Wrestling: NJSIAA Individual Championships Preview
The most exciting three days of the season have arrived.
The NJSIAA Individual Championships at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City begin on Friday and conclude with the 14 state championship bouts on Sunday afternoon. There are 448 wrestlers from around New Jersey - including 82 from the Shore Conference - who will go to bed Thursday night with visions of having their hand raised on Sunday. New Jersey is one of just three states in the country to wrestle down to one champion per weight class. That prestige combined with the talent level in the Garden State makes for one heck of a tournament.
Things rarely go according to plan in Atlantic City, but I will attempt to make sense of it all with a look at each weight class and my state championship picks. I toyed with picking the top eight in each weight class but after it took me about 40 minutes to do 106, I figured it would be better if I actually finished the preview before the tournament starts. Plus, anything can and usually does happen in the wrestlebacks, so those picks would probably go up in flames by 11 a.m. on Saturday.
Good luck to all the Shore Conference wrestlers this weekend. Soak it in, have fun and let it fly.
Returning state champions: none
Returning state medalists: 6-Nick Kayal, So., Bergen Catholic (3rd at 106); 8-Justin Bierdumpfel, So., Don Bosco Prep (7th at 106)
Returning state qualifiers: 2-Nick Babin, So., Emerson/Park Ridge (WB4-106); 4-Quinn Melofchik, Jr., Belvidere (WB2-106); 9-Georgio Mazzeo, So., Paulsboro (WB3-106); 10-Joey Lamparelli, So., Allentown (WB3-106); 11-C.J. Composto, So., Westfield (WB3-106); 12-Joseph Pacheco, Sr., Perth Amboy (WB1-106).
Shore Shots: 7-Dean Peterson, Fr., St. John Vianney; 13-Vincent Santaniello, So., Brick Memorial; 18-Vinnie Scollo, Jr., Jackson Memorial; 29-Jack Maida, Fr., Shore.
Analysis: There’s an incredible amount of talent in the 106-pound weight class, and even though that’s usually the case at the lightest weight, there seems to be even more top-end wrestlers capable of winning the state championship. There doesn’t seem to be a clear favorite, which should make for some great drama this weekend.
Hanover Park freshman Joey Olivieri and Belvidere junior Quinn Melofchik are on the opposites of the top bracket as the No. 1 and No. 4 seeds, respectively, while Hunterdon Central freshman Brett Ungar is the No. 3 seed and undefeated Emerson/Park Ridge sophomore Nick Babin is the No. 2 seed. The top bracket looks particularly brutal with Olivieri and Melofchick along with Don Bosco Prep’s Justin Bierdumpfel (7th last year). Delbarton’s Nico Nardone and South Plainfield’s Anthon White. The bottom bracket is no picnic either with Westfield’s C.J. Composto, Bergen Catholic’s Nick Kayal (6th last year), St. John Vianney’s Dean Peterson and Allentown’s Joey Lamparelli joining Unger and Babin. Woah.
Shore’s Jack Maida has Melofchick in the first round and will try to shock Boardwalk Hall with an upset. Should the seeds hold in the first round Brick Memorial freshman Vin Santaniello will take on Melofchik. There’s a good chance both are bounced to the wrestlebacks by Saturday morning. Peterson has a good shot to reach the quarterfinals but will have to get past Lamparelli again. Peterson handed Lamparelli his only loss, 4-3, in the quarterfinals of the Mustang Classic. Peterson is talented enough to win the title, but he’ll have to get through Babin and Unger just to reach the final.
This weight is so wide-open, for the title and the remaining medal spots. I think Peterson finds his way to the medal stand while Santaniello also has a decent shot at a top-eight finish.
Championship Prediction: Nick Babin (Emerson/Park Ridge) over Joey Olivieri (Hanover Park).
Returning state champions: 1-Anthony Clark, So., Delbarton (1st at 106 in 2017)
Returning state medalists: 2-Sammy Alvarez, Jr., St. Joseph-Montvale (2nd at 106); 3-Dante Mininno, Sr., Gateway/Woodbury (4th at 106); 4-Hunter Gutierrez, Jr., Lacey (5th at 106); 7-Eddie Ventresca, So., Pope John (6th at 113).
Returning state qualifiers: 5-Dylan Cedeno, So., Fair Lawn (WB4-106); ); 6-Logan Mazzeo, So., Emerson/Park Ridge (WB2-113); 8-Nico Messina, So., Freehold (WB2-106); 9-Ryan Zimmerman, So., Long Branch (WB2-106); 10-Tyler Klinsky, So., Middletown North (WB2-106); 11-Cullen Day, Sr., Phillipsburg (WB3-106); 12-Kyle Kaiser, Sr., Paramus (WB2-113); 13-McKenzie Bell, So., Kingsway (WB2-106); 14-Chase Mullarkey, Jr., Holy Cross (WB1-106); 15-Chris Lanciano, Jr., Hopewell Valley (WB1-106.; 25-Brandon LaRue, Jr., High Point (WB2-106).
