Shore Sports Network Wrestling Top 10, Feb. 6: NJSIAA Tournament to determine final rankings
The NJSIAA Team Tournament is here, and by this time next week, we'll definitively know which team will finish the season as the No. 1 team in the Shore Conference.
The sectional tournament begins today for the public school schools while the non-public matches get underway on Tuesday. It all culminates on Sunday at Jersey Mike's Arena on the campus of Rutgers University where the five public and two non-public state champions will be crowned, closing out the dual-meet portion of the season.
The Shore Conference should be well-represented in the championship rounds, notably Southern Regional, Raritan, and St. John Vianney, the respective favorites in Group 5, Group 2, and Non-Public B. A Shore team will likely come out of the Central Jersey Group 4 section with Brick Memorial, Jackson Memorial, Manalapan, Long Branch, and Colts Neck among the qualifiers.
This is one of the most special weeks of the entire scholastic athletic year. It's a week where legends are made and legacies are written. The next great moment awaits.
SSN Wrestling Top 10, Feb. 6
1. Southern (14-1)
The Rams officially locked up the Class A South division title with a shutout victory over Toms River North and roll into the South Jersey Group 5 tournament as the top seed and the heavy favorite. Southern will host Egg Harbor Township in the quarterfinals and the winner of the Rancocas Valley vs. Highland match in the semifinals. At some point, Southern will have to get through Phillipsburg again if it hopes to claim another Group 5 title. The Rams lost to the Stateliners in last season's Group 5 semifinals. The teams met this season with Southern earning a dominant 42-12 victory.
2. Christian Brothers Academy (8-8)
CBA followed up its team title at the Shore Conference Tournament by cruising to a victory over Marlboro to clinch the Class A North division title. As far as the team tournament goes, CBA is just like every other team in the bracket: a heavy underdog to state No. 1 Delbarton. The Colts received the No. 6 seed and will have to wrestle a red-hot Don Bosco Prep team in the quarterfinals. The winner will face host Bergen Catholic, the No. 3 seed.
It won't be easy of course, but if the Colts can get past Don Bosco Prep they'll have an opportunity to turn the tables on Bergen Catholic. The teams wrestled on Jan. 20 with the Crusaders earning a 33-12 victory, but, other than a forfeit at heavyweight, every bout was decided by a regular decision, including seven by two points or less. The availability of junior two-time state medalist Alex Nini is uncertain, however. Nini missed the SCT and last wrestled in the Jan. 20 match vs. Bergen Catholic, earning a 1-0 victory over August Hibler.
3. St. John Vianney (10-2)
St. John Vianney placed second in the Shore Conference Tournament, lost on criteria to Seton Hall Prep, and then clinched the Class A Central division title by defeating Holmdel. The Lancers are the No. 1 seed in Non-Public B and have a great chance to win the program's second state title and first since 1995. Lurking on the other side of the bracket is Camden Catholic, the 17-time state champion that won back-to-back Non-Public B titles in 2019 and 2020. On Tuesday, SJV hosts the winner of Holy Spirit and Donovan Catholic and could meet fourth-seeded Red Bank Catholic in the semifinals on Thursday.
4. Raritan (19-5)
The Rockets defeated Rumson-Fair Haven (48-20) and Middletown South (46-30) during the tune-up week before sectionals and head into the Central Jersey Group 2 tournament as the defending Group 2 champion. Raritan is the team to beat in Group 2 and will start its title defense versus Spotswood in the quarterfinals. The winner gets the winner of Rumson vs. Delran in the semifinals. On the other side of the bracket are second-seeded Point Boro, third-seeded Cinnaminson, and sixth-seeded Wall as potential opponents in the final. Haddonfield and West Deptford in the South section, Caldwell and Gov. Livingston in North 2, and High Point and Jefferson in North 1 round out the top contenders.
5. Brick Memorial (14-4)
The Mustangs were idle last week after placing fifth at the Shore Conference Tournament. They are the No. 1 seed in Central Jersey Group 4 where they have won the last two sectional titles and will host Steinert in the quarterfinals. The winner gets either Long Branch or Princeton in the semifinals. To win their 18th sectional title and return to the group stage, they'll almost certainly need to defeat another Shore Conference team. Longtime foe Jackson Memorial is the No. 2 seed and Manalapan is the No. 3 seed on the other side of the bracket.
6. Point Boro (13-1)
After a victory over Jackson Liberty clinched the Class B South division title, Point Boro heads into the Central Jersey Group 2 tournament riding a 12-match winning streak. The Panthers will host the first two rounds, squaring off against Holmdel in the quarterfinals and awaiting the winner of Cinnaminson vs. Wall in the semifinals. The bracket runs through Hazlet where defending Group 2 champion Raritan is the No. 1 seed. Can the Panthers make it to the final and pull the upset over the Rockets?
7. Lacey (22-2)
Lacey comes in one spot behind Point Boro because of the Panthers' head-to-head victory. This past week, the Lions posted three more wins by sweeping a quad with Freehold, Burlington Township, and Pennsauken. Lacey is the No. 2 seed in the South Jersey Group 3 section where defending Group 3 champion Delsea is once again the prohibitive favorite. The Lions will face Ocean City in the quarterfinals and could face a rematch with Class B South rival Jackson Liberty in the semifinals. Lacey delivered a 41-29 victory over Liberty when the teams met on Jan. 23.
8. Jackson Memorial (12-6)
The Jaguars are a dangerous team in the Central Jersey Group 4 bracket and are eying a rematch with division rival Brick Memorial in the championship bout. First, Jackson will have to defeat Hightstown in the quarterfinals, and then the winner of Manalapan vs. Colts Neck in the semifinals. Jackson has four conference losses this season - Lacey, Brick Memorial, Southern, and Raritan. The loss to Brick Memorial, 38-32, could have easily gone the other way and the Jags are getting healthy at the right time with the return of standout junior Cael Huxford. A state qualifier last season, Huxford returned in a victory over Brick Township on Wednesday for his first action since suffering an injury on Dec. 17. His presence in the middle of the lineup is a huge reinforcement.
9. Middletown South (8-5)
After graduating a large and impactful senior class a season ago, Middletown South has remained in the Top 10 thanks to its program depth. Just three wrestlers with region criteria returned this season, but the Eagles are still a solid team under head coach Anton Atterbury thanks to the development of last season's backups plus the addition of some talented underclassmen. A win over Freehold was followed by a defeat to Raritan last week ahead of the sectional tournament. Middletown South is the No. 4 seed in the North 2, Group 4 section and will face Ridge in the quarterfinals. The winner of that match faces the host school and No. 1 seed, North Hunterdon.
10. Howell (19-6)
After placing third at the Shore Conference Tournament, the highest finish for a public school, Howell had four matches last week and posted wins over Manalapan, Egg Harbor, Maple Shade, and Williamstown. Junior Giovanni Scafidi, a two-time state qualifier, returned in the quad after missing the SCT 138-pound championship bout and the victory over Manalapan. The Rebels' top wins are over Middletown North, Long Branch, and Manalapan, while their losses have come to Middletown South, Jackson Memorial, North Hunterdon, Westfield, CBA, and Kingsway. They are seeded third in the Central Jersey Group 5 bracket and will face Edison in the quarterfinals. The winner faces the winner of Hillsborough vs. East Brunswick. The top seed is Hunterdon Central on the other side of the bracket with fourth-seeded Old Bridge looming as a potential bracket buster.
On the bubble:
Middletown North (15-4)