Wrestling: 2021 NJSIAA State Championships Preview
For months, no one even knew if there would be a New Jersey high school wrestling season in 2021. And even when it appeared wrestlers would take to the mats there was serious doubt about whether the individual state tournament would even be held.
Thankfully, the caretakers of wrestling in the Garden State found a way to make the crown jewel of New Jersey's championship tournaments a reality. We won't be down at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City for three days of heartbreak and heroism but we will have 14 state champions crowned this weekend at Phillipsburg High School. It will be the first time since 1958 the state tournament is held in a high school gym, but there are few schools and wrestling programs in New Jersey, if any, more equipped to make sure this tournament remains as special as possible.
Wrestling gets underway on Saturday morning with weight classes 106 through 145 pounds. We'll have seven state champions by Saturday night. Sunday will follow the same format with weights 152 through 285 competing. There will no spectators other than two parents per wrestler for the state championship bouts. A live stream will be available via our friends at NJ Advance Media (NJ.com).
The Shore Conference is once again well-represented at the state tournament with 53 state qualifiers, including four No. 1 seeds and a total of 13 wrestlers seeded among the top four in their respective weight classes. In 2020, the Shore Conference had three state champions with Middletown North's Tyler Klinsky winning the 113-pound title, St. John Vianney's Dean Peterson winning the 120-pound crown for his second title, and Toms River North's Nick Boggiano winning the 152-pound championship. The Shore Conference also had six other state finalists, three of whom (Brick Memorial's Anthony Santaniello, Vincent Santaniello and David Szuba) are all back.
Here's a breakdown of each weight class with a focus on the Shore Conference wrestlers.
2021 NJSIAA Championships
1-Nico Calello (St. Joseph-Metuchen) vs. 16-Kurt Wehner (Toms River East)
8-Brendan Callahan (Kingsway) vs. 8-Kaden Naame (St. Augustine)
5-Jeffrey Jacome (South Plainfield) vs. 12-Max Elton (Holy Spirit)
4-Daniel Jones (Delbarton) vs. 13-Ethan Smith (Boonton)
3-Taisei Kurachi (River Dell) vs. 14-Ricky Gomez (Matawan)
6-Logan Wadle (North Hunterdon) vs. 11-James Farina (Ocean)
7-Aidan Carmody (Livingston) vs. 10-Anthony Rossi (Hunterdon Central)
2-Jack Bastarrika (Mt. Olive) vs. 15-Dylan Ross (Paramus Catholic)
Returning state medalists: none
From the Shore: James Farina, Fr., Ocean; Ricky Gomez, So., Matawan; Kurt Wehner, Fr., Toms River East
It's not surprising there are no returning state medalists given the number of underclassmen in the bracket, but that is not atypical. The doesn't mean the bracket is weak, far from it, in fact. Calello and Kurachi are the most experienced wrestlers as juniors and state qualifiers a season ago. Calello wrestled for Watchung Hills last season and is now at St. Joseph's (Metuchen). He lost in the blood round at 106 last season. There are several stud freshmen in the bracket but given his talent, age and experience, Calello is the rightful favorite.
While Calello is the chalk pick, he isn't an overwhelming favorite. This bracket could be turned upside down early and then all bets are off. The three Shore Conference entrants will need that to happen in order to earn a top-eight finish as all three are seeded 11th and lower. Wehner has Calello right off the bat so unless he can pull the stunner he'll be working his way back in the consolation bracket. The same goes for Gomez and his early matchup with Kurachi in the 3 vs. 14 bout.
Conventional wisdom leaves Farina as the Shore's best chance at a state medal. Coming from the No. 11 seed won't be easy but defeating a No. 6 seed certainly isn't unprecedented. His only loss of the season is 3-0 to Calello in the Central Region semifinals so I like his chance to get on the metaphorical podium.
1-Evan Tallmadge (Brick Memorial ) vs. 16-Ryan Hartung (New Milford)
8-Alex Nini (CBA) vs. 9-Harrison Gordon (St. John Vianney)
5-Ryan Ford (Bergen Catholic) vs. 12-Cameron Morgan (Pennsville)
4-Jared Brunner (Eastern) vs. 13-Nick Cottone (Shawnee)
3-Conor Collins (Southern) vs. 14-Thomas Fischer (Delbarton)
6-Clayton Utter (High Point) vs. 11-Michael Campanaro (West Morris Central)
7-Sebastian Ortega (Howell) vs. 10-Joseph Sciarrone (Seton Hall Prep)
2-Luke Stanich (Roxbury) vs. 15-Jason Quirk (Livingston)
Returning state medalists: Evan Tallmadge (Brick Memorial, NJ-4th at 106), Luke Stanich (Roxbury, NJ-6th at 106), Jared Brunner (Eastern, NJ-8th at 106).