Shore Shots: 4-Hunter Gutierrez, Jr., Lacey; 8-Nico Messina, So., Freehold; 9-Ryan Zimmerman, So., Long Branch; 10-Tyler Klinsky, So., Middletown North; 16-Jerry Lleshi, Sr., Howell; 27-Ben Sabo, Sr., Point Boro; 29-Cael Rankin, So, Donovan Catholic.
Analysis: Delbarton’s Anthony Clark is a returning state champion after winning the 106-pound title last season, and there’s a potential for a championship rematch with St. Joseph (Montvale) junior Sammy Alvarez, who is the No. 2 seed.
So, who can get in their way?
The biggest contenders in the top bracket look like Lacey’s Hunter Gutierrez and Fair Lawn’s Dylan Cedeno. After struggling out the gate Gutierrez has been on fire while Cedeno is 37-0 after failing to medal last season and many people’s pick to win the whole thing. The bottom bracket has Gateway’s Dante Mininno as the No. 3 seed and is certainly a title contender. Pope John’s Eddie Ventresca and Emerson/Park Ridge’s Logan Mazzeo are ones to watch, as well as Middletown North’s Tyler Klinsky.
Gutierrez should have no problem reaching the quarterfinals where Cedeno, whom Gutierrez beat in the blood round last season, would be waiting. Messina and Zimmerman could meet again in the pre=quarterfinals with the winner getting the top-seeded Clark. A Klinsky-Ventresca pre-quarterfinal is a tremendous matchup and looks likely.
I don’t see anyone outside of the top-five seeds reaching the final and it’s going to be very tough to get in the way of a rematch between Clark and Alvarez. Howell’s JerryLleshi is in line to get Clark in round two if he wins his opener while Point Boro’s Ben Sabo has Mazzeo, the No. 6 seed, in the first round. Donovan Catholic’s Cael Rankin draws Gutierrez, who he lost to by fall in 54 seconds in the Region 7 semifinals, to open the tournament.
Prediction: Sammy Alvarez (St. Joseph-Montvale) over Anthony Clark (Delbarton)
Returning state champions: 1-Joe Manchio, Sr., Seneca (1st at 106 in 2016; 8th at 113 in 2017); 2-Antonio Mininno, Sr., Gateway/Woodbury (1st at 113 in 2017).
Returning state medalists: 3-Robert Howard, So., Bergen Catholic (2nd at 113); 4-Mitchell Polito, Sr., East Brunswick (3rd at 113).
Returning state qualifiers: 5-Richie Koehler, Sr., CBA (WB4-113); 6-Joey King, Sr., Colts Neck (WB4-113); 7-Travis Jones, Jr., Phillipsburg (WB1-113); 9-Will Grater, So., Don Bosco Prep (WB4-106); 10-Matt Armamento, Sr., Roselle Park (WB3-120); 11-Jack Bauer, Jr., Hunterdon Central (WB2-113); 14-Jack Prendergast, So., Woodstown (WB3-113); 15-David Loniewski, Jr., South Plainfield (WB2-120); 16-Jake Wiatroski, Sr., Old Bridge (WB1-113); 17-Brock Laggini, Sr., Somerville (WB1-113); 25-Tyler Pepe, So., St. John Vianney (WB1-106); 27-Gabriel Dollard, Sr., Rancocas Valley (WB2-113); 30-Michael Esposito, Jr., DePaul Catholic (WB1-113).
Shore Shots: 5-Richie Koehler, Sr., 6-Joey King, Sr., Colts Neck; 20-Michael Conklin, Fr., Toms River East; 24-A.J. Sortino, Sr., Manalapan; 25-Tyler Pepe, So., St. John Vianney; 26-Owen Kretschmer, Sr., Southern; 31-Adam Manzo, Sr., Ocean.
Analysis: The top four at this weight are hammers in every way, shape and form. Seneca’s Joe Manchio was a state champ as a sophomore and enters 40-0, Gateway’s Antonio Mininno was last year’s 106-pound state champ and Bergen Catholic’s Robert Howard was second to Mininno. At No. 4 is undefeated East Brunswick senior Mitchell Polito, who was third at 113 last season.
CBA senior Richie Koehler will be making his fourth trip to the state tournament and is certainly capable of going on a run as the No. 5 seed. He’s really the only one – maybe Pope John’s Kaya Sement – I can see making the final from the top bracket other than Manchio or Polito.
The bottom bracket looks the same with Mininno and Howard heavy favorites to reach the semifinals. Colts Neck’s Joey King, Phillipsburg’s Travis Jones and Roselle Park’s Matthew Armamento look to have the best shots to pull what would be a huge upset.
For the Shore Conference wrestlers, Koehler and King should both reach the quarterfinals, although kind will have a tough bout with Hunterdon Central’s Jack Bauer in the pre-quarterfinals. Toms River East freshman Michael Conklin has a winnable bout with Kingsway’s Cheney Kinner to start, but would then run into Polito in the second round. Manalapan’s A.J. Sortino, St. John Vianney’s Tyler Pepe, Southern’s Owen Kretschmer and Ocean’s Adam Manzo all have very tough roads as region fourth-place finishers seeded 24th and lower.
Prediction: Joe Manchio (Seneca) over Antonio Mininno (Gateway/Woodbury).
