Wrestling: Brick Memorial’s Anthony and Vincent Santaniello, Evan Tallmadge Win NJSIAA State Titles
PHILLIPSBURG – First it was Evan, then Anthony, and, finally, Vincent. Together, they authored one of the most memorable nights in the illustrious history of Brick Memorial wrestling.
On Saturday night at Phillipsburg High School, junior Evan Tallmadge, sophomore Anthony Santaniello and senior Vincent Santaniello went back-to-back-to-back with state titles at the NJSIAA Wrestling Championships.
Tallmadge captured the 113-pound state title with a thrilling 8-7 double-overtime victory over Southern Regional’s Conor Collins. Then, Anthony Santaniello avenged the only loss of his career by scoring a late takedown to defeat Kinnelon’s Evan Mougalian, 4-2, to capture the 120-pound state championship in a rematch of last season’s 106-pound state final. Then it was Vincent Santaniello’s turn, and he capped an amazing career by beating Bergen Catholic’s Joe Cangro, 6-1, to win the 126-pound state championship.
Vincent Santaniello is the first four-time state medalist in Brick Memorial history. Brick Memorial also joined Jackson Memorial (2008) and Toms River South (1977) as Shore Conference teams to have three state champions in one season. With Tallmadge and the Santaniello brothers winning they became the first teammates to win state championships in three consecutive weight classes since Newton in 1948. The Santaniellos are also the first brothers to win state titles in the same year since Central Regional’s Mark and Maurice Worthy in 1996.
“It feels great, amazing,” Vincent said. “I’m at a loss for words right now.”
“It’s awesome and with Evan, too, we’re family,” Anthony said. “Today is better than Christmas, something we’ll remember for our whole lives. And we’ve been planning to do this all year. We’ve said this to ourselves in the room every day.”
“I used to go to (Atlantic City) with Vin and Ant every year watching states and we didn’t even know we just thought if you were there you were good. We couldn’t wait to wrestle in that and now it’s just a dream come true for us to be state champions.”
Tallmadge Starts the Run
The 113-pound state final was the third meeting in the last two seasons between Tallmadge and Collins. Tallmadge won 7-3 during last season’s state tournament and 2-1 during a dual meet this season. This one was a nail-biter with plenty of action.
Tallmadge scored the first takedown but Collins responded with a reversal, then Tallmadge answered with a reversal of his own. Collins escaped near the end of the fast and furious first period to cut his deficit to 4-3. Tallmadge chose defense to start the second period and scored with another reversal to take a 6-3 lead. Collins was eventually able to get out to make it 6-4 heading to the third period.
Collins took defense in the third period, escaped and then took Collins down to take a 7-6 lead. Tallmadge was able to get free to tie the bout at seven and it stayed that way through the third-period buzzer. After a scoreless sudden victory overtime the rideout portion began and Tallmadge was the first one to take defense. Collins rode him tough but Tallmadge was able to finally escape late in the 30-second period to go up 8-7. He looked at the clock and heard the message from head coach Mike Kiley. Thirty seconds was all that stood between him and a state championship.
“Like coach says, you’re in the red zone there, you just have to put everything you have into it and go and not stop until the buzzer,” Tallmadge said. “It’s all about heart and motivation there.”
“Going into overtime Evan pointed to his head – we preach the word ‘Good’ in our program, when bad things happen we attack them with the word ‘Good’ – and he turned to me and pointed to his head and said ‘Good’. I knew he was going to win after that.”
It was a frenetic 30 seconds and Collins not only nearly escaped, he nearly decked Tallmadge with a defensive pin. But the Mustangs junior was able to post on his head and keep his shoulders off the mat, holding on for dear life in the waning seconds to win 8-7 and claim the state crown.
“Of course they’re going to scream (that I was pinned) because they want to win, but I had my neck posted up and I guarantee if you watch the film I wasn’t pinned,” Tallmadge said. “I knew I just had to hold on for five more seconds.”
After a fourth-place finish last season at 106 pounds when he wrestled for Brick Township and a sour taste in his mouth leaving Boardwalk Hall, Tallmadge is now a New Jersey state champion.
“Taking fourth last year motivated me,” Tallmadge said. “I lost to Ant so I wasn’t going to mad about that but I wish I would have ended on third place. Leaving on a loss didn’t sit well.”