From the Shore: Evan Tallmadge, Jr., Brick Memorial; Conor Collins, So., Southern; Sebastian Ortega, Fr., Howell; Alex Nin, Fr., CBA; Harrison Gordon, Sr., St. John Vianney.
Most of the 106-pounders from last season moved up a weight to 113 and that is evident with the number of returning state medalists (five) and a total of eight returning state qualifiers here. This is where we get to the first of the Shore Conference's biggest threats to win a state championship with Brick Memorial junior Evan Tallmadge.
Tallmadge has been excellent this season with a 12-0 record and his second region title. His size and length are a problem for opponents, he scores points in bunches and is tough to score on. Sounds like a state champion contender. Tallmadge has commented a few times this season about how much better he has become thanks to daily drilling with Anthony and Vincent Santaniello in Brick Memorial's wrestling room and it's hard to argue against that.
It's tough to call a No. 3 seed a sleeper but with much of the attention on Tallmadge and Stanich, it's important to note that Southern's Conor Collins is a major threat. His only loss this season is to Tallmadge, 2-1, and he beat Brunner, 1-0, in the South Region final. All of Collins' career losses have been close so he's in every match.
Howell freshman Sebastian Ortega has been excellent this season with his only loss coming to Tallmadge in the region final. Nini was third in the region after losing to Ortega for the second time in the region semifinals but then came back and pinned Gordon in the third-place bout.
Bergen Catholic freshman Ryan Food beat High Point's Clayton Utter, 6-4, in the North 1 semifinals.
While I really like Tallmadge here, Stanich has been an absolute monster for Roxbury this season and there's a great chance they meet in what would be a marquee final.
1-Evan Mougalian (Kinnelon) vs. 16-Sean Dever (Egg Harbor)
8-Aidan Wallace (Bergen Catholic) vs. 9-Mayson Harms (Roselle Park)
5-Jack Zaleski (Middletown South) vs. 12-Jackson Young (Camden Catholic)
4-Tyler Vasquez (Delbarton) vs. 13-John Hildebrandt (Williamstown)
3-Nathan Taylor (Kingsway) vs. 14-Aaron Kurzer (Montville)
6-Joe Manno (St. Joseph-Montvale) vs. 11-Kaelan Francois (Rahway)
7-Garrett Totten (CBA) vs. 10-James Day (Phillipsburg)
2-Anthony Santaniello (Brick Memorial) vs. 15-Brett Blaess (Jackson Memorial)
Returning state medalists: Evan Mougalian (Kinnelon, NJ STATE CHAMP at 106); Anthony Santaniello (Brick Memorial, NJ-2nd at 106); Tyler Vazquez (Delbarton, NJ-3rd at 106); Jack Zaleski (Middletown South, NJ-5th at 106); Joe Manno (St. Joseph-Montvale, NJ-5th at 106 in 2019); Garrett Totten (CBA, NJ-7th at 113); Aidan Wallace (Bergen Catholic, NJ-7th at 106).
From the Shore: Anthony Santaniello, So., Brick Memorial; Jack Zaleski,. So., Middletown South; Garrett Totten, Jr., CBA; Brett Blaess, Sr., Jackson Memorial.
This is an absolutely loaded bracket with seven returning state medalists and five more returning state qualifiers, plus a dynamite freshman in Kingsway's Nathan Taylor. The No. 13 seed was one win away from a state medal and the No. 14 seed made it to the third round of wrestlebacks last season.
But even given all those facts, I think this comes down to the finals rematch from 106 last season: Evan Mougalian vs. Anthony Santaniello.
Mougalian defeated Santaniello, 3-1, on a last-second takedown to win the state title last season. Mougalian is undefeated in his career at 55-0 while Santaniello is 49-1. In their respective region finals, Santaniello built a 9-2 lead before pinning Middletown South's Jack Zaleski and Mougalian won 7-0 over St. Joseph's Joe Manno. Mougalian has won eight of his nine contested bouts by fall. Santaniello won by forfeit in his first two bouts of the season and since then has won every bout by either fall or technical fall.
Obviously, both have been dominant and Mougalian deserves the respect and this status as the favorite. BUT, Santaniello is the wrestler I cover and see on a regular basis and man, has he looked incredible this season. He has been on a completely different level than anyone else I've seen this season. He pushes a relentless pace and seems as laser-focused as any wrestler I've covered. There will be no official picks here but I feel as confident in Santaniello as anybody else in this tournament.