Returning state champions: 1-Pat Glory, Sr., Delbarton (1st at 120).
Returning state medalists: 2-Joe Heilmann, Sr., South Plainfield (3rd at 120); 3-Michael Kelly, Sr., St. Peter’s Prep (8th at 120); 4-Darby Diedrich, Jr., Howell (7th at 120); 4-Colin Wickramaratna, Sr., Cherokee (7th at 113).
Returning state qualifiers: 6-Andrew Clark, So., Collingswood (WB4-106); 9-Domenic Difrancescantonio, Jr., Hanover Park (WB2-114); 10-Steven Schwab, Sr., St. Augustine (WB2-132); 11-Shamun Smith, Sr., Williamstown (WB3-12); 13-Jacob Perez, So., Paulsboro (WB2-120); 14-Trent Furman, Jr., Westwood (WB2-120); 15-Al Desantis, So., Shore (WB2-120); 18-Trevor Fleet, Jr., West Milford (WB1-126); 19-Billy Moore, Sr., Bordentown/Florence (WB1-120); 23-Gianni Manginelli, Jr., Dumont (WB1-113); 25-Mark Montgomery, Jr., Roselle Park (WB4-113); 26-Matt Higgins, Sr., Shawnee (WB2-120).
Shore Shots: 4-Darby Diedrich, Jr., Howell; 15-Al Desantis, So., Shore; 20-Max Brignola, Fr., Rumson-Fair Haven; 27-Dyon Womack, Sr., Colts Neck; 28-Sebastian Delligatti, Jr., Southern.
Analysis: This is Pat Glory’s title to lose, plain and simple. Glory is a returning state champion and ranked No. 1 in the nation at 126 pounds, so if anyone else wins it would likely be the story of the tournament.
If anyone in the top bracket is going to knock off Glory the main candidates are Howell’s Darby Diedrich and Cherokee’s Colin Wickramaratna, but that’s highly unlikely and really only for argument’s sake.
Undefeated South Plainfield senior Joe Heilmann is the No. 2 seed and St. Peter’s Prep senior Michael Kelly is the No. 3 seed, and both look to be on a collision course to meet in the semifinals.
Diedrich is the No. 4 seed and looks likely to meet Wickramaratna in the semifinals where the winner would then take their shot at Glory. Shore’s Al Desantis will run into Heilmann in the second round if he wins his opener against West Milford’s Trevor Fleet. Rumson’s Max Brignola is the No. 20 seed and would face Diedrich in the pre-quarterfinals if he can pull an upset in the first round. Colts Neck’s Dyon Womack and Southern’s Sebastian Delligatti have long roads as seeds No. 27 and No. 28, respectively.
Prediction: Pat Glory (Delbarton) over Joe Heilmann (South Plainfield)
Returning state champions: Nick Raimo, Jr., Hanover Park (1st at 126).
Returning state medalists: 3-Kyle Slendorn, Sr., Howell (2nd at 126); 4-Lucas Revano, Jr., Camden Catholic (5th at 120); 6-Carmen Ferrante, Sr., Bergen Catholic (3rd at 126).
Returning state qualifiers: 5-Jake Rotunda, Sr., Pope John (WB1-126); 7-Anthony Clarizio, Sr., Cedar Grove (WB4-126); 8-Charles Cunningham, Sr., Seton Hall Prep (WB3-126); 9-Russell Benson, Sr., Raritan (WB4-132); 10-Hunter Graf, Sr., Hunterdon Central (WB4-120); 11-James Rodriguez, So., Perth Amboy (WB2-132); 13-Matt Barnett, Sr., Southern (WB2-132); 14-Justin Cariss, Jr., Highland (WB4-126); 16-Luke Mazzeo, Jr., Emerson/Park Ridge (WB2-126); 17-Luke Moynihan, Sr., Lacey (WB2-126); 25-Alex Poniros, So., Ocean (WB2-126); 27-Jiya Gannone, Jr., Rancocas Valley (WB1-120).
Shore Shots: 2-Kyle Slendorn, Sr., Howell; 9-Russell Benson, Sr., Raritan; 13-Matt Barnett, Sr., Southern; 17-Luke Moynihan, Sr., Lacey; 25-Alex Poniros, So., Ocean.
Analysis: Returning state champion Nick Raimo is the heavy favorite to take the title and is the top seed. There is a slew of contenders on both Raimo’s side of the bracket and in the bottom half, including Howell’s Kyle Slendorn, a returning state runner-up.
Taking out Raimo before the finals is a long shot. The No. 4 seed is Camden Catholic’s Lucas Revano and the No. 5 seed is Pope John’s Jake Rotunda, but neither are on Raimo’s level. Don’t sleep on Raritan’s Russell Benson, the No. 9 seed, who always wrestles confident and will bring the thunder against Raimo should they meet in the quarterfinals.
The bottom bracket is very interesting. Delran’s Bryan Miraglia got the No. 2 seed after stunning Slendorn, 2-1, in the Region 6 final. There’s the potential for that juicy rematch in the semifinals, but Bergen Catholic’s Carmen Ferrante, who was third last season behind Raimo and Slendorn at 126 pounds, is the No. 6 seed and will be a tough quarterfinal matchup for Slendorn. The same goes with Miraglia, as he’ll likely face Cedar Grove’s Anthony Clarizio or Hunterdon Central’s Hunter Graf.
