo’s experience was a major factor.

“I’ve been exposed to atmospheres like this before with region tournaments and state tournaments in Florida,” Gagliardo said. “I’ve been around that and used to it, and my maturity plays a huge role.”

The 106-pound weight class is always one of the deepest at the state tournament. Plus, with so many underclassmen with no state seeding criteria, some marquee matchups can happen early. No road to a state medal is an easy one.

“I just know anything is possible,” Gagliardo said. “You can develop yourself into anybody you want to be with hard work. Hard work can achieve anything and I really see myself going far in states and making my dreams become a reality.”

Back to Basics 

For much of the season, Jackson Memorial senior Vin Scollo was fighting himself. He had gotten away from his go-to moves and it was beginning to cost him. A loss in the District 28 final woke him up.

“I think after I lost in my district final it brought upon me that I can beat these kids but I had to start doing the things I did in my sophomore year,” Scollo said. “I was physical, I was fast and I was mean, and that’s what I brought into this tournament and that’s why I came out on top.”

Photo by Richard O'Donnell.

Scollo had his cross-wrist tilt working to perfection all weekend en route to winning the 120-pound region title and doing so in dominant fashion. Scollo was unscored upon in four bouts, yielding just two escape points in the entire tournament. He avenged his district finals loss by blanking Eastern’s Dainon Kappes, 4-0, in the semifinals before shutting out the top seed, Seneca’s Hunter Nixon, 5-0, in the championship bout.

“This season I haven’t been getting to my turns but my coaches have been telling me ‘you’re good on top, stick with what you know’,” Scollo said. “This year I’ve been getting away from my Buena (tilt), which I should be pushing toward more. That’s what I did this whole tournament. The kid in the semis (Kappes), he’s a good wrestler ad knows what I do but I just outmuscled him, really, on top.”

Last season, Scollo lost the 106-pound championship to Paulsboro’s Georgio Mazzeo in ultimate tiebreaker, so one of his main goals this season was to get back to the final and finish the job.

“Last year I ended up taking second, losing in the last nine seconds of the match,” Scollo said. “I felt like I needed redemption.”

Santaniello, Conklin cruise to first region titles 

Since a loss in the Shore Conference Tournament final, Toms River East sophomore Michael Conklin has been a man on a mission.

“I lost that match and I was like, I can’t lose anymore because I hate losing,” Conklin said. “All I wanted to do was beat that kind Malone (Howell’s Nieko Malone) and then get higher and higher on the podium.”

Photo by Richard O'Donnell.

Conklin avenged that loss when he pinned Malone in the District 24 final and kept the momentum going by winning the 126-pound region title. He won by fall in the quarterfinals, topped Brick Memorial’s Michael Richardson, 10-5, in the semifinals and blanked Paulsboro’s Geno Duca, 5-0, in the final.

At 113 pounds, Brick Memorial sophomore Vincent Santaniello won his first region title by topping Paulsboro’s Georgio Mazzeo, 5-0. Santaniello won by fall in the quarterfinals and by technical fall in the semifinals.

“It felt amazing,” Santaniello said. “This whole day has been really fun but really stressful, too, thinking about everything. I just tried to relax myself and go in confident.”

Santaniello is 33-1 this season with his only loss coming to St. John Vianney’s Dean Peterson in the SCT final. The 113-pound weight class at the state tournament is loaded, and as a returning eighth-place finisher at the state tournament, he is one of the reasons why. The battle for the title and the other seven spots on the podium will be great theatre at Boardwalk Hall.

Photo by Richard O'Donnell.

“The top eight guys, 10 guys are all top guys in the state, but I never really see myself as an underdog against any of them,” Santaniello said. “I think we’re all one point away from each other so I just have to go out there and get offensive and whatever happens, happens.”

The Shore sends 24 to states out of Region 7 

In addition to the seven wrestlers who won region titles, 15 others from the Shore Conference advanced to the state tournament.

Howell sophomore Paul Jakub and senior Christian Murphy finished second at 152 and 182 pounds, respectively. Murphy is now a three-time state qualifier while Jakub reaches Atlantic City for the second time.

Finishing third were Brick Memorial’s Ryan Smith at 106, Toms River North’s Ryan Rosenthal at 113, Toms River North’s Nick Reilly at 120, Brick Memorial’s Michael Richardson at 126, Lacey’s Hunter Gutierrez at 132, Toms River North’s Nick Boggiano at 145 and Jackson Memorial’s Brock Winston at 182.

Richardson made a great run to finish third, using a banana split to pin two-time state qualifier Tyler Pepe of Central in the blood round. In the third-place bout, Richardson pinned Malone by reaching back with a headlock as Malone was going for a tilt.

Finishing fourth were Howell’s Ethan Liptzin at 106 and Nieko Malone at 126, Jackson Memorial’s Carsten DiGiantomasso at 152, Kyle Epperly at 195 and Brad Galassi at 285 and Brick Memorial’s David Szuba at 182.

 

IN REGION 5 

Rumson-Fair Haven’s Nick Addison and St. John Vianney’ Dean Peterson each won their first region titles.

Addison pinned his way to the 182-pound title, winning by fall in 3:08 over South Plainfield’s Dan Hedden in the championship bout. He is Rumson’s first region champion since 2015 and the fourth wrestler in program history to win a region title. He also set the program career wins record with 135 wins and counting.

Peterson, who was second in the state at 106 pounds last season, dominated the 113-pound bracket. He won by fall in his first two bouts before winning by 13-1 major decision over Pingry’s Brandon Spellman in the final. Peterson will be among the favorites to win a state championship next weekend.

