Wrestling: NJSIAA Region 6 Tournament Preview
Over the next two days 14 Region 6 champions will be crowned and 56 wrestlers will have punched their tickets to the state tournament at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
The Shore has some big favorites at several weights and plenty of depth in Region 6, and should be well represented in the top four in each weight class. Here is our breakdown and picks for the top four finishers at each weight. Reminder: New for this year, the top four in each weight class, not top three, advance to the state tournament.
2017 NJSIAA REGION 6 TOURNAMENT
At Brick Memorial High School
Quarterfinals, 5 p.m.
Semifinals and wrestlebacks, 10 a.m.
Finals, 4 p.m.
8-Jesse Liptzin (Howell, Jr., 26-9) vs. 1-Joey Lamparelli (Allentown, Fr., 33-1).
5-Nick Schutzenhofer (CBA, Sr., 33-2) vs. 4-Craig Cook (Burlington Twp., So., 31-4).
6-Nico Messina (Freehold, Fr., 31-1) vs. 3-Travis Kotelnicki (Northern Burlington, So., 33-4).
7-Ryan Zimmerman (Long Branch, Fr., 30-6) vs. 2-Paul Santomarco (Manalapan, So., 33-3).
Analysis: A deep weight class where the top five seeds have a combined 11 losses. There can't be too many No. 5 seeds that are favorites to win their region, but that is the case for Schutzenhofer. He had one loss last season before a violation of school rules forced him out of the individual postseason. He is 33-2 this season and certainly motivated to finish his career high atop the medal stand at the state tournament. Being a senior at 106 pounds is a big advantage, too. He is a stake-ranked wrestler for a reason, and it's hard to picture a scenario where he doesn't win his first region title.
The race for second through fourth will be great. Messina has been outstanding for Freehold and I like him to come out of the bottom bracket. Our predicted semifinal bout between Messina and Santomarco is very intriguing, as the two did not meet during their teams' regular-season match (Santomarco was at 113). Lamparelli is the No. 1 seed and should wrestle back for a trip to the state tournament.
Prediction: 1. Schutzenhofer; 2. Messina; 3. Lamparelli; 4. Santomarco.
9-Matt Klemser (Shore, So., 28-10) vs. 1-Richie Koehler (CBA, Jr., 34-1).
5-Ben Sabo (Point Boro, Jr., 22-6) vs. 4-Josh Bollard (Jackson Liberty, Jr., 29-5).
6-Christian Carache (Hightstown, Jr., 29-8) vs. 3-Luke Rada (Howell, Fr., 27-7).
10-John Santos (Ocean, Sr., 23-10) vs. 2-Joey King (Colts Neck, Jr., 32-2).
Analysis: Koehler and King are big favorites to reach the final, and that would give us a rematch of a bout during the Shore Conference Tournament where Koehler won, 1-0, with a great third-period rideout. Koehler, a region champ and state medalist in 2015 and a region finalist last season, has the slight edge.
Bollard has quietly had a very good year and already has a major decision win over Sabo this season. Rada has had his moments, as well, as part of Howell's state championship squad.
Prediction: 1. Koehler; 2, King; 3. Bollard; 4. Rada.
8-Adam Manzo (Ocean, Jr., 25-9) vs. 1-Darby Diedrich (Howell, So., 33-3) .
5-Kareem Ghaida (Manalapan, So., 27-11) vs. 4-Tariq Morton (Nottingham, Sr., 28-8).
6-Billy Moore (Bordentown, Jr., 26-8) vs. 3-Carlos Irizarry (Long Branch, Sr., 29-9).
7-Al Desantis (Shore, Fr., 36-3) vs. 2-Logan Fox (Robbinsville, Sr., 32-3).
Analysis: Diedrich is the clear favorite and expected to bring home his first region title after finish third at 106 last season. All three of his losses this season are at 126 pounds and he is 17-0 when wrestling at 120. He defeated Fox, 7-1, in the District 22 championship bout.
The race for the final three spots could got several different ways. Fox and Irizarry would be a good semifinal bout, while Desantis and Morton could meat in the wrestlebacks with a berth to the state tournament on the line. Morton beat Desantis, 7-6, in the District 24 final.
Prediction: 1. Diedrich; 2. Fox; 3. Morton; 4. Irizarry.
8-Dyon Womack (Colts Neck, Jr., 28-7) vs. 1-Kyle Slendorn (Howell, Jr., 35-1).
