Shock and Awe: Region 6 Hit Hard on Opening Day of State Tournament, Just 12 Remaining in Quarterfinals
ATLANTIC CITY -- The Shore Conference went down to Atlantic City for the state tournament with 42 wrestlers aiming to win a state champion, but the dream is alive for just 12 after Friday's preliminary and pre-quarterfinal rounds.
Region 6 had 30 of its wrestlers lose in either the first or second rounds on the opening night of the NJSIAA Individual Tournament at Boardwalk Hall, including a stunning loss by a state championship hopeful.
The quarterfinalists, who will take the mat at noon on Saturday, are: St. John Vianney's Luke Ecklof at 106, Christian Brothers Academy's Sebastian Rivera at 113, Brick Memorial's Gianni Ghione at 120, Toms River South's Owen McClave at 132, Howell's Kris Lindemann at 138, Point Beach's John Finnerty at 145, Toms River East's A.J. Meyers at 152, Middletown North's Anthony Vetrano at 182, CBA's Jack LaCorte and Wall's Matt McKenzie at 195, Howell's Eric Keosseian at 220 and CBA's William Oxley at heavyweight.
In the most shocking upset of the night, Wall senior Brett Donner was eliminated from championship contention by Carteret's Elias Vega, 12-8, in the 170-pound pre-quarterfinals.
Wrestling resumes at 10 a.m. on Saturday with the first round of wrestlebacks, followed by the quarterfinals at noon. The second round of wrestlebacks will follow at before an intermission around 3 p.m. The tournament will resume with the semifinals at 5 p.m.
After a cinderella run to a Region 6 title, Finnerty is at it again in reaching the state quarterfinals with another upset win. He upended Delran's Phil Rogers, the Region 7 champ who entered with a 39-1 record, 7-5 in the 145-pound pre-quarterfinals.
"First off, it's awesome walking in with all these people here," said Finnerty, who is making his first and only trip to the state tournament. My main thing I've been saying all week is I want to make some noise down here. It's fairly wide-open, and I have one last shot, man. I have a whole bunch of fans down here, my brother flew back from school; I don't know anything about anybody, I'm just gonna come wrestle."
Finnerty's loose attitude was a big reason he won a region title as the No. 6 seed, and it's obvious his care-free attitude is a big reason for his success.
"I feel good and I'm enjoying it," Finnerty said. "I could be retiring my shoes in a day, who knows. I'm just going to let it fly, that's how I wrestle best. I know I'm funky and capable of (making a run)."
Finnerty is also in a good spot after bottom bracket No. 2 seed, Don Bosco Prep's Taylor Shay, was pinned by Lenape Valley's Nick Palumbo. Finnerty and Palumbo will scrap with a trip to the semifinals on the line.
"It's really cool to be here, but I want to make a run," Finnerty said. "It's the same thing as regions. Everybody is good, but so am I. I'm here for a reason, so let's go out and make some upsets. Let's get a Beach kid to the semis. When does that happen?!"
Quiet consistency has been the name of the game for Meyers, but he may have his name in lights sooner than later after his 8-3 win over Roxbury's Tommy Miller in the 152-pound pre-quarterfinals. In a matchup between region champs, Meyers was in control the entire time to reach the quarterfinals for the first time.
"I know that guy beat some pretty good kids so that give me a little more confidence for the rest of the tournament," Meyers said.
Bound Brook junior Stephan Glasgow is the favorite at 152 but is in the top bracket, The bottom bracket is wide open for a path to the final.
"The top guy here is Glasgow, but I think the rest of the bracket is open," Meyers said. "I'm trying to get to the finals and get the upset."
Meyers faces Queen of Peace sophomore Garrett Beam in the quarterfinals.ma
Ghione made quick work of Camden Catholic's Anthony Croce with a pin in 31 seconds in the pre-quarterfinals at 120 pounds. Now comes the most-hyped matchup of the entire tournament as he takes on Hanover Park freshman Nick Raimo in the quarterfinals. Raimo is ranked No. 3 in the nation and was third at the Beast of the East this season where he suffered his only loss.
"I'm just looking forward to wrestling in front of this packed crowd again," Ghione said. "I've worked my whole life for this and I'm going to go out and do what I do."
Originally scheduled to be in the pre-quarterfinals, the Ghione-Raimo bout was delayed a day after Kingsway's Trace Kinner withdrew from the tournament with an injury, forcing a re-seeding of the bracket. The sentiment once the brackets were originally seeded was that Ghione got a bad draw. That was a motivating factor for Ghione.
"Absolutely," he said. "Hearing every day, 'hey that (stinks)'; it's a draw. I'm going to go out there and wrestle for however long I need to no matter who they sent out at me."
"Everyone is interested in it, and that's really cool," Ghione added. "Being a part of one of the biggest matches in states the last few years is always fun. But I'm just excited to wrestle. There's been so much talk leading into this match that I just want to wrestle."
Middletown North's Anthony Vetrano started his state tournament wrestling experience with fireworks by pinning Queen of Peace's Dominic Maniero in the 182-pound bracket. Maniero was eighth in the state last season.
"I was feeling very confident going into the match," Vetrano said. "We had some scouting on him coming in and I was prepared for basically everything he did."
Vetrano will wrestle Delbarton's Louis Castellano in the quarterfinals.
Ecklof won by 10-3 decision over Jefferson's Mason Godfrey to reach the quarterfinals where he will face St. Peter's Prep sophomore Michael Kelly. Ecklof, who has lost to Kelly twice this season, can secure the Lancers' first state medal since 2004 and third all-time with a victory.
Rivera won by 10-2 major decision over West Orange's Victor Lopez and will take on Highland's Lucas Siegfried in the 113-pound quarterfinals.
McClave handed Haddon Township's Chris Wolf his first loss of the season with a 3-2 win in the pre-quarterfinals and will square off against Bergen Catholic freshman Christopher Foca in the quarterfinals.
Lindemann made short work of South Plainfield sophomore Kyle Bythell with a fall in the first period. He will wrestle Kittatinny senior Austin Scrivani in the quarterfinals.
LaCorte won by 10-1 major decision over Pequannock's Patrick Daly and will meet Hasbrouck Heights junior Sean O'Malley in the quarterfinals. Wall's Matt McKenzie edged Brearley's Saverio Salcfas 5-4 in ultimate tiebreaker in the prelims, then defeated Old Tappan's Joseph Jordan, 3-2, to reach the quarterfinals. He gets Woodstown's Chad Watt in the quarterfinals.
Keosseian edged Clearview's Vito Nucci 5-3 in sudden victory to advance to the quarterfinals, but has overwhelming favorite Matt Correnti from Holy Cross in the quarterfinals.
Oxley won by fall over Cranford's Kevin Doran in the preliminary round and clipped Lenape's Tyler Steffe, 4-3, to book his trip to the quarterfinals. His opponent there will be Buena's Antonio Rodriguez.
Wrestling editor Bob Badders can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.