Manalapan’s Alex Baran finished second at 138 pounds and also became the Braves’ all-time wins leader with 122. Also finishing second for Manalapan was junior Matt Benedetti, who recorded his 100th career win in the 160-pound semifinals.

Shore’s Jack Maida finished second to Hunterdon Central’s Brett Ungar at 106 pounds and St. John Vianney’s Paul Liseno finished second at heavyweight, forfeiting to Franklin’s Marcus Estevez in the final.

Notable among the third- and fourth-place finishers from the Shore in Region 5 is St. John Vianney freshman Nico Diaz, who placed third at 106 pounds as the No. 6 seed. Diaz’s father passed away early in the week but he decided to remain in the tournament and advanced to the state tournament.

Also finishing third was Rumson-Fair Haven sophomore Max Brignola at 138, Shore Regional sophomore Mike McGhee at 145, Manalapan senior Paul Santomarco at 152 and Middletown South senior Brady Smith at 220.

Placing fourth were Manalapan junior Hunter Konstantoulas at 126, Shore’s Al DeSantis at 132, St. John Vianney’s Blake Clayton at 170 and Manalapan’s Gavin Claro at 182.

 

IN REGION 6 

Wall senior Rob Kanniard won his third region title and became the Shore Conference’s all-time wins leader with another dominant performance.

Kanniard, who was second in New Jersey at 160 pounds last season, fourth at 152 as a sophomore, ranked No. 5 in the nation by InterMat and signed to Rutgers University, had bonus points victories in all three of his wins, including two technical falls and a pin in 3:44 over Raritan’s Anthony Aquilano in the finals. Kanniard now has 160 career wins, breaking the old mark of 158 held by Raritan’s Dan Seidenberg and Howell’s Kyle Slendorn.

Kanniard is the heavy favorite to win the 160-pound state title next weekend.

Also winning his third region title was Middletown North junior Tyler Klinsky, who was equally as dominant in the 106-pound weight class. Klinsky, who is unscored upon this season, won by technical fall in the quarterfinals and semifinals before pinning Brick freshman Evan Tallmadge in 4:33 in the final.

Klinsky is the first wrestler in Middletown North program history to win three region titles and will be among the favorites to win the state title next weekend.

Joining Klinsky as a region champion was Lions senior Jacob Anderson, who shut out undefeated Northern Burlington senior Tommy Hill, 5-0, in the 195-pound final.

Freehold junior Nico Messina won the 120-pound title with a 6-3 win over Robbinsville’s Drake Torrington to become the second wrestler in program history to win two region titles. He also earned his 100th career win during the tournament.

Long Branch senior Kevin Cerruti repeated as the heavyweight region champion with a 7-3 win over Ewing’s Chris Seifert while teammate, junior Ryan Zimmerman, who his first region title with a 13-4 major decision over Monroe’s Michael Bilardo at 126 pounds.

Colts Neck’s Luke Rada defeated Point Boro’s Ty Bailey, 15-8, in the 145-pound final to become the Cougars’ third region champion and first since Tyler Fraley in 2010.

Wall sophomore Jake Whitworth won the 182-pound region title by pinning Colts Neck’s Michael Jannucci in 5:28.

Finishing second were Tallmadge at 106, Middletown North’s Thomas O’Keefe at 113, Ocean’s Jack Nies at 132, Ocean’s Alex Poniros at 138, Bailey at 145, Aquilano at 160, Raritan’s George Burdick at 170, Jannucci at 182 and Point Boro’s Billy Borowsky at 220.

Poniros was seventh in the state last season but a shoulder injury forced him to miss several weeks of the season. He is still not fully healed but was able to avenge a district semifinals loss to Monroe’s Corey Fernandez with an 11-9 win in the region semifinals. He suffered a hamstring injury, however, in that bout and had to forfeit to Burlington Township’s Craig Cook in the final.

Placing there were Colts Neck’s Logan Waller at 120, Freehold Township’s Avery Clarke at 126, CBA’s  Sam LaCorte at 132, Wall’s Nicholas Vargas at 145, Point Beach’s Jason Sherlock at 182, Raritan’s Justin Acevedo at 195, Red Bank Catholic’s Steve Cmielewski at 220 and Ocean’s Joe Teresi at 285.

Finishing fourth were Ocean’s Demetri Poniros at 113, Middletown North’s Fred Luchs at 120, Wall’s Jacob Glantzman at 126, Point Beach’s Jesse Bowers at 132, Long Branch’s Steven Pabone at 138, Freehold’s Tony Dushku at 145, Ocean’s Anthony Esposito at 160 and Lakewood’s Dante Morris at 182.

 

IN REGION 8 

Seniors Nick O’Connell and John Stout and junior Robert Woodcock each won region titles to lead a contingent of seven Southern Regional wrestlers to qualify for the state tournament.

O’Connell won his second region title and picked up his 100th career win by defeating St. Augustine’s Connor Krauss, 7-4, in the 152-pound final. Kraus had upset Delsea’s Nick Bennet, the state runner-up at 145 pounds last season, in the semifinals.

Stout won by 5-3 decision over Buena’s Jaden Roberts in the 170-pound final to repeat as region champion, while Woodcock took down talented Holy Spirit freshman Ken Sherman, 10-4, to win the 138-pound title.

Jayson Scerbo finished second at 113 pounds and J.T. Cornelius was second at 220. Nick Pepe finished third at 145 pounds and Sebastian Delligatti was fourth at 126.

Pinelands’ Evan Burton qualified for the state tournament by placing fourth at 182 pounds and Barnegat’s Griffin Jackstadt also punched his ticket to Atlantic City by finishing fourth at heavyweight.

 

Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at bob.badders@townsquaremedia.com. 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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