As for the rest of the Shore's entrants, I like Zaleski to wrestle his way to a second state medal, which would make him the fifth Middletown South wrestler to become a two-time state medalist and the first since Blair Tugman in 1997. If the seeds hold he'll have a very tough quarterfinal bout with Vazquez.
Totten has a chance to medal but given the depth of the weight class he'll have some tough bouts in the wrestlebacks. He has a tough matchup with Phillipsburg's James Day right away with the winner getting Santaniello in the quarterfinals.
Jackson's Brett Blaess has Santaniello in the first round. He lost by 16-0 technical fall to Santaniello this season.
1-Vincent Santaniello (Brick Memorial) vs. 16-Phil Stolfa (Red Bank)
8-Mike Tandurella (Don Bosco. Prep) vs. 9-Samuel Kotch (Cinnaminson)
5-Nico Diaz (St. John Vianney) vs. 12-Patrick Adams (St. Peter's Prep)
4-Brady Conlin (Washington Township) vs. 13-Chris Tringali (Mendham)
3-Ethan Fernandez (Westwood) vs. 14-Nieko Malone (Howell)
6-Nathan Fitt (Newton) vs. 11-Frank DiEsso (North Hunterdon)
7-Cross Wasilewski (Delberton) vs. 10-D'Amani Almodovar (St. Augustine)
2-Joe Cangro (Bergen Catholic) vs. 15-Matt Henrich (Southern)
Returning state medalists: Vincent Santaniello (Brick Memorial, NJ-2nd at 120); Joe Cangro (Bergen Catholic, NJ-3rd at 113); Ethan Fernandez (Westwood, NJ-4th at 120); Brady Conlin (Washington Township, NJ-8th at 113).
From the Shore: Vincent Santaniello, Sr., Brick Memorial; Nico Diaz, Jr., St. John Vianney; Nieko Malone, Sr., Howell; Matt Henrich, Fr., Southern; Phil Stolfa, Jr., Red Bank.
Another very deep weight with four returning state medalists and 10 more who are returning state qualifiers. The only first-time qualifiers are Southern freshman Matt Henrich and Red Bank junior Phil Stolfa.
We'll start off with Santaniello, the No. 1 seed, who is looking to cap his career by filling the only void in his trophy case. Santaniello was 8th in the state at 106 as a freshman, 3rd at 113 as a sophomore and the state runner-up at 120 last season. It would be a great story for him to finish it off at the top and take his place among the legends of Brick Memorial wrestling.
Looking at his potential road to the title, he could see St. John Vianney's Nico Diaz in the semifinals. Santaniello defeated Diaz, 1-0, in the Central Region final. St. John Vianney is well-versed in Santaniello's style and tendencies since he and Dean Peterson wrestled multiple times over the past three years, so that is a potential matchup to watch for. Diaz, who was top 12 as a freshman at 106, would have to beat St. Peter's Prep's Patrick Adams and presumably, Washington Township's Brady Conlin, to reach the semifinals, so he has a tough path.
One to keep an eye on is Delbarton sophomore Cross Wasilewski, who is 11-0 and seeded seventh. He could crash the party and reach the state final.
Outside of Santaniello and Diaz, Howell's Nieko Malone is seeded 14th while Henrich is 15th and Stolfa is 16th. Obviously, they have a very tough road to a state medal. This will be Malone's third trip to the state tournament and he has a funky style that can give people problems in the wrestlebacks.
1-Nico Nardone (Delbarton) vs. 16-Louden Mazzeo (Emerson/Park Ridge)
8-Sean Rendeiro (St. Peter's Prep) vs. 9-Drake Torrington (Robbinsville(
5-Julian George (CBA) vs. 12-Josh Palmucci (Kingsway)
4-Ty Whalen (Clearview) vs. 13-Hunter Horsey (Oakcrest)
3-Kelly Dunnigan (Don Bosco Prep) vs. 14-Nick Torre (Brick Memorial)
6-Jack Maida (Shore) vs. 11-Matt Brielmeier (Southern)
7-Patrick Phillips (Brearley/Dayton) vs. 10-Jack Bertha (Mendham)
2-Joe Fongaro (Boonton) vs. 15-Daniel Rella (Paramus Catholic)
Returning state medalists: Nico Nardone (Delbarton, NJ-3rd at 126); Kelly Dunnigan (Don Bosco Prep, NJ-2nd at 113); Ty Whalen (Clearview, NJ-4th at 113); Jack Maida (Shore, NJ-6th at 106 in 2019).
