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ATLANTIC CITY -- Tanner Hodgins is not a typical freshman, both in the way he wrestles and how he handles his business in between matches. Thursday marked his first trip to Boardwalk Hall as a competitor but he looked like a seasoned veteran from the moment he stepped on the mat.

Seeded No. 11 at 165 pounds, Hodgins won his opening bout by technical fall before taking a 5-2 decision from No. 6 seed Cole Stangle of Saint John Vianney to advance to the NJSIAA Tournament quarterfinals. Hodgins is the only freshman to reach the quarterfinals in weight classes 157 through heavyweight.

"It was definitely a little nerve-wracking," Hodgins said of his initial bout. "I've been coming here for as long as I can remember to watch so I was excited and also a little nervous, but I didn't let it get to me."

Bob Badders |
Bob Badders |

Any butterflies Hodgins had were kept in check, starting with an 18-2 technical fall over No. 22 seed Tyler Boehlhower of Woodbridge in the preliminary round. That set him up for a pre-quarterfinal bout with Stangle, a three-time state qualifier who reached the fourth round of wrestlebacks last season. Hodgins came out on top of a scramble to secure the first takedown and build a 2-0 lead entering the second period. An escape and another takedown in the second period stretched his lead to 5-0 and he kept Stangle's offense at bay the rest of the bout to reach the quarterfinals and move one win away from a guaranteed state medal.

No matter how talented, freshmen with no prior postseason criteria often receive a seed lower than expected. That can lead to an arduous path to victory, and Hodgins knows this well. He was clearly the second-best wrestler in the Region 5 165-pound bracket but was seeded eighth. That meant his first bout was against reigning state champion Alessio Perentin of Delbarton in the quarterfinals. Hodgins lost by major decision but ripped through the wrestlebacks with two pins and one technical fall to take third, but that left him with the No. 11 seed for the state tournament.

"It kinda stunk I had to wrestle him first match (at regions) but I know to be where I want to be and achieve my goals I'm going to have to wrestle him anyway," Hodgins said. "I just wrestled and moved on."

The 14-6 loss to Perentin was just his third defeat of the season and first by bonus points. He did hit a reversal on Perentin in the second period to cut his deficit to 8-5, but Perentin closed strong for the convincing win. Instead of being dejected by the loss, Hodgins used it to his advantage.

"I think I felt the best of the best in New Jersey," Hodgins said. "After wrestling him I gained a lot of confidence to be able to wrestle and compete with everybody else."

Bob Badders |
Bob Badders |

Perentin is the heavy favorite at the weight while Cranford junior hammer Jordan Chapman (40-1) is the No. 2 seed. Chapman was third in the state at 157 pounds last season. While those two lead the pack, Hodgins knows he has what it takes to secure a spot high on the podium. He has great physical skills, but his best attribute might be his cool demeanor.

"I think the key for me is to keep it in my own head and not let anyone or anything get to me," Hodgins said. "I'm going to control what I can and not let what I can't control bother me. This atmosphere gets in a lot of people's heads but if you can keep your composure it's a lot of fun and you can do really well. Everybody down here can do the physical stuff, but the mental part is where I think I can get an edge on my opponents."

Hodgins will wrestle the No. 3 seed, Gloucester City senior Jacob Zearfoss, in the quarterfinals, which are tentatively scheduled to begin Friday morning at 11:10 a.m. Zearfoss won the Region 7 title with a 3-1 win in sudden victory over Southern Regional junior Hayden Hochstrasser.

This time last year, Red Bank's Kevin Ruland wanted nothing more than to simply reach the state tournament. That dream ended early in the Region 5 Tournament where a tough 113-pound weight class had Ruland matched up with eventual state champion Logan Roman of Old Bridge in the first round.

This season, Ruland punched his ticket to Atlantic City with a third-place finish in Region 5. With nothing to lose as the No. 24 seed, Ruland entered the tournament with zero expectations. Now, he's one win away from a state medal.

Ruland was the lowest seed to reach the state quarterfinals on Thursday night when he defeated Jackson Liberty's Armani McCann in the preliminary round before winning the rubber match with Rumson-Fair Haven's Elijah Bayne in the pre-quarterfinals.

