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BRICK TOWNSHIP — When Brick and Brick Memorial get together - in any sport - it’s an event the fan base salivates over, and when both wrestling teams in one of New Jersey’s best grappling towns are at a high level, the hype only grows.

The wrestlers, however, would most likely not have to face each other at all, and not for the reasons most would think.

“A lot of us are always working out together and we’re good friends, so we hate to have to wrestle each other,” said Brick Memorial senior Cliff Ruggiero. “You don’t want to be the guy that stops your best friend from achieving what they want.”

“It’s always tough wrestling your friends,” Rob Ruggiero said. “But you just gotta do it.”

With first place in the Shore Conference’s Class A South division on the line, friendships were put aside for a couple hours on Saturday morning. The Ruggiero brothers, facing two of their closest friends, also picked up two of the biggest victories that led the Mustangs, ranked No. 2 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, to a 37-20 victory over the No. 6 Dragons. Rob defeated Brick senior Nick Pollara, 6-4 in sudden victory at 152 pounds in one of the most action-packed bouts of the entire season, while Cliff handed club workout partner Will Scott his first loss of the season, 8-6 at 160 pounds.

The Dragons are loaded form 152 through 220 pounds now that senior Ray Fattaruso is back in the lineup, so it was a stretch of the lineup that Brick Memorial had to successfully navigate in order to come away with the win. Both Ruggieros earned crucial decisions, while Joe Stowers held unbeaten state medalist Kyle Wojtaszek to a decision at 170 pounds and senior Connor Owen held undefeated region champ Dean Sherry to a decision at 195. The Mustangs won eight of the 14 bouts, picking up bonus points in five of their wins to remain unbeaten in A South and put themselves in the driver’s seat for the division title.

“The kids just went out there and performed,” said Brick Memorial head coach Mike Denver. “They know the name of the game and they put together a great match. They wrestled absolutely fantastic and they deserved to win.”

Brick senior Nick Pollara tries hooks the leg of Brick Memorial senior Rob Ruggiero during their bout at 152 pounds. Ruggiero won a thriller, 6-4 in sudden victory. (Photo by Bob Badders).
Brick senior Nick Pollara tries hooks the leg of Brick Memorial senior Rob Ruggiero during their bout at 152 pounds. Ruggiero won a thriller, 6-4 in sudden victory. (Photo by Bob Badders).


After Alec Donovan’s pin over Nick Wojtaszek at 145 pounds to start the match, both Ruggieros took the mat looking to win major swing bouts. Rob Ruggiero and Pollara, both judo players, took turns trying to launch each other to their backs. After a scoreless first period, Pollara rode out Ruggiero to enter the third with a chance to escape and take the lead. But Ruggiero hit a standing Merkle in the third period for three near-fall points to open a 3-0 lead. Pollara battled back with a reversal, and after cutting Ruggiero loose, scored a takedown late in the period to tie the score at four and send it to overtime. In sudden victory, Ruggiero secured a takedown on the edge of the circle for the thrilling 6-4 win.“I was on top and he started coming up, so I just hit the Merkle,” Ruggiero said.

“It was a dogfight. We’re both Bricktown kids and every wrestler in this town is a hard-nosed kid. You have to do your part. Everyone has to do their part.”

Cliff followed with an 8-6 decision over Scott at 160 by scoring three takedowns and earning two near-fall points in the third period. Scott is as dangerous as they come, having believed to just set the state record for career technical falls and entering the bout with an undefeated record. Cliff Ruggiero held him to four intentional escapes until a late takedown in the closing seconds.

“We knew these bouts were toss-ups and we had to keep them close and score big when we could,” Cliff Ruggiero said. “We’re all in the same boat. We’re all dangerous in our own ways. You just have to wrestle your match and stick with what you know.”

“I definitely lost a lot of hair watching those matches,” Denver said. “But I have faith in those guys. I see how hard they work and I believe in what they’re doing.”

At 170, Stowers held Wojtaszek to a 9-4 decision, avoiding bonus points against as Brick Memorial held a 12-3 lead through four bouts.

The Dragons had some flexibility in the next two weights with sophomore Dean Helstowski and Sherry each weighing in at 182 pounds. Helstowski went out at 182 and won by 11-3 major decision over Bob Mitler. Helstowski scored with four takedowns, the last of which came in the third period to secure the major decision.