Anthony Gets His Revenge
Next, it was Anthony Santaniello’s turn in one of the most anticipated finals of the year. In last year’s 106-pound final, Mougalian scored a late takedown to win 3-1. It is Santaniello’s only loss. Mougalian entered the state tournament undefeated for his career.
“This whole year, even last year through quarantine, it’s all I thought about,” Santaniello said. “I had to do whatever I can do to beat this kid. I had to do whatever I had to do to redeem that loss. This is everything.”
After a scoreless first period, Santaniello chose defense and scored a reversal to take a 2-0 lead. Mougalian escaped to make it 2-1 heading into the third period. Mougalian chose defense in the third and escaped to tie the bout 2-2, setting up the dramatic final sequence.
With under 30 seconds left in the third period, Santaniello found himself in nearly the exact position as last season when Mougalian took him down just before the buzzer to win the state title. This time, Santaniello knew exactly what to do.
“I’ve worked in this every day,” Anthony said. “Instead of going to a crotch lock I go to a boot scoot. Last time I went to a crotch lock and it didn’t end well so right when he got on my leg I knew I was going boot scoot right away. I’m going to get this takedown and seal the deal.”
Santaniello did just that, scoring the winning points with 23 seconds left on the clock and riding out Mougalian the rest of the way to complete an incredible sophomore season. He just the second Brick Memorial sophomore to win a state championship and the first since Nick Angen in 1994.
“That’s because he analyzes himself; he’s his own coach and has one of the best coaches in his father,” Kiley said. “They’re a wrestling encyclopedia so I’m not surprised he was able to figure that out and score when he needed it.”
“Last year I gave him a little too much respect, as good a wrestler as he is,” Santaniello said. “It was my first state tournament and running out there with as many people as there was, it kind of shocked me. This year I wrestled my pace and wrestled what I wanted to do.”
Vincent Completes His Legacy
After two state titles in a row for Brick Memorial, Vincent Santaniello stepped onto a mat one final time as a high school wrestler. After six minutes were complete, he had finally earned the one thing he wanted more than anything else.
A takedown near the end of the first period set the tone for the Mustangs senior as he added three more points in the second period and another in the third for a never-in-doubt 6-1 victory over Cangro. The match ended and Santaniello crouched down, briefly soaking in the moment before rising with a wide smile.
“We told each other if one of us didn’t win it would ruin the weekend, so once they won I had to do it,” Vincent said. “I’ve been dreaming about this and it finally got to happen.”
As many wrestlers do, Santaniello puts a lot of pressure on himself. And when your last name is Santaniello and you wrestle for Brick Memorial, there are going to be some high expectations. Four years later, his career accomplishments now stand among the best ever at Brick Memorial and the state championships ties it all together rather poetically. He was eighth in the state at 106 pounds as a freshman, third at 113 as a sophomore and the state runner-up at 120 as a junior. Four years, four medals and, finally, a state championship.
“He’s been wanting this more than any of us,” Anthony said. “He’s been telling me every day how much he wants this and I’m so proud of him.”
“It definitely still has to sink in,” Vincent said. “But now I can finally think about all of it.”
One of Vincent’s goals this season was to score points in bunches and dominate, which he did most times he took the mat. But when it mattered most, it was his defense that won him a state championship. He went unscored upon in the entire individual postseason and allowed just two points in four state tournament bouts.
“I know he wasn’t happy sometimes with some of the low scores, but if they can’t score on you, they can’t beat you,” Kiley said. “It’s very hard to get your hand raised against that kid.”
Vincent finishes his high school career with plenty of spots on Brick Memorial’s Wrestling Wall of Fame. He won three district titles in three chances, won three region titles and became the first Brick Memorial wrestler be a four-time state place-winner. His career record of 131-10 puts him fourth on Brick Memorial’s all-time wins list, and if not for a pandemic-shortened senior season he had a good shot to finish with the most wins in program history. He took the Santaniello wrestling legacy to another level, taking the baton from his father Vinnie, a four-time region champ and a three-time state medalist but never won a state title, and ran with it. Now, both of his sons are state champions.
“I saw my dad smile and laugh and it’s amazing,” Vincent said. “He’s pretty stone-cold most of the time, he doesn’t even laugh at my jokes.”
“I feel like a weight has been lifted off him, too. And we didn’t just bring him one, either.”
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