From the Shore: Julian George, So., CBA; Jack Maida, Sr., Shore; Matt Brielmeier, Sr., Southern; Nick Torre, Sr., Brick Memorial.
Nardone enters as the favorite having earned a state medal in each of the past three seasons, including two third-place finishes. Fongaro earned the No. 2 seed by beating Dunnigan, 3-1, in the North 1 Region final. Whalen has won all of his bouts by either fall or technical fall this season, including an impressive tech fall over Southern's Matt Brielmeier in the South Region final. Not breaking any news here, but there's a great chance the state champ comes out of that foursome.
CBA sophomore Julian George is an intriguing option at the No. 5 seed. He is in line to get Whalen in the quarterfinals, which would be a very tough bout, and even if he were to win there he would have to face Nardone. Not exactly a friendly path. George was one win away from a state medal last season and has been really impressive this season. He has a long frame and uses it quite well. He was a beast on top in his Central Region final win over Jack Maida. I think his seed is right about where he finishes.
As for Maida, he's talented enough to finish his career as a two-time state medalist before heading off to American University.
Brielmeier is a tough, seasoned wrestler for one of the best teams in New Jersey so I think he can find his way to a state medal as the 11 seed. Brick Memorial's Nick Torre may be the biggest beneficiary of a wrestling room that includes Evan Tallmadge and the Santaniello brothers, but he has a gauntlet ahead of him as the No. 14 seed.
1-Joey Olivieri (Hanover Park) vs. 16-Collin Rolak (Lacey)
8-Giovanni Scafidi (Freehold Township) vs. 9-David Hussey (Middletown South)
5-Tyler Sagi (Old Bridge) vs. 12-Joseph Davi (Delbarton)
4-Ken Sherman (Holy Spirit) vs. 13-Christopher Bacchioni (Bergen Catholic)
3-Alex Almeyda (St. Joseph-Montvale) vs. 14-Laith Hamdeh (Passaic Tech)
6-Jasiah Queen (Elizabeth) vs. 11-Chase Casey (Camden Catholic)
7-Luke DiGiovanni (Cranford) vs. 10-Nick Canonica (Hunterdon Central)
2-Eddie Hummel (Southern) vs. 15-Myles Leonard (Waldwick/Midland Park)
Returning state medalists: Joey Olivieri (Hanover Park, NJ STATE CHAMP at 132); Eddie Hummel (Southern, NJ-3rd at 138); Alex Almeyda (St. Joseph-Montvale, NJ-4th at 126).
From the Shore: Eddie Hummel, Sr., Southern; Giovanni Scafidi, Fr., Freehold Township; David Hussey, So., Middletown South; Collin Rolak, Sr., Lacey.
There are three heavy-hitters at the top and it would be a huge surprise if someone outside of those three won the title or made the championship final. Olivieri is a two-time state champ who will wrestle at Rutgers next season. Hummel and Almeyda are two-time state medalists with Hummel finishing third last year at 138, winning seven straight bouts in one of the more memorable state tournament runs in Shore Conference history.
I'm penciling in Olivieri to reach the final. The potential Hummel-Almeyda semifinals would be awesome. Hummel beat Olivieri in the Mobbin Classic in February, so he knows he can beat the two-time state champ. The question is, will he?
Scafidi has burst onto the scene as one of the Shore's top freshmen and will square off with Hussey right away. The winner gets Olivieri and a likely trip to the wrestlebacks. Better than Lacey's Collin Rolak, who is the No. 16 seed and faces Olivieri in his first bout. We'll see if any of those three can join Hummel as state medalists.
1-Simon Ruiz (Delbarton) vs. 16-Richie Grungo (St. Augustine)
8-Nicholas Stampoulos (Brearley/Dayton) vs. 9-Connor Doherty (St. Thomas Aquinas)
5-Michael Conklin (Toms River East) vs. 12-Riley Simon (Point Beach)
4-Hunter Gandy (Woodstown) vs. 13-Eric Broadie (Bergen Catholic)
3-Michael Cetta (St. Joseph-Montvale) vs. 14-Carson Barry (West Essex)
6-Jason Smith (Boonton) vs. 11-Kamrin O'Neill (Matawan)
7-Finnegan McFadden (Kingsway) vs. 10-Logan Waller (Colts Neck)
2-Anthony White (South Plainfield) vs. 15-Donovan DiStefano (Wall)
Returning state medalists: Simon Ruiz (Delbarton, NJ-3rd at 132); Anthony White (South Plainfield, NJ-4th at 132); Michael Cetta (St. Joseph-Montvale, NJ-6th at 138).