5-Chris Dean (Long Branch, Jr., 27-7) vs. 4-Bryan Miraglia (Delran, So., 31-2).
6-Alex Poniros (Ocean, Fr., 33-1) vs. 3-Verlensky Joachim ( Bordentown, Sr., 30-5).
10-Sam LaCorte (CBA, So., 22-14) vs. 2-Herbert Edwards (Trenton, Sr., 32-3).
Analysis: This is another weight where the No. 1 seed is the major favorite. Slendorn's only loss of the season came in the first tournament of the season, and he begins his quest for a region title having won 33 straight bouts.
Poniros is just a freshman but is very talented and enters with only one less, which came back in December at the Mustang Classic. Miraglia is name familiar to wrestling fans and he's had a very good sophomore campaign, and already owns two wins over Dean this season. Edwards doesn't have any wins on his resume that jump out at you, so he isn't a lock to get out even as the No. 2 seed.
Prediction: 1. Slendorn; 2. Poniros; 3. Miraglia; 4. Dean.
8-Shaun Plaza (Jackson Liberty, Jr.., 19-13) vs. 1-Gianni Ghione (Brick Memorial, Sr., 30-0).
5-Matthew Potash ( Bordentown, Jr., 27-7) vs. 4-Alex Baran (Manalapan, Jr., 31-6).
6-Nick Villapiano (Ocean, Sr., 27-3) v. 3-Roddy Rupp (Point Beach, Sr., 30-2).
10-Sean Neely (Freehold, Sr., 20-12) vs. 2-Dan Esposito (Howell, Jr., 33-3).
Analysis: There's Ghione and everybody else. A two-time region champ and two-time, top-five state medalist, Ghione is the overwhelming favorite to win the title and may not even be tested. He pinned Baran in the District 21 final and beat Esposito by major decision during the Shore Conference Tournament.
Baran already beat Potash in districts while Esposito has a major decision over Neely from the regular season. Rupp vs. VIllapiano should be a close bout with the winner finding his way to a top-four finish. Baran gets Ghione in the semifinals but is able to reach the consolation final.
Prediction: 1. Ghione; 2. Esposito; 3. Rupp; 4. Baran
9-Anthony Cameron (Delran, Sr., 16-6) vs. 1-Jake Benner (Ocean, Jr., 34-1).
5-Anthony Coposky (Manalapan, Jr., 25-13) vs. 4-Steven Kramer (Colts Neck, Sr., 30-4).
6-Evan Richard (Howell, So., 24-8) vs. 3-Nick Wagner (Wall, Sr., 29-4).
10-Spencer Robinson (Point Boro, So., 20-8) vs. 2-Vincent Hellthaler (Northern Burlington, Sr., 27-4).
Analysis: We're starting to see a trend develop with the top seeds being major favorites. Benner has been fantastic in his junior season with his only loss coming at 145 to Middletown North's Stanley Wojdylak. Benner is among the state leaders in pins with 25 and can score from anywhere. He was a region finalist last season.
I think the seeds hold here as far as reaching the state tournament. Wagner-Hellthaler should be a good semifinals where I give Wagner a slight edge. Kramer is dynamite with his cradle and that should help him reach the consolation final. Hellthaler, the No. 2 seed, rips through the wrestlebacks to finish third.
Prediction: 1. Benner; 2. Wagner: 3. Hellthaler; 4. Kramer.
8-Christian Recantini (CBA, Jr.., 20-15) vs. 1-Jack Kelly (Wall. Jr., 27-2).
4-Matt Mustillo (Manalapan, Sr., 25-11) vs. 5-Ryan Feig (Northern Burlington, So., 27-9).
6-Xavier Kelly (Howell, So., 28-6) vs. 3-Luke Arnold (Long Branch, So., 23-11).
10-Larsen Johnson (Freehold Twp., Sr., 15-19) vs. 2-Garrett Bilgrav (Robbinsville, So., 31-3).
Analysis: I see both Kelly's making runs to a top-four finish: Jack winning the title and Xavier wrestling back for third. Jack Kelly already has a major decision win over Mustillo and a win by fall over Bilgrav. He has three wins over Arnold, but each have been by decision (11-9, 11-5, 7-5). Bilgrav defeated Xavier Kelly, 12-5, in the District 22 semifinals and beat Feig, 9-5, in the championship bout. If it's a Jack Kelly-Bilgrav final, which I'm predicting, you'd have to give the edge to Kelly.