A takedown with six seconds left in the second period gave Ruland a 4-2 lead over McCann and he was able to hold on to get state tournament win No. 1 under his belt. Verus Bayne, Ruland rallied from a 5-2 deficit entering the third period to force sudden victory. In the one-minute overtime period, Ruland took Bayne to his back and pinned him at the 6:33 mark.

Bob Badders |
Bob Badders |

"It feels amazing," Ruland said. "I was not supposed to make it as far as I have. I didn't really have any expectations, I just wanted to wrestle my best. I've never been here before. Last season my goals was just to get here and I know I've improved since last season."

Ruland first wrestled Bayne in the Shore Conference Tournament wrestlebacks and won by fall in the second period. Bayne paid him back in the Region 5 semifinals with a 10-6 victory. The third matchup of the season saw Bayne score a takedown in the first period and another in the second to lead 5-2 heading to the third period. An injury and fatigue seemed to catch up with Bayne in the third period, and that's when Ruland hit the accelerator. After an escape closed the gap to 5-3 and Bayne took injury time, Ruland forced two 1-point stalling calls, the last of which tied the bout 5-5 with 29 seconds left in regulation.

"As soon as I saw him call that first injury time I knew that it was time to go and that I could do it," Ruland said. "I just kept pushing and pushing and pushing and it paid off. Most of my tough matches I'm down but I use my gas tank against my opponents to keep the pressure on them, and I came out victorious because of it."

Red Bank has just two state medalists in program history and none since Lamar Brown placed fourth at 189 in 2005. Ruland needs only one more victory to get on the podium, but the road won't be easy. He gets top-seeded and reigning two-time state champ Anthony Knox of Saint John Vianney in the quarterfinals.

A total of 31 Shore Conference wrestlers advanced to the quarterfinal round, led by seven from Southern Regional, five from Christian Brothers Academy, four from Saint John Vianney, and three from Red Bank Catholic.

Southern Regional sophomore Anthony Mason, Red Bank Catholic junior Michael DiBiase, and CBA freshman Killian Coluccio reached the quarterfinals at 106 pounds. Mason and DiBiase will square off in the 4-5 matchup while Coluccio held on as the No. 2 seed with a 1-0 win over St. Joseph (Montvale) sophomore Charles Esposito.

CBA freshman U17 world champion Paul Kenny survived a scare in the pre-quarterfinals but prevailed with a 4-3 win over Delsea Freshman Amari Vann. Kenny, Point Boro's Joey DeAngelo, and Saint John Vianney's Matthew Gould advanced.

Bob Badders |
Point Boro's Joey DeAngelo. (Bob Badders |

Knox won by technical fall in the first period of both of his bouts as he chases down state title No. 3. he faces Ruland in the 120-pound quarterfinals, while Red Bank Catholic senior Noah Michaels will meet returning state finalist Logan Brzozowski of Seton Hall Prep. Donovan Catholic's Kurt Wehner, the No. 2 seed, won both of his bouts by fall in the first period.

Donovan Catholic senior Sawyer Ostroff is the lone Shore Conference wrestler remaining in the championship bracket at 126 after a 9-7 win over Point Boro's Frankie Burgio. Ostroff faces No. 2 seed Ryan DeGeorge of Delbarton in the quarterfinals.

Saint John Vianney junior Patrick O'Keefe and Southern junior Bryce Manera advanced at 132. O'Keefe is the No. 4 seed and Manera is the No. 3 seed. O'Keefe could meet top-seeded Adrian DeJesus of St. Joseph (Montvale) in the semifinals in a rematch of their 2022 106-pound state final that DeJesus won, 3-2.

Saint John Vianney junior Jake Zaltaman rode the momentum from his first region title into reaching the 138-pound quarterfinals as the No. 13 seed. He won 1-0 over Warren Hills' Josh Lee and will now face St. Augustine's Anthony Depaul.

The 144-pound bracket has five Shore Conference wrestlers still alive, including the entire top half of the bracket. No. 1 seed Alex Nini of CBA will face Wall's Donovan DiStefano and Raritan's Zach Reilley will meet Southern's Wyatt Stout in a very intriguing 4-5 matchup between returning state medalists. Rumson's Sonny Amato is the No. 2 seed and reached the quarters with a gritty 5-1 win over Delbarton's Trevor Jones.

