LONG BRANCH - Long Branch seniors Daniel Santos-Silva and Luke Arnold have been practice partners and team leaders for the Green Wave wrestling team all season long and were two of the guys coach Danny George was most relying on to come through for their team in Friday's NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV championship match against Brick Memorial.

After Arnold lost a tight, controversial overtime bout at 160 pounds, George just wanted to put Santos in position to win the night for Long Branch. According to George, if one of his leaders lost his match-up, there was no way the other was losing his.

Santos-Silva backed up his coach's confidence and picked up his partner by winning a thrilling, 3-2 decision over Brick Memorial senior Rob Hopping at 182 to seal a 30-29 win for the Green Wave - the first sectional title for Long Branch since 2013.

Photo by Matt Manley
Photo by Matt Manley

The teams tied 29-29 on match points and Long Branch won on criteria, winning eight of the 14 individual bouts.

"Luke Arnold and Danny Santos train every day together," George said. "They are the heartbeat of this team, really, and there was no way they both were going to lose tonight - especially with the match on the line.

"It's saw awesome to witness when the kids that do everything for you every single day come up huge in big spots. It's not by accident."

Santos-Silva had to win the final bout of the match in order for Long Branch, the top seed, to escape No. 3 Brick Memorial - the all-time leader among Shore teams with 15 sectional championships and nine overall group titles. Hopping escaped during the second period and rode Santos-Silva for more than a minute in the third before the Long Branch senior made it out of the hold to tie the score at 1-1.

"He escaped pretty quick in the second (period)," Santos-Silva said. "I knew I needed two (points) and knew I could get it right there. I saw him start getting gassed and I knew I had gas in my tank. I saw an opportunity and it just so happened to happen. It was magical."

With the clock ticking away, Santos-Silva caught Hopping taking a shot in the final 10 seconds and rode him to the ground to pick up the deciding two points. After the two players crossed the boundary with 4.8 seconds left, Santos-Silva let Hopping up and ran out the clock.

"I've been around too long not to know the tradition of Brick Memorial," George said. "People don't realize that four years ago they were group champs and seven of those kids (on this year's team) were on that team. They might not have started or wrestles, but they saw it all evolve.

"Where they did a better job than us was they limited our bonus points and they captured bonus points. That's what scared me he most."

Long Branch needed to win the final bout thanks to a number of key bonus-point pick-ups by Brick Memorial, plus freshman David Szuba's critical 3-2 overtime win over Arnold at 160.

In the second of the 30-second rideout periods, Arnold escaped Szuba in the final seconds and nearly pulled off the reversal, but the officials ruled that he did not establish an advantage over Szuba before the clock expired. That gave Szuba the chance to escape for the win in the next period, which the freshman did.

"We thought we had a reversal," George said. "The official said he didn't go all the way around. I thought he was pretty far around - enough to get the reversal."

The win by the Mustangs freshman opened the door for Brick Memorial, but Santos-Silva was the last man standing between the Mustangs and a ticket to Toms River. Not only was Santos-Silva motivated to get his team to the next round - he wanted to pick up his friend and wrestling partner.

"After Luke came out of his match, he was upset," Santos-Silva said. "I told him, 'Get your stuff on and come watch me win this match.' Luke has been my wrestling partner and he has gotten me better - 4-10 in my first two years and he has gotten me 50 wins in the last two years just having him as my wrestling partner."

Brick Memorial also scored the only three pins of the match, with senior Sam Williams delivering a pin in the final seconds of the second period at 220, junior Caleb Alvarado scoring the fall