Xavier Kelly has only been wrestling for a little over a year, but his constant improvement is something to behold. He literally learns something new every day, so he is a very interesting participant here. Arnold has wrestled a tough schedule and has a good draw out of the No. 3 seed.
Prediction: 1. Jack Kelly; 2. Bilgrav; 3. Xavier Kelly; 4. Arnold.
8-Rommy Abouelela (Nottingham, Sr., 25-13) vs. 1-Rob Kanniard (Wall, So., 33-1).
5-Chris Richardson (Brick Memorial, Sr., 24-7) vs. 4-Jimmy Sherlock (Point Beach, Jr., 32-3).
6-Anthony Giampietro (Northern Burlington, So., 29-8) vs. 3-Francis Marshall (Manasquan), Jr., 21-7).
7-Lavinsky Collins (Ewing, Jr., 32-1) vs. 2-Ronny Ghaida (Manalapan, Sr., 30-3).
Analysis: After reaching the state tournament as a freshman, Kanniard has been an offensive machine as a sophomore with 95 takedowns and most of his wins coming by either fall or technical fall. His only defeat came at the hands of Toms River South's Cole Corrigan (3-2), who is a returning state medalist and a region-title favorite in Region 7.
Kanniard has an 8-4 win over Ghaida this season and pinned Marshall in the District 23 final. He is a budding star on the state level and it begins here with his first region title.
Ghaida is a solid No. 2 seed and should reach the final. The rest of the field is solid and the battle for the final two qualifying spots should be fierce. There are plenty of head-to-head results to factor in, as well. Giampetro has a win over Abouelela; Richardson dec. Giampietro; Sherlock p. Richardson; Marshall defeated Sherlock twice.
Prediction: 1. Kanniard; 2. Ghaida; 3. Marshall; 4. Richardson.
8-Christian Hannigan (Burlington Twp., Sr., 29-5) vs. 1-Chad McClelland (Wall, Sr., 24-4).
5-Austin Cannon (Shore, Sr., 29-0) vs. 4-Jake Sundermier (Delran, Sr., 21-7).
6-Kyle Hillermeier (Freehold Twp., Jr., 27-10) vs. 3-Joe Ostberg (Manasquan, Sr., 31-6).
7-Kyle Twamley (Robbinsville, Sr., 28-9) vs. 2-Christian Murphy (Howell, So., 32-4).
Analysis: This is the first weight that actually feels wide open. McClelland has been at his best in the second half of the season and is unbeaten since Jan. 11. He already has two wins over Ostberg, including in the District 23 final.
Cannon is an interesting wrestler out of the No. 5 seed. He was unbeaten last year but didn't wrestle in the individual tournaments. He's undefeated this year and has won 47 straight bouts.
Along with teammate Francis Marshall at 152 pounds, Ostberg is trying to become Manasquan's first state qualifier since 1998 and first region champ since 1980.
Murphy has two wins over Twamley, pinning him earlier in the year and winning 1-0 in the District 22 final.
This entire bracket could go any number of ways and should be fun to watch play out over the next two days.
Prediction: 1. Cannon; 2. Murphy; 3. McClelland; 4. Ostberg.
8-Jonathan Jacobs (Nottingham, Sr., 28-10) vs. 1-Phil Rogers (Delran, Sr., 38-0).
5-Tommy Hill (Northern Burlington, So., 27-9) vs. 4-Jake Staklinski (Manalapan, Sr., 31-5).
6-Dan Santos-Silva (Long Branch, Jr., 25-10) vs. 3-Liam McDermott (Allentown, Jr., 26-2).
10-Isaiah Wesley (Burlington City, Sr., 21-4) vs. 2-Shane Reitsma (Howell, Fr., 35-0).
Analysis: I don't really see anyone being able to get in the way of a Rogers-Reitsma final, and if it plays out that way we'll have an undefeated senior versus an undefeated freshman for the region title.
Not knowing much about the non-Shore Conference wrestlers other than going over their opponents this year, I'll go with the chalk and the top four seeds finishing in that order.
Prediction: 1. Rogers; 2. Reitsma; 3. McDermott; 4. Staklinski.
8-Michael Jannucci (Colts Neck, So., 19-4) vs. 1-Jack Baker (Point Beach, Sr., 31-1).
5-Sam Houstan (CBA, Jr., 25-10) vs. 4-Peter Wersinger (Long Branch, Jr., 31-5).
6-Gabriel Williams (Nottingham, Sr., 29-10) vs. 3-Johnny Andre (Hightstown, Jr., 35-3).
7-Justin Obermeyer (Manalapan, Sr., 28-5) vs. 2-Zeke Brinson (Riverside, Sr., 33-4).
Analysis: Baker's only loss this season came at 195 pounds. He has two wins over Andre with a pin and a 6-2 win in the District 23 final. He also has a 10-1 win over Brinson and pin over Jannucci. If Baker can bring home the title out of the No. 1 seed he will give Point Beach a region champ in consecutive years for the first time since 2004-2006 (Butler, Barowski/Rega, Rega).
Andre pinned Wersinger in the District 23 semifinals and owns a decision and a major decision over Williams, who he'll face in the quarterfinals.
Prediction: 1. Baker; 2. Andre; 3. Brinson; 4. Wersinger.
8-Cameron DiGiorgio (CBA, Sr., 26-6) vs. 1-Matt McKenzie (Wall, Sr., 32-0).
5-Eric Quartey (Freehold Twp., Jr., 21-2) vs. 4-Billy Borowsky (Point Boro, So., 23-5).
11-A.J. Royle (Colts Neck, Jr., 18-7) vs. 3-Steven Truex (Northern Burlington, Sr., 36-2).
10-Liam Tibbett (Freehold, Sr.. 26-9) vs. 2-Nick Faber (Neptune, Sr., 22-1).
Analysis: McKenzie, the state third-place finisher last season, is the overwhelming favorite here. Despite all his success he's never won a region title, so there's plenty of motivation to cross that accomplishment off his list.
The race for second out of the bottom bracket should come down to a Truex-Faber semifinal where Truex has the edge based on a tougher schedule. Faber should be able to wrestle his way into the consolation final. Who gets the other spot? I like the winner of Quartey and Borowsky in the quarterfinals to finish fourth.
Prediction: 1. McKenzie; 2. Truex; 3. Faber; 4. Borowsky.
9-Eric Saunders (Burlington Twp., Sr., 12-18) vs. 1-Eric Keosseian (Howell, Sr., 34-2).
5-Devion Stokes (Nottingham, Sr. 33-5) vs. 4-Shane Davis (Wall, Sr., 24-4).
11-Chris Ratti (Northern Burlington, Jr., 23-9) vs. 3-Anthony Grozozski (Delran, 16-6).
7-Jajuan Hayes (Bordentown, So., 21-10) vs. 2-Hunter Marhan (Long Branch, Sr., 25-4).
Analysis: Keosseian, who finished eighth in the state tournament last season, is the defending champion and shouldn't have any issues bring home title No. 2.
Marhan has two wins by fall over Grozozski and a win over Ratti in double overtime. Davis beat Marhan in the District 23 final but received the No. 4 seed. Davis will have to reverse a 4-1 loss to quarterfinals opponent Devion Stokes to reach the semifinals. Win or lose, I think the two will meet again in the consolation final.
Prediction: 1. Keosseian; 2. Marhan; 3. Davis; 4. Stokes.
8-Sylvester Freeman (Nottingham, Jr., 25-11) vs. 1-Nick Rivera (Brick Memorial, Sr., 30-0).
5-Kevin Cerruti (Long Branch, So., 17-15) vs. 4-Anthony Bonavito (Point Boro, Jr., 23-4).
6-Jalen Paige (Asbury Park, Jr., 18-3) vs. 3-Vinnie Gargiulo (Colts Neck, Sr., 20-8).
7-Cade Watkins (Point Beach, Sr., 27-6) vs. 2-Jake Nash (Howell, Sr., 28-5).
Analysis: Anything other than Rivera winning his third region title would be shocking. He is the favorite in every sense of the word. After that it's anybody's guess. That's heavyweight wrestling for you.
Paige would be a great story to give Asbury Park it's first state qualifier in decades. The Bishops last state medalist came in 1937. Watkins and Nash is a very intriguing quarterfinal. Bonavito is big and athletic, and I like his chances to reach Atlantic City.
Prediction: 1. Rivera; 2. Nash; 3. Bonavito; 4. Paige.
Wrestling 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.