CBA's Alex Nini. (Bob Badders |
CBA's Alex Nini. (Bob Badders |

The top half of the 150-pound bracket was put in a blender when CBA's Tyler Venet advanced via injury default over No. 1 seed Jonathan Fuller of St. Peter's Prep. Fuller, according to sources, punched a wall at Jackson Liberty High School after losing the Region 6 final to Ocean's James Farina and the injury ended up costing him a second-round match, and maybe more. Bergen Catholic's Jayden Iznaga bested Farina, 3-2, in the 8-9 matchup. Pascack Hills' Jake Watcha, the No. 20 seed, advanced via disqualification over Camden Catholic's No. 4 seed Austin Craft due to an illegal slam.

Reigning state champion Matt Henrich rolled into the quarterfinals as the top seed at 157 pounds while CBA senior Nick Campagna also advanced.

Joining Hodgins in the 165-pound quarterfinals is Hochstrasser, who won by major decision over Point Boro's Ryan Acquisto.

Southern Regional senior Mitch Bivona, the No. 13 seed, is the only Shore Conference wrestler left in the championship bracket at 175 after a 3-2 win over Paramus Catholic's Edward Terreri, the No. 4 seed.

Brick Memorial junior Harvey Ludington made quick work of both his opponents with a first-minute pin and a first-period technical fall. Ludington, the No. 1 seed, was the 175-pound state champion as a freshman and the 175-pound state runner-up last year. Holmdel's Alexander Reyes also reached the quarterfinals with a 3-1 win over Rumson's Conor Delaney.

Defending state champion Hudson Skove of Rumson-Fair Haven advanced to the 215-pound quarterfinals along with Southern senior Collin French. Skove is the No. 2 seed and French is the No. 7 seed, and they'll meet on Friday morning with a trip to the semifinals and a state medal on the line.

Two Shore Conference heavyweights advance in a very intriguing weight. Toms River East junior Janes Lynch improved to 36-0 with two wins and will next face top-seeded Rocco Dellagatta of St. Joseph (Montvale). Red Bank Catholic senior Lorenzo Portella won by 9-4 decision over Plainfield's Josue Cordoba and will face Nutley's Brandon Toranzo, the No. 2 seed, in the quarterfinals.

Complete boys results and quarterfinal pairings

Earlier in the day, the girls tournament contested the pre-quarterfinals and quarterfinals. Six Shore Conference girls reached the semifinals with Howell's Kyle Gudewitz and Colts Neck's Sasha Tchekounova at 114, Freehold Township's Rosabella Kearns at 138, Middletown South's Thea Rowland at 145, Southern's Ella Yanuzzelli at 165, and Central Regional's Lilian Alicea at 185 securing state medals.

Gudewitz, the No. 3 seed, won by 9-0 major decision over Bordentown/Florence's Madison Blumenthal and Tchekounova, the No. 7 seed, upset No. 2 seed Valarie Maldonado of Somerville. Gudewitz and Tchekounova will square off in the semifinals, guaranteeing the Shore at least one state finalist.

Howell's Kyle Gudewitz. (Bob Badders |
Howell's Kyle Gudewitz. (Bob Badders |

Kearns knocked off No. 3 seed Gabrielle Roberts, 8-6, to reach the quarterfinals vs. No. 2 seed Eva Barry of Newton/Kittatinny.

Rowland won by fall over Raritan's Bridig Hatton in the 4-5 matchup at 145 and will face top-seeded Olivia Georges of DePaul in the semifinals.

Yanuzzelli won by fall over Jackson Memorial's Kiley Toti and will face Cherry Hill West's Ari Tyson in the semifinals.

Alicea was the star of the South Region Tournament when she defeated two state finalists en route to the region title at 185 pounds. She defeated Pennsauken's Macenzie Hunter, 3-2, in the quarterfinals to set up a rematch with Gateway/Woodbury's Shaelie Young. Alicea defeated Young, 7-5, in the region semifinals.

Complete girls results and semifinal pairings



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