As mentioned, Slendorn and Ferrante should meet in the quarterfinals. Benson, whose only losses are to Slendorn and Seton Hall Prep’s Charles Cunningham, will likely get a rematch with Cunningham in the pre-quarterfinals on Friday night. Southern’s Matt Barnett would see Revano in the pre-quarterfinals while Lacey’s Luke Moynihan has a tough opening matchup with Emerson/Park Ridge’s Luke Mazzeo with the winner getting Raimo. Ocean’s Alex Poniros is the No. 24 seed and opens with Cunningham.
Prediction: Nick Raimo (Hanover Park) over Kyle Slendorn (Howell).
Returning state champions: 1-Quinn Kinner, Sr., Kingsway (1st at 132); 2-Jake Benner, Sr., Ocean (1st at 138).
Returning state medalists: 3-Joseph Aragona, Jr., Pope John (2nd at 120); 5-Andrew Gapas, Sr., North Hunterdon (8th at 132); 6-Cody Harrison, Jr., Phillipsburg (8th at 126).
Returning state qualifiers: 4-Aaron Coleman, Sr., JFK (WB1-132); 7-Anthony Croce, Jr., Camden Catholic (WB4-132); 8-Dan Fongaro, Sr., Boonton (WB3-132); 9-Connor Meytrott, Sr., Montville (WB3-138); 10-Dan Esposito, Sr., Howell (WB3-132); 11-Frank Gabriele, Sr., Verona (WB1-132); 12-Alec Bobchin, Jr., Princeton (WB3-126); 13-Matt Beyer, Jr., Pascack Valley (WB2-132); 15-Cristiaan Dailey, Sr., Donovan Catholic (WB2-138); 15-Nick Boggiano, So., Toms River North (WB1-126); 16-Shane Kobis, Sr., High Point (WB2-138); 17-Christopher Fuschetto, Sr., A.L. Johnson (WB2-132); 19-Alex Baran, Jr., Manalapan (WB1-132); 20-Connor Kraus, Jr., St. Augustine (WB1-126); 25-Matt Sacco, Jr., Bridgewater-Raritan (WB3-126); 26-Joe Zargo, So., Bergen Catholic (WB2-132).
Shore Shots: 2-Jake Benner, Sr., Ocean; 10-Dan Esposito, Sr., Howell; 14-Cristiaan Dailey, Sr., Donovan Catholic; 15-Nick Boggiano, So., Toms River North; 18-A.J. Erven, Sr., Raritan; 19-Alex Baran, Jr., Manalapan; 27-Riley Cheong, Jr., Toms River South; 29-Ty Bailey, So., Point Boro; 30-Robert Woodcock, So., Southern.
Analysis: Even though Ocean’s Jake Benner is also a returning state champion, Kingsway’s Quinn Kinner enters as the prohibitive favorite. Kinner is undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the nation at 138 pounds while Benner has been proven vulnerable with losses to Pope John’s Robert Garcia and South Plainfield’s Joe Sacco.
Kinner is an overwhelming favorite to reach the final and has only one returning medalist – North Hunterdon’s Andrew Gapas – on his side of the bracket. The only Shore Conference wrestler in Glory’s half is Point Boro’s Ty Bailey, the No. 29 seed.
Benner is the No. 2 seed and looks good to reach the semifinals. He’s looking at a likely quarterfinal match against Howell’s Dan Esposito, who he already majored at the Shore Conference Tournament, or Camden Catholic’s Anthony Croce. The other bottom-bracket quarterfinal is likely to be Pope John’s Joseph Aragona vs. Phillipsburg’s Cody Harrison.
Esposito is the No. 10 seed and will have a tough pre-quarterfinal match with Croce. Donovan Catholic’s Cristiaan Dailey takes on Manalapan’s Alex Baran in the first round with the winner getting Aragona. Southern’s Robert Woodcock has Aragona first. Toms River North’s Nick Boggiano and Raritan’s A.J. Erven will meet in the opening round with the winner advancing to face Benner. Toms River South’s Riley Cheong is the No. 27 seed and opens with Harrison, while Bailey has JFK’s Aaron Coleman, the No. 4 seed.
Prediction: 1-Quinn Kinner (Kingsway) over 2-Jake Benner (Ocean).
Returning state champions: none
Returning state medalists: 1-Ricky Cabanillias, Jr., DePaul (2nd at 145); 4-Robert Garcia, Jr., Pope John (4th at 132).
Returning state qualifiers: 2-Wyatt McCarthy, Jr., Newton (WB3-145); 3-Alex Carida, Sr., Hackettstown (WB2-138); 5-Travis Tovoso, Sr., Delbarton (WB2-138); 6-Gabe Onorato, So., Paulsboro (WB2-132); 8-Sean Conley, Sr., Hanover Park (WB2-138); 9-Jeff Johnson, Sr., Middlesex (WB2-145); 10-Jack Kelly, Sr., Wall (WB2-145); 11-Luke Gauthier, Sr., Lacey (WB2-138); 13-Stanley Wojdylak, Sr., Middletown North (WB2-145); 16-Joe Sacco, Jr., South Plainfield (WB4-138); 17-Matt Surich, Sr., Mahwah (WB1-126); 25-Alex Winant, Jr., Mendham (WB1-138); 26-Spencer Robinson, Jr., Point Boro (WB1-138).