From the Shore: Michael Conklin, Sr., Toms River East; Logan Waller, Sr., Colts Neck; Kamrin O'Neill, Sr., Matawan; Donovan DiStefano, Fr., Wall.
The three returning state medalists are joined by nine additional returning state qualifiers, six of which have advanced to either the third or fourth round of wrestlebacks in their careers. Ruiz defeated White 3-1 in overtime in the North 2 Region final to hold criteria and earn the No. 1 seed. Ruiz also beat White in last year's 132-pound consolation final and earlier this year in the Mobbin' Classic final.
Toms River East's Michael Conklin is a four-time state qualifier and has moved progressively closer to a state medal each time, finishing one win short last season. As a writer, I root for the best story and Conklin avenging some losses and finishing as a state place-winner would be a great one. He gets Point Beach's Riley Simon in the pre-quarterfinals and will then likely face Woodstown's Hunter Gandy, who beat him, 3-2, in the South Region final.
Colts Neck's Logan Waller and Matawan's Kamrin O'Neill are seeded 10th and 11th, respectively. Wins in the first round are certainly possible but would then match them up with either the No. 2 or No. 3 seed. Wall freshman Donovan DiStefano gets South Plainfield's Anthony White right out of the gate.
1-Cooper Pontelandolfo (Kingsway) vs. 16-Michael Murphy (Westfield)
8-Cole Carroll (Seton Hall Prep) vs. 9-Matt Hoelke (Highland)
5-Mike McGhee (Shore) vs. 12-Steven Dalling (Kittatinny)
4-Max Brignola (Shore) vs. 13-Jonathan Siemsen (Ramsey)
3-Nate Camiscioli (Bergen Catholic) vs. 14-Greg Croce (Paulsboro)
6-Tanner Peake (Hunterdon Central) vs. 11-Owen Disbrow (St. Thomas Aquinas)
7-Paul Jakub (Howell) vs. 10-Tyler Pizzi (Pascack Valley)
2-Andrew Troczynski (Delbarton) vs. 15-Jake Slotnick (St. Augustine)
Returning state medalists: Cooper Pontelandolf (Kingsway, NJ-6th at 132 in 2019); Andrew Troczynski (Delbarton, NJ-2nd at 145); Nate Camiscioli (Bergen Catholic, NJ-7th at 160; Max Brignola (Rumson-Fair Haven, NJ-8th at 145).
From the Shore: Max Brignola, Sr., Rumson-Fair Haven; Mike McGhee, Sr., Shore; Paul Jakub, Sr., Howell.
Pontelandolfo has really made a splash this season and stamped himself as a state title contender. He was a state medalist as a sophomore but didn't medal last season. He transferred from Cherokee to Kingsway and is 12-0 thus far, including a 5-2 win over Delbarton's Andrew Troczynski, who was a state finalist at 145 pounds last season.
The four region champs are the top four seeds at this weight but the next three are all from the Central Region, showing how deep of a weight that was at Hunterdon Central. Rumson's Max Brignola emerged as the champ there by pinning Howell's Paul Jakub in the semifinals and winning 5-0 over Shore's Mike McGee in the final. Rumson has never had a state champion or a state finalist but Brignolla has a great shot. His only loss of the season was 2-0 in sudden victory to Pontelandolfo and he could get a chance at redemption in the state semifinals. Brignola did defeat Pontelandolfo, 6-5, in the Mobbin' Classic final in February, however.
McGhee was one win away from a state medal last season and if his seed holds he'll earn that elusive top-eight finish. A region final rematch with Brignola, his good friend and training partner at Triumph Wrestling Club, could be in the cards in the quarterfinals.
Howell's Paul Jakub was NJ-WB3 as a sophomore but did not compete in the postseason last year. The No. 7 seed is always a difficult draw because you likely have a tough bout right away vs. the 10 seed and then have to face the No. 2 seed next. Jakub is a threat to hit a big throw and pin anybody at a moment's notice, so having that home run capability could suit him well.
