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As usual, the upper echelon of the Shore Conference features some of the best teams in New Jersey, and there’s a great chance a few of the area teams will be battling it out at Pine Belt Arena in February for a state championship. With 44 wrestling teams in one of the biggest conference’s in the state, being among the top-10 in the Shore carries a lot of weight. Let’s take a look at the inaugural Shore Sports Network Top 10 Wrestling Rankings on opening day.


1. Brick Memorial: The defending Group IV champion Mustangs have a new head coach in Mike Denver, who inherits a program that has two straight Shore Conference Tournament and Central Jersey Group IV titles. State medalists Joe Ghione and Nick Costa lead a squad that also features state qualifiers Tyler Poling and Alec Donovan, and region qualifier Cliff Ruggiero. Middle school standouts Giovanni Ghione and Justin Szuba should make an impact as freshmen to give Brick Memorial a deep and balanced lineup.


2. Southern: Every year Southern graduates a solid senior class and enters the next season with some unknowns, and every year the Rams continue to wrestle like as an elite program. Coming off an appearance in the Group IV final, the Rams have a whopping nine region qualifiers in their lineup, including former state medalist and Beast of the East place-winner Zach Wilhelm, and district champion Gerardo Jorge.


3. Howell: The reigning District 21 champions are still in search of their first sectional title in program history, and they have the goods to get it done with 10 returning wrestlers that won at least 10 matches last season, headlined by state qualifier Joey Schultz. Region qualifiers Jimmy Slendorn, Jack Rada and Kyle Cocozza, along with standout sophomore Kris Lindemann, make the Rebels the prohibitive favorite in Class A North.


4. Raritan: The Rockets graduated a solid senior class, but have four 20-match winners returning and a powerful group of upperweights as they look to battle for the Group II title. Region qualifiers Dylan Seidenberg, Connor Sheehan, Kyle Lynch and Pat Toal lead the charge for the defending Class A Central champions.


5. Toms River South: Gone is a tremendous senior class that included two-time state champion B.J. Clagon and state finalist Kevin Corrigan. The feeder program in Toms River has produced some excellent wrestlers for the Indians over the past few years, like sophomore state qualifier Owen McClave. District champ Brandon Murray and region qualifiers Antrez Clagon and Quinten DeCarlo look to lead the Indians back to the Group III final.


6. Brick: The Dragons don’t get as much love as their crosstown rivals and the other Class A South powers, but they’ve quietly put together several great seasons in a row and have another tough and balanced team in 2013-2014. Gone is state medalist Dan Wojtaszek, but returning are five region qualifiers, including state qualifier Kyle Wojtaszek, to lead the way.


7. Ocean: A fixture in the top 10, Ocean is led by two-time state medalist Zach Hertling among eight double-digit match winners. The Class B North favorites also feature district champ Max Rallo and region qualifiers Costa Poniros, Grant Brown and Jason Lawhon, plus 20-match winner Andrew MacNeille.


8. Jackson Memorial: The Jaguars have been hit very hard by graduation over the past two seasons and have a mostly unproven lineup. Still, it’s Jackson Memorial. If there’s any team that gets the benefit of the doubt heading into the season it’s this program. State qualifier Ken Bradley leads the way with region qualifiers Fred Terranova, Zack Baker and Connor Bohringer primed for big seasons. The Jaguars feeder program is consistently among the best in the state, so there are probably some unknowns that will turn in big seasons by the end of the year, like freshman 138-pounder Tim Hamann.


9. CBA: Senior region champion Mike Oxley leads a Colts squad that returns a total of four region qualifiers and nine double-digit match winners. District champ Erik Beshada and district runners-up Carl Vasti and Christian Casselli help form a strong core of lowerweights, while middle school standout Austin Cannon is set to debut at 145 pounds.


10. Wall: After a few down years, it looks like the Crimson Knights are back and ready to make some noise in the Shore Conference. State qualifiers Denzel Tovar and Brett Donner lead a promising roster that also includes region qualifiers Josh Glantzman and Tyler Romanelli, along with highly-regarded freshman Matt McKenzie, an intermediate school champion.


Also considered: Jackson Liberty, Long Branch,, Manalapan, Marlboro, Point Beach, Toms River North.

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