Shore Shots: 10-Jack Kelly, Sr., Wall; 11-Luke Gauthier, Sr., Lacey; 13-Stanley Wojdylak, Sr., Middletown North; 15-Paul Jakub, Fr., Howell; 26-Spencer Robinson, Jr., Point Boro.
Analysis: This should be a fun weight with just two returning state medalists among a bunch of returning state qualifiers. DePaul’s Ricky Cabanillas is the No. 1 seed and the favorite after finishing second last season but is by no means a lock.
The Shore Conference has some wrestlers capable of making a run and getting on the medal stand, and, who knows, maybe even pulling some upsets and reaching the final. Wall’s Jack Kelly should meet up with Delsea’s Nick Bennett in the pre-quarterfinals. Bennet gave Lacey’s Luke Gauthier his only loss of the season. Gauthier should meet Paulsboro’s Gabe Onorato in the pre-quarterfinals. Middletown North’s Stanley Wojdylak is in line to see Garcia in the pre-quarterfinals while Howell freshman Paul Jakub is the No. 15 seed and would get McCarthy in round two if he can win his very-tough opener against Bergen Catholic’s Wade Unger. For those four, the second round on Friday night is the key. If they can pull upsets there they probably end up with a state medal. Point Boro’s Spencer Robinson is the No. 26 seed and opens with Bennett.
Championship prediction: Ricky Cabanillas (DePaul) over Wyatt McCarthy (Newton)
Returning state champions: 1-Gerard Angelo, Sr., Bergen Catholic (1st at 106 in 2015; 2nd at 138 in 2017).
Returning state medalists: 2-Brian Meyer, Sr., Phillipsburg (3rd at 145); 3-Joey Casey, Sr., Bound Brook (6th at 145); 11-Nick O’Connell, Jr., Southern (8th at 145).
Returning state qualifiers: 4-Cole Corrigan, Sr., Toms River South (WB4-145); 5-George Worthy, Jr., Paulsboro (WB2-145); 6-Scott Dupont, Sr., Holmdel (WB3-152); 8-Francis Marshall, Sr., Point Boro (WB1-152); 9-Lavinsky Collins, Sr., Ewing (WB2-152); 10-Xavier Kelly, Jr., Howell (WB1-145); 12-Gerald Jones, Sr., Caldwell (WB4-152); 13-Connor O’Neil, So., DePaul (WB3-120); 14-Jonah Schechtman, Jr., Emerson/Park Ridge (WB1-160); 25-Joseph Hatcher, Jr., Piscataway (WB4-152); 26-Justin Lemay, Jr., West Morris (WB1-145).
Shore Shots: 4-Cole Corrigan, Sr., Toms River South; 6-Scott Dupont, Sr., Holmdel; 8-Francis Marshall, Sr., Point Boro; 10-Xavier Kelly, Jr., Howell; 11-Nick O’Connell, Jr., Southern.
Analysis: The top four seeds here look impenetrable with Bergen Catholic’s Gerard Angelo, Phillipsburg’s Brian Meyer, Bound Brook’s Joe Casey and Toms River South’s Cole Corrigan in order. Angelo was a state champ as a sophomore and has taken third and second since. He’s going to be very tough to beat. After medaling as a sophomore Corrigan fell one win short last season, but the way the bracket is shaped it would be surprising for him to not at least reach the semifinals and guarantee a top-six finish. In the bottom bracket, I don’t see anyone beating Casey before he gets to the semifinals and the same goes for Meyer.
Dupont and O’Connell should both win their openers to set up a head-to-head meeting in the pre-quarterfinals. Marshall has a very tough draw with Piscataway’s Joseph Hatcher in the first round. Hatcher was one win short of a state medal last season but finished fourth in Region 5 to drop to the No. 24 seed. Kelly has a decent shot to reach the quarterfinals out of the No. 10 seed.
Championship prediction: Gerard Angelo (Bergen Catholic) over Joe Casey (Bound Brook).
Returning state champions: Shane Griffith, Sr., Bergen Catholic (1st at 132 in 2015; 1st at 138 in 2016; 2nd at 152 in 2017).
Returning state medalists: 2-Rob Kanniard, Jr., Wall (4th at 152); 4-Michael Petite, Sr., Piscataway (4th at 160); 5-Tim Fitzpatrick, Sr., Holy Spirit (7th at 160).
Returning state qualifiers: 3-John Poznanski, So., Colonia (WB2-145); 6-Matthew Dallara, Sr., Hasbrouck Heights (WB4-160); 7-Garrett Bilgrav, Jr., Robbinsville (WB4-145); 8-Kieren Calvetti, So., Delbarton (WB2-160); 9-Matthew Liberato, Sr., Hanover Park (WB3-160); 11-Anthony Sciuto, Jr., Northern Highlands (WB3-170); 12-Corey Fischer, Jr., West Deptford (WB3-145); 13-Daequan Jackson-Swoope, Sr., Rancocas Valley (WB2-160); 14-Kevin Faulkner, Sr., Hillsborough (WB2-160); 25-Michael Roumes, Sr., Roxbury (WB1-152).