1-Blake Bahna (Watchung Hills) vs. 16-Luke Ciampa (Jefferson)
8-Eric Freeman (Paramus) vs. 9-Nicholas Franco (Paramus Catholic)
5-Hunter Mays (Howell) vs. 12-Shawn Williams (Paulsboro)
4-Dylan Weaver (Lyndhurst) vs. 13-Adam Coleman (Matawan)
3-Louis Cerchio (Delberton) vs. 14-Zander Silva (CBA)
6-Colton Washleski (Hunterdon Central) vs. 11-Joshua Palacio (North Bergen)
7-Jurius Clark (Camden Catholic) vs. 10-Brock Zurawski (St. Augustine)
2-Dakota Morris (Kingsway) vs. 15-Roberto Padilla (St. Joseph-Montvale)
Returning state medalists: Blake Bahna (Watchung Hills, NJ-6th at 160); Dakota Morris (Kingsway, NJ-7th at 145); Dylan Weaver (Lyndhurst, NJ-3rd at 138 in 2019); Colton Washleski (Hunterdon Central, NJ-6th at 145).
From the Shore: Hunter Mays, Jr., Howell; Adam Coleman, Sr., Matawan; Zander Silva, So., CBA.
Howell junior Hunter Mays was one of the biggest stories of regions weekend after he stormed his way to the Central Region 160-pound title. In the final, Mays won by 14-3 major decision over Hunterdon Central's Colton Washleski, who was sixth in the state at 145 pounds last season.
Mays came to Howell from Pennsylvania where he was a state qualifier for Conwell-Egan in Bucks County. He went 0-2 in the PA Class AA state tournament last season and has commented that his early exit has fueled him to make a statement on the other side of the Delaware River. So far, he's done exactly that and skyrocketed up the board as a state title contender. He has a vicious array of tilts that have been unstoppable and he pushes a fast and furious pace on his feet. We haven't seen Mays tested yet or be taken into deep water, but that's because he's been so dominant. You can't fault him for that.
Mays is undefeated this season but it should be noted he did drop a 5-4 decision to Paramus Catholic's Nick Franco in the Mobbin' Classic final. Just a reminder that Mays isn't superhuman even if he has looked as such at times this season.
The Shore's other two entrants, Matawan senior Adam Coleman and CBA sophomore Zander Silva, are seeded 13th and 14th, respectively. Coleman had an awesome run in the Central Region Tournament to place thirds as the No. 12 seed. If he can do it again and earn a state medal it would be one of the great postseason Cinderalla stories in some time.
1-Aaron Ayzerov (Paramus) vs. 16-DJ Henry (Howell)
8-Norman Cella (Hunterdon Central) vs. 9-James Holder (North Hunterdon)
5-David DiPietro (Kingsway) vs. 12-Alex Marshall (St. Augustine)
4-Jared Schoppe (Delsea) vs. 13-Raymond Weed (Absegami)
3-Sabino Portella (Red Bank Catholic) vs. 14-Brett Miller (Bound Brook)
6-Shay Addison (Rumson-Fair Haven) vs. 11-Hunter Perez (Mt. Olive)
7-Colin Calvetti (Delbarton) vs. 10-Justin Onello (Bergen Catholic)
2-Michael Dellagatta (St. Joseph-Montvale) vs. 15-Stratos Kantanas (Livingston)
Returning state medalists: Aaron Ayzerov (Paramus, NJ-2nd at 152); Michael Dellagatta (St. Joseph-Montvale, NJ-4th at 145); Jared Schoppe (Delsea, NJ-8th at 152); Shay Addison (Rumson-Fair Haven, NJ-6th at 160); Colin Calvetti (Delbarton, NJ-5th at 152); Norman Cella (Hunterdon Central, NJ-8th at 160).
From the Shore: Sabino Portella, So., Red Bank Catholic; Shay Addison, Jr., Rumson-Fair Haven; DJ Henry, So., Howell.
Another deep weight with six returning medalists.
Paramus senior and Columbia commit Aaron Ayzerov is the No. 1 seed and the favorite after reaching the 152-pound final last season where he was defeated by Toms River North's Nick Boggiano. He forfeited to St. Joe's Michael Dellagatta in the North 1 Region final so it is a legitimate question whether he is 100 percent healthy. If he is, pencil him in for a trip back to the championship finals. He does own a 5-2 win over Dellagatta from the regular season.
There is a great chance either RBC's Sabino Portella or Rumson's Shay Addison reach the final to take on Ayzerov. Portella defeated Addison, 3-1, with a late takedown in the Central Region final. A potential quarterfinal rematch would have to be considered a toss-up. In the Mobbin' Classic, Ayzerov won 6-3 over Portella. He then won by 12-0 major decision over Rumson 182-pounder Jack Kelly. Addison lost to Kingsway's David DiPietro, the No. 5 seed, 9-2 during the regular season. Delsea's Jared Schoppe, the No. 4 seed, beat DiPietro, 5-2, in the South Region final.