The Dragons needed bonus points again at 195 where Sherry took on Owen, and he looked to be on his way to at least a major decision with a 9-2 lead after the first period. Sherry chose neutral to start the second and Owen was able to fend him off to keep his deficit at seven heading to the third. Owen chose neutral to start the third and surprised with back-to-back takedowns off front headlocks. Sherry would get a takedown back, but Owen held him to a 13-7 decision for another key bonus hold.

“Owen is in really good shape,” Cliff Ruggiero said. “He’s working hard every day, staying after. Win big, lose small.”

At 220 pounds, Fattaruso built a quick 10-1 lead on Mustangs junior Chris Hayes in the first period, and used two more takedowns in the second for a 14-3 lead heading to the third. Fattaruso picked up three more near-fall points in the third period to put the major decision well in-hand, and won 17-4 to give Brick its first - and only - lead at 14-12.

The Dragons forfeited to sophomore Nick Rivera at heavyweight, and that put the Mustangs back in front for good at 18-14. Joe Ferigne won by 7-2 decision over Matt Wardlaw at 106 to pull Brick within one, but Gianni Ghione pinned Billy Breen in 41 seconds at 113 pounds to extend Brick Memorial’s lead to 24-17.

Brick Memorial’s other set of twins, seniors Luis and Jose Bocalman, then delivered key wins at 120 and 126 pounds to clinch the victory. Luis scored three takedowns and three back points in the first period on his way to a 14-2 major decision over Kyle Marino at 120, and Jose used a takedown in the first and a reversal in the third to shut out Thomas Wright, 4-0 at 126, and give the Mustangs a 31-17 lead with two bouts left.

Brick Memorial senior Luis Bocalman puts Brick's Kyle Marino to his back on his way to a 14-2 major decision at 120 pounds during the Mustangs' 37-20 win. (Photo by Bob Badders).
Brick Memorial senior Luis Bocalman puts Brick's Kyle Marino to his back on his way to a 14-2 major decision at 120 pounds during the Mustangs' 37-20 win. (Photo by Bob Badders).

Mustangs junior Luke Vescovi pinned Anthony Costanza in 4:26 after building a 13-2 lead at 132 pounds, before Brick’s Jack McLafferty edged Anthony Mitchell, 3-1 at 138 pounds to close the dual.

“We matched up with them well and our good guys are where their good guys are, and at those weights it’s anybody’s ballgame,” Denver said. “Kids that were getting majored, then turning it into decisions, that’s what wins state championships and that’s what we’re going for. We keep wrestling like this and we’ll be right there with Southern and Howell.”

The win won’t be relished too long, though, not with No. 3 Jackson Memorial coming up on Wednesday. And it certainly won’t be bragged about.

“I guess it gives us momentum, but it’s just another match,” Cliff Ruggiero said. “There’s no trash talking. We want to win but we all respect each other and know how hard we all work. We don’t amp ourselves up and they don’t either. It’s a rivalry, but it’s a a friendly rivalry.”


Box Score

No. 2 Brick Memorial 37, No. 6 Brick 20

145: Alec Donovan (BM) p. Nick Wojtaszek 1:20

152: Rob Ruggiero (BM) d. Nick Pollara 6-4 SV

160: Cliff Ruggiero (BM) d. Will Scott 8-6

170: Kyle Wojtaszek (Brick) d. Joe Stowers 9-4

182: Dean Helstowski (Brick) md. Bob Mitler 11-3

195: Dean Sherry (Brick) d. Connor Owen 13-7

220: Ray Fattaruso (Brick) md. Chris Hayes 17-4

Hwt: Nick Rivera (BM) by forfeit

106: Joe Ferigne (Brick) d. Matt Wardlaw 7-2

113: Gianni Ghione (BM) p. Billy Breen 0:41

120: Luis Bocalman (BM) md. Kyle Marino 14-2

126: Jose Bocalman (BM) d. Thomas Wright 4-0

132: Luke Vescovi (BM) p. Anthony Costanza 4:26

138: Jack McLafferty (Brick) d Anthony Mitchell 3-1

Records: at Brick Memorial (8-1, 4-0); Brick (12-2, 3-1).

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