Shore Shots: 2-Rob Kanniard, Jr., Wall; 17-Conor Panzarella, Sr., Donovan Catholic; 23-Matt Benedetti, So., Manalapan; 26-Anthony Aquilano, Jr., Raritan; 31-Dan Gorman, Sr., Southern; 32-David Szuba, Fr., Brick Memorial.
Analysis: Since the start of the season, Bergen Catholic’s Shane Griffith vs. Wall’s Rob Kanniard was the likely choice for the 160-pound state final, and it still is.
Griffith is a two-time state champion and a three-time finalist who will almost certainly reach a fourth state final. Kanniard is a scoring machine who probably won’t be tested until the semifinals. Kanniard’s rode to the final is less certain with Colonia’s John Poznanski as the No. 3 seed and Robbinsville’s Garrett Bilgrav as the No. 7 seed and Kanniard’s probable quarterfinal opponent. Kanniard pinned Bilgrav during the regular season but Bilgrav gave him all he could handle in the Region 6 final before Kanniard hung on to win 12-10.
Outside of Kanniard, the Shore Conference’s representatives will all be heavy underdogs early in the tournament. Donovan Catholic’s Conor Panzarella is the No. 17 seed and can certainly win his first bout, but would get Griffith next. Manalapan’s Matt Benedetti opens with the No. 10 seed, Pascack Valley’s Tommy Chiellini. Raritan’s Anthony Aquilano has Bilgrav first. Southern’s Dan Gorman opens with Kanniard while Brick Memorial freshman David Szuba has Griffith.
Championship prediction: Shane Griffith (Bergen Catholic) over Rob Kanniard (Wall).
Returning state champions: none
Returning state medalists: 1-Michael O’Malley, Sr., Hasbrouck Heights (3rd at 152); 2-Chris Foca, Sr., Bergen Catholic (3rd at 160).
Returning state qualifiers: 3-Nick Caracappa, Sr., St. John Vianney (WB4-170); 5-Shane Reitsma, So., Howell (WB4-170); 6-Marco Gaita, Sr., West Morris (WB4-170); 7-Brandon Green, So., Paulsboro (WB2-152); 9-Chris Bolletino, Sr., Haddonfield (WB3-152); 10-Quinn Haddad, Sr., Gov. Livingston (WB2-170); 12-Liam McDermott, Sr., Allentown (WB2-170); 13-Travis Arata, Sr., Mahwah (WB1-145); 14-Gabriel Robles, Sr., Northern Highlands (WB2-152); 15-John Garda, Sr., Emerson/Park Ridge (WB2-152); 18-Mason Maxwell, Sr., Delsea (WB1-160); 25-Kyle Hillermeier, Sr., Freehold Township (WB1-160).
Shore Shots: 3-Nick Caracappa, Sr., St. John Vianney; 4-Nick Addison, Jr., Rumson-Fair Haven; 5-Shane Reitsma, So., Howell; 11-Ean Mueller, Jr., Brick Memorial; 17-John Stout, Jr., Southern; 25-Kyle Hillermeier, Sr., Freehold Township; 30-Justin Weimer, Sr., Middletown South; 32-Juan Nakano, Sr., Toms River North.
Analysis: Hasbrouck Heights’ Michael O’Malley and Bergen Catholic’s Chris Foca met in the District 5 final and the Region 2 final. The question is, will they also meet in the state final?
Given that O’Malley is the No. 1 seed and Foca is the No. 2 seed it looks likely. If anyone is going to change that it could be a trio of Shore Conference wrestlers who are seeded third through fifth. St. John Vianney’s Nick Caracappa is the No. 3 seed, Rumson-Fair Haven’s Nick Addison is the No. 4 seed and Howell’s Shane Reitsma is the No. 5 seed. They lead an eight-man Shore contingent that will try to crash the party and pick up multiple state medals.
Addison is in the top bracket with O’Malley, but to get to him in the semifinals he’ll likely have to beat Reitsma again. Addison won the first meeting in the SCT semifinals. Caracappa is in line to meet West Morris’s Marco Gaita in the quarterfinals and Foca in the semifinals.
Brick Memorial’s Ean Mueller has a tough opening bout with Phillipsburg’s Lance Wissing and would then likely see Gaita. Southern’s John Stout is the No. 17 seed and will have to face O’Malley if he wins his first bout. Southern’s Kyle Hillermeier, Middletown South’s Justin Weimer and Toms River North’s Juan Nakano are seeded 25th, 30th and 32nd, respectively, so it goes without saying they will have to go on epic runs to walk away with a medal.
Championship prediction: Michael O’Malley (Hasbrouck Heights) over Chris Foca (Bergen Catholic).
Returning state champions: Billy Janzer, Sr., Delsea (1st at 170)
Returning state medalists: 3-Santino Morina, Jr., Paulsboro (8th at 160); 6-Cole Krepshane, Sr., Delbarton (6th at 170).
Returning state qualifiers: 4-Aaron Carter, Sr., Collingswood (WB2-182); 7-Garrett Beam, Sr., St. Joseph-Montvale (WB4-145); 8-Nicko Cofone, Sr, Middletown North (WB4-160); 9-Michael Waszen, Sr., Holy Spirit (WB3-182); 10-Drew Bowker, Sr., Rancocas Valley (WB3-170); 11-Jarod Ostir, Sr., Warren Hills (WB2-170); 12-Zach Mafaro, Jr., Kittatinny (WB2-195); 13-Christian Murphy, Jr., Howell (WB2-160); 14-Justin Hayward, Sr., Watchung Hills (WB2-160); 15-Sam Houston, Sr., CBA (WB1-182); 16-Zach Lewis, Jr., Emerson/Park Ridge (WB1-170); 20-Ryan Rue, Sr., Fair Lawn (WB1-182); 25-Reece Mulduun, Sr., Pope John (WB2-160).
Shore Shots: 8-Nicko Cofone, Sr., Middletown North; 13-Christian Murphy, Jr., Howell; 15-Sam Houston, Sr., CBA; 21-George Burdick, Jr., Raritan.
Analysis: Delsea’s Billy Janzer would have been a huge favorite if not for Bergen Catholic’s Josh McKenzie coming back to the team midway through the season. Janzer, a Rutgers recruit and a returning state champion, is still the odds-on favorite, but McKenzie is certainly capable of taking the title.
Middletown North’s Nicko Cofone was one win short of a state medal last season and is the No. 8 seed. He is in line to face Janzer in the quarterfinals. Howell’s Christian Murphy is in a good spot and it wouldn’t be crazy to see him upset Collingswood’s Aaron Carter in the second round and get all the way to the semifinals. CBA’s Sam Houston will have McKenzie in the second round. Raritan’s George Burdick is a pinner, so you can’t count him out despite him being the No. 21 seed. His road isn’t too bad, either.
Championship prediction: Billy Janzer (Delsea) over Josh McKenzie (Bergen Catholic)
Returning state champions: none
Returning state medalists: 2-Sam Wustefeld, Sr., Scotch Plains-Fanwood (2nd at 182); 7-Tommy Maxwell, Sr., Delsea (8th at 195); 25-Sean Lenzsch, Sr., St. Augustine (6th at 195).
Returning state qualifiers: 3-Jake Brown, Sr., Pope John (WB3-220); 4-Robert Gennet, Sr., Sparta (WB2-195); 5-Scott Fernandes, Sr., Voorhees (WB3-182); 6-Luke Niemeyer, Jr., South Plainfield (WB2-195); 8-Jacob Cardenas, Jr., Bergen Catholic (WB4-170); 9-Nick Trani, Jr., Wayne Valley (WB3-195); 10-Alex Cawley, Sr., Pemberton (WB2-195); 11-Kaylon Bradley, Sr., Monroe (WB2-195); 12-Pete Wersinger, Sr., Long Branch (WB2-182); 26-Frank Negrini, Jr., Pompton Lakes (WB2-195).
Shore Shots: 12-Pete Wersinger, Sr., Long Branch; 19-Billy Borowsky, Jr., Point Boro; 20-Sam Williams, Sr., Brick Memorial; 22-Jacob Anderson, Jr., Middletown North; 23-Justin Acevedo, Jr., Raritan.
Analysis: Returning state runner-up Sam Wustefeld of Scotch Plains-Fanwood is the No. 2 seed and leads the way, although it is Williamstown undefeated senior Bryan Martin as the No. 1 seed. Martin is a great story already after missing the previous two postseasons with injury and now making up for lost time in a big way.
Bergen Catholic’s Jacob Cardenas, the No. 8 seed, is one to watch in the top bracket along with Sparta’s Robert Gennat and Vorhees’s Scott Fernandes. Wustefeld looks like a shoo-in to reach the get to the semifinals where he’ll probably see either Pope John’s Jake Brown or South Plainfield’s Luke Niemeyer.
Long Branch’s Pete Wersinger is the Shore’s highest-seeded wrestler in the bracket at No. 12. He opens with Delbarton’s Anthony Siragusa with the winner in line to face Fernandes. Point Boro’s Billy Borowsky has Oakcrest’s Kevon Berry in round one and Brick Memorial’s Sam Williams faces Collingswood’s Billy Plianthos. Borowsky would get Brown in the second round while Williams would meet Gennat. Middletown North’s Jacob Anderson gets a rematch with the wrestler who gave him his only loss – Monroe’s Kaylon Bradley in the Region 5 semifinals – to start the tournament. Raritan’s Justin Acevedo opens with Pemberton’s Alex Cawley.
Championship prediction: Sam Wustefeld (Scotch Plains-Fanwood) over Jacob Cardenas (Bergen Catholic).
Returning state champions: none
Returning state medalists: 1-Peter Acciardi, Sr., Don Bosco Prep (2nd at 220).
Returning state qualifiers: 2-Liridon Leka, Sr., Montville (WB4-220); 3-Devon Starks, Sr., Highland (WB3-220); 4-Steven Giannios, Sr., St. John Vianney (WB2-220); 5-Trey Zgombic, Sr., Delbarton (WB2-220); 6-Sage Mosco, Sr., Bergen Catholic (WB1-182); 8-Jajuan Hayes, Jr., Bordentown/Florence (WB1-220); 12-Tyreke Brown, Jr., Penns Grove (WB1-220); 14-Cameron DiGiorgio, Sr., CBA (WB1-195).
Shore Shots: 4-Steven Giannios, Sr., St. John Vianney; 9-Sal DiSalvo, Sr., Donovan Catholic; 13-Ethan Wolf, Sr., Raritan; 14-Cameron DiGiorgio, Sr., CBA; 22-Edison Quesada, Sr., Red Bank; 27-Dante Morris, Jr., Lakewood; 30-Matt Mackanic, Sr., Southern.
Analysis: Don Bosco Prep’s Peter Acciardi is the lone returning state medalist, and as the No. 1 seed is also the favorite to win the state title.
While Acciardi, the 220-pound state runner-up last year, is the favorite it’s still a pretty wide-open bracket with several contenders. Liridon Leka is the No. 2 seed and trying to become Montville’s first-ever state champion while Highland’s Devon Starks and St. John Vianney’s Steve Giannios round out the top four. Bergen Catholic’s Sage Mosco and Bordentown/Florence’s Jajuan Hayes are two wrestlers to look out for, as well.
The Shore’s three highest seeds – Giannios, Donovan Catholic’s Sal DiSalvo and Raritan’s Ethan Wolf – are all in the top bracket. Wolf beat Giannios, 4-3, to win the Region 5 title and the two are slated to meet in the pre-quarterfinals on Friday night. By seed, DiSalvo should win his first two bouts Friday before squaring off with Acciardi on Saturday morning.
CBA’s Cameron DiGiorgio would face Starks in round two if he wins his opener, while Red Bank’s Edison Quesada has Paul VI’s Keanu Williams, who DiSalvo pinned in the Region 7 final. Lakewood’s Dante Morris opens with Mosco and Southern’s Matt Mackanic, the No. 30 seed, has Starks in the first round.
Championship prediction: Peter Acciardi (Don Bosco Prep) over Liridon Leka (Montville).
Returning state champions: none
Returning state medalists: none
Returning state qualifiers: 1-Drew Flynn, Sr., Pompton Lakes (WB4-Hwt); 2-Kevin Cerruti, Jr., Long Branch (WB1-Hwt); 5-Antonio Mercado, Sr., Camden/Woodrow Wilson (WB4-Hwt); 6-Lewis Fernandes, Jr., Voorhees (WB4-195); 7-Michael Tyle, Sr., Manville (WB3-Hwt); 8-Jervey Sistrunk, Jr., Bound Brook (WB2-Hwt); 9-Kody Wood, Sr., Pennsville (WB2-Hwt); 10-Bryce Dunn, Sr., Cumberland (WB2-Hwt); 11-Joe Andes, Sr., Hackettstown (WB2-Hwt); 12-Anthony Bonavito, Sr., Point Boro ( WB2-Hwt); 13-Bailey Paster, Sr., Demarest (WB2-220); 15-Brian Sidle, Sr., St. Joseph-Montvale (WB1-Hwt).
Shore Shots: 2-Kevin Cerruti, Jr., Long Branch; 3-Jaylen Paige, Sr., Asbury Park; 12-Anthony Bonavito, Sr., Point Boro; 15-Adam Markman, Sr., Middletown South; 28-Scott Prendergast, Sr., Howell.
Analysis: With zero returning state medalists it’s really anyone’s game in the heavyweight bracket. If there was going to be a weight where no one seeded in the top four wins the title it’s going to be here.
That being said, most prognosticators have the No. 6 seed, Voorhees’s Lewis Fernandes, winning the title, and I agree. Fernandes, a junior, is a smaller heavyweight who is quick and plenty strong. There’s a reason he is 38-0 this season. The main reason he is seeded sixth is that his seeding criteria came at 195 pounds.
In the top bracket, it should be a battle between Pompton Lakes’ Drew Flynn, Pennsville’s Kody Wood, Bound Brook’s Jervey Sistrunk, Camden’s Antonio Mercado and Sterling’s Lamar Price. Long Branch’s Kevin Cerruti and Asbury Park’s Jaylen Paige are the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds, respectively, and are in the bottom bracket along with Fernandes, Manville’s Michael Tyle, Hackettstown’s Joe Andes and Cumberland’s Bryce Dunn.
Cerruti and Middletown South’s Adam Markman are in line to meet in the pre-quarterfinals. Cerruti defeated Markman, 3-2, during the regular season and 5-1 during the SCT. Paige is trying to become Asbury Park’s first state medalist since the 1930s. If he wins his first two bouts he’ll probably face Fernandes in the quarterfinals. Bonavito has Collingswood’s Matt Meloni in the first round and would meet the winner of Mercado and Prendergast in the pre-quarterfinals.
Championship prediction: Lewis Fernandes (Voorhees) over Drew Flynn (Pompton Lakes).
Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.