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BRICK TOWNSHIP -- Some early season speedbumps, both as a team and individually, cast a little bit of doubt surrounding St. John Vianney and whether its talented lineup would reach its potential. But all along, the Lancers knew that once all the pieces were in place they were going to be a force to be reckoned with.

In a span of 10 days, St. John Vianney has put New Jersey on notice and it continued on Thursday with another victory over a traditional state power.

The Lancers, seeded fifth for the Shore Conference Tournament and ranked No. 3 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, won eight bouts against fourth-seeded Brick Memorial, including seven wins with bonus points, to come away with a 40-31 victory in the SCT quarterfinals.

Freshmen Anthony Knox and Patrick O'Keefe and junior Jasiah Queen each won by fall, senior Nico Diaz and juniors Thomas Clearly and Micahel Foley produced technical falls, and junior Joe Giordano won by major decision to send the Lancers into the SCT Final Four for the first time in program history. The Lancers will square off against top-seeded Christian Brothers Academy in the semifinals on Monday at 5 p.m. at Middletown South. The winner will wrestle for the SCT title at 7 p.m. against the winner of the other semifinals pitting second-seeded Middletown South and third-seeded Howell.

Since transfers Queen, Cleary, and junior 150-pounder Kevin McBride became eligible to wrestle on Jan. 17 after sitting out the required 30 days as per the NJSIAA's transfer rules, SJV is 9-0 with four wins over teams ranked among the state top 20 by either or the New Jersey Wrestling Writers Association. They won the Patriot Duals last weekend with victories over Livingston, North Hunterdon, and Kingsway. On Monday, the Lancers rolled to a win over Raritan that all but clinched the Class A Central division title. On Thursday at Brick Memorial, they easily dispatched Red Bank Catholic, 53-18, in the pre-quarterfinals before taking down the host Mustangs.

Although Brick Memorial closed the gap to four points with three bouts left the Lancers led from start to finish were never in real danger of falling behind. It started when the Lancers won the pre-match flip, which allowed them to dictate the matchups at both 132 and 190 pounds. Brick Memorial wanted to get state champion Anthony Santaniello matched up on St. John Vianney three-time state qualifier Nico Diaz at either 132 or 138 and bumped standout freshman Harvey Ludington up from 175 to 190 to meet Foley.

After Knox, the No. 1-ranked 113-pounder in the state, pinned Ken Melillo at 113 pounds to begin the match, freshman Jake Zaltsman put forth a great effort when he held Brick Memorial senior state champion Evan Tallmadge to an 8-3 decision. Giordano followed with an 8-0 major decision over Lucas Torre at 126 pounds to give the Lancers a 10-3 lead.

At 132, Brick Memorial had to present first and sent out Santaniello. SJV sent out Dom Terraciano and bumped Diaz to 138. Santaniello pinned Terraciano in 1:23 but Diaz answered with a 22-7 technical fall over Jack Torre at 138.

The only win that didn't produce bonus points for St. John Vianney came at 144 pounds, but it was still one of the team's most important wins. Freshman Cole Stangle won 12-6 over Brick Memorial senior Braden Scott, a returning district champion and region fifth-place finisher, to give SJV an 18-9 lead through six bouts. Stangle was up 5-2 in the second period when, on a tilt, Scott reached back for a headlock that put Stangle to his back for a four-point move. Stangle eventually found his way off his back and survived into the third period trailing 6-5, and it was in the third hit put his foot back on the gas with a reversal and a total of five back points to win 12-6.

At 150 pounds, Brick Memorial senior Ryan Smith won by 13-3 major decision over McBride to cut SJV's lead to 18-13. But once again, the Lancers had a response. Queen pinned Josh James in 2:16 at 157 pounds and Cleary was dominant in scoring a 16-1 technical fall over Dawson Renna at 165 pounds, giving SJV a 29-13 lead with five bouts remaining.

Brick Memorial was going to need some heroics to get back into the match and that's exactly what happened at 175 pounds when senior Mike Angrosina took the mat against Ryan Cawley as the Mustangs bumped Ludington up to 190. Leading 2-0 entering the second period, Angrosina scored a reversal and then put Cawley to his back for a fall in 2:18 that elicited a thunderous roar from the home crowd. The pin cut Brick Memorial's deficit to 29-19 and after SJV forfeited to Ludington at 190 to move Foley to 215, it was now a 29-25 lead for the Lancers with three bouts left.

The 215-pound now pitted Foley vs. Brick Memorial senior Cory Martin in a critical bout for both teams. The Mustangs, especially, needed a win to have a chance given SJV had star freshman Patrick O'Keefe lurking at 106 pounds in the final bout. Foley, however, took control quickly with a takedown and two sets of three back points to race out to an 8-0 lead. He continued to pile on the points with three more in the second period and eight in the third for a 19-4 technical fall at the 5:59 mark. Vianney now led 34-25 with two bouts left.

St. John Vianney then forfeited to Sam Azzaretti at heavyweight to make the score 34-31. The Mustangs technically had a shot to win in the final bout but with O'Keefe as the overwhelming favorite that scenario was highly unlikely. Indeed, it played out as expected with O'Keefe pinning Gavin Martin in 1:20 to close out the match.

Now it's onto the SCT Final Four, a spot the Lancer expected to be in all along. They keep racking up statement wins, and on Monday the opportunity comes to add two more. And some hardware.

Check back for an expanded photo gallery by Richard O'Donnell

St. John Vianney vs. Brick Memorial Wrestling


Box Score

SCT Quarterfinals

5-St. John Vianney 40, 4-Brick Memorial 31

113: Anthony Knox (SJV) p. Ken Melillo, 1:17

120: Evan Tallmadge (BM) d. Jake Zaltsman, 8-3

126: Joe Giordano (SJV) md. Lucas Torre, 8-0

132: Anthony Santaniello (BM) p. Dom Terraciano, 1:23

138: Nico Diaz (SJV) tf. Jack Torre, 4:01 (22-7)

144: Cole Stangle (SJV) d. Braden Scott, 12-6

150: Ryan Smith (BM) md. Kevin McBride, 13-3

157: Jasiah Queen (SJV) p. Josh James, 2:16

165: Thomas Cleary (SJV) tf. Dawson Renna, 4:55 (16-1)

175: Mike Angrosina (BM) p. Ryan Cawley, 2:18

190: Harvey Ludington (BM) by forfeit

215: Michael Foley (SJV) tf. Cory Martin, 5:59 (19-4)

285: Sam Azzaretti (BM) by forfeit

106: Patrick O'Keefe (SJV) p. Gavin Martin, 1:20



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