Howell sophomore DJ Henry has established himself as a legit hammer this season and came from the No. 13 seed to finish third in the Central Region, but he is the No. 16 seed in this deep weight and would need a phenomenal run to earn a state medal.
1-Brian Soldano (High Point) vs. 16-Michael Gregg (Collingswood)
8-Justin Chrostowski (Butler) vs. 9-Jack Farinaro (St. Joseph-Montvale)
5-Connor Decker (Seton Hall Prep) vs. 12-Nicholas Olivieri (Delbarton)
4-Zachary Andruchowitz (Bloomfield) vs. 13-Brendan Newbury (Wall)
3-Isaac Dean (Shawnee) vs. 14-Josh Beigman (Hopewell Valley)
6-George Rhodes (Absegami) vs. 11-Alex Uryniask (North Hunterdon)
7-Alexi Giordano (Camden Catholic) vs. 10-Casey Allen (Emerson/Park Ridge)
2-Jack Kelly (Rumson-Fair Haven) vs. 15-Jared Tracey (Ocean)
Returning state medalists: Brian Soldano (High Point, NJ STATE CHAMP at 160); Jack Kelly (Rumson-Fair Haven, NJ-5th at 170).
From the Shore: Jack Kelly, Sr., Rumson-Fair Haven; Brendan Newbury, Sr., Wall; Jared Tracey, Jr., Ocean
Soldano is the biggest favorite in the field and I'm sure I'm not alone in that opinion. He's a scary dude who has pulled off some Bo Nickal-like magic in some national-level tournaments. It would be a shock if he didn't win his second state title.
Rumson's Jack Kelly is the only other returning state medalist and by the time Sunday evening rolls around he could be Rumson's third state finalist of the tournament. As good as Kelly is, he would be a decided underdog vs. Soldano.
Wall's Brendan Newbury and Ocean's Jared Tracey are likely on the outside looking in given their draw and the depth of the bracket, which has 14 returning state qualifiers.
1-Blake Clayton (St. John Vianney) vs. 16-Vin Ceglie (Lacey)
8-Marcus Hebron (Lower Cape May) vs. 9-AJ Fricchione (St. Joseph-Montvale)
5-Kevin Pandorf (Kingsway)vs. 12-Daniel Pereira (West Orange)
4-Hudson Skove (Rumson-Fair Haven) vs. 13-Alex Kostantas (Pascack Hills)
3-Jack Wilt (Seton Hall Prep) vs. 14-Brian LaCross (Hopewell Valley)
6-Gavin Claro (Manalapan) vs. 11-Shane Kanterman (Cranford)
7-Nick Lodato (Pope John) vs. 10-Robert Lerner (Scotch Plains-Fanwood)
2-Cody Thurston (West Deptford) vs. 15-Darin Donellan (Paramus Catholic)
Returning state medalists: Blake Clayton (St. John Vianney, NJ-3rd at 182); Cody Thurston (West Deptford, NJ-8th at 220); Kevin Pandorf (NJ-8th at 182).
From the Shore: Blake Clayton, Sr., St. John Vianney; Hudson Skove, Fr., Rumson-Fair Haven; Gavin Claro, Sr., Manalapan; Vin Ceglie, Sr., Lacey.
When defending state champion Martin Cosgrove of Camden Catholic announced he had suffered a season-ending injury, the door swung wide open at 195 pounds. The first in line to bust through the opening is St. John Vianney senior Blake Clayton, who was third in the state at 182 last season. Clayton has been dominant this season with seven of his eight wins coming by fall. He won 3-0 over Rumson's Hudson Skove in the Central Region final.
I like Clayton to continue his winning ways and give Dean Peterson some company on St. John Vianney's board of state champions.
What Skove has done this season has been remarkable. He is obviously skillful and comes from a legendary wrestling bloodline, but being a freshman wrestling at one of the upperweights is so difficult. Most of his opponents are upperclassmen who are 17 or 18-years old and have a physical edge. I think this weekend is the start of his fantastic career at the state tournament for him. Skove earned the No. 4 seed via his win over Kingsway's Kevin Pandorf earlier this season.
Skove and Manalapan's Gavin Claro are in line to meet in the quarterfinals. Skove won 3-2 over Claro in the region semifinals. Ceglie made it back to the state tournament for the first time since he was a sophomore, but after the bracket was re-seeded due to a wrestler dropping out, Ceglie became the No. 16 seed. Clearly, that's a brutal draw.
1-Mike Misita (Williamstown) vs. 16-Liam Spahn (Deptford)
8-Jarrett Pantuso (Warren Hills) vs. 9-Jacob Leiva (Cliffside Park)
5-Jack Stoll (Pope John) vs. 12-Dominic Petracci (Washington Township)
4-Jackson Crawn (Kittatinny) vs. 13-Chimdindu Molokwu (Jackson Liberty)
3-Remy Brancato (Bergen Catholic) vs. 14-Ray Santiago (Colts Neck)
6-Bryan Bonilla (Hightstown) vs. 11-Shane Whitney (Lower Cape May)
7-David Pierson (Phillipsburg) vs. 10-Andrew Franklin (North Hunterdon)
2-Michael Toranzo (St. Joseph-Metuchen) vs. 15-Nico Cerbo (Middletown North)
Returning state medalists: Mike Misita (Williamstown, NJ-3rd at 195); Michael Toranzo (St. Joseph-Montvale, NJ-6th at 220)
From the Shore: Chimdindu Molokwu, So., Jackson Liberty; Ray Santiago, Sr., Colts Neck; Nico Cerbo, Sr., Middletown North.
The is really the only weight where the Shore has a minuscule chance of having a state finalist. Jackson Liberty's Chimdindu Molokwu is the No. 13 seed, Colts Neck's Ray Santiago is the No. 14 seed and Middletown North's Nico Cerbo is the No. 15 seed. It will be a difficult path to a state medal but since the field is 16 instead of the usual 32, just two wins are required to clinch a top-eight finish.
Mike Misita has been in the mix for a state title the last two seasons and this looks like the year he gets it done.
1-John O'Donnell (Toms River North) vs. 16-Tino Savaiinaea (Paulsboro)
8-Jeffrey Jordan (Aubudon) vs. 9-Dom Brogna (Bergen Catholic)
5-Max Acciardi (Paramus Catholic) vs. 12-Ricky Perez (North Bergen)
4-Joe Teresi (Ocean) vs. 13-Terrence Salami (Holy Cross)
3-Liam Akers (North Hunterdon) vs. 14-Matt Jannucci (Colts Neck)
6-Hunter Seubert (Watchung Hills) vs. 11-Joseph Abill (Clifton)
7-Tyler McCatharn (Warren Hills) vs. 10-Robby Chetirkin (Wayne Valley)
2-David Szuba (Brick Memorial) vs. 15-Jacob Clark (Cinnaminson)
Returning state medalists: David Szuba (Brick Memorial, NJ-2nd at 195); Liam Akers (NJ-7th at 285).
From the Shore: John O'Donnell, Sr., Toms River North; David Szuba, Sr., Brick Memorial; Joe Teresi, Sr., Ocean; Matt Jannucci, Jr., Colts Neck
Finally, we get to the big guys and one of the most intriguing weight classes when it comes to Shore Conference wrestlers. The No. 1 seed is Toms River North's John O'Donnell and the No. 2 seed is Brick Memorial's David Szuba. They have split bouts this season with Szuba pinning O'Donnell in a dual meet and O'Donnell getting revenge with a 5-1 victory in the Central Region final. If there is a rubber match it will almost certainly be for a New Jersey heavyweight state championship.
Szuba and O'Donnell are training partners at Shore Thing Wrestling Club, although they've stayed away from each other the past few weeks knowing they'll likely be seeing each other when it counts. Szuba is strong, quick and athletic at around 235 pounds. O'Donnell is 6-foot-4 and 281 pounds and is nimble, as well. If these two meet again it will be all about which one can assert their style. Szbua did it in the first bout and O'Donnell did it in the rematch, "wrestling like a heavyweight", as he told the media afterward. O'Donnell nearly ripped Szuba's arm off with a nasty power-half in the region final so it bears watching how Szuba looks in his early matches.
The region final victory gave O'Donnell the No. 1 seed but it actually presented him with the tougher path. He's in line to wrestler either Audobon's undefeated senior Jeffrey Jordan or Bergen Catholic's Dom Brogna (who transferred from Donovan Catholic), in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, he could face Ocean's Joe Teresi, whom he pinned in the first period in the region semifinals, or Paramus Catholic's Max Acciardi, whom he defeated, 5-3, in the Mobbin' Classic final.
It's heavyweight and anything can happen when the big dudes are on the mat, but Szuba should coast until the semifinals when he could face North Hunterdon's Liam Akers, who is another large heavyweight.
Teresi has reached the third round and the fourth round of wrestlebacks during his career and as the No. 4 seed looks good to finish among the top eight. Colts Neck junior Matt Jannucci came from the 11 seed at the Central Region to qualify for the state tournament but has a very tough draw as the No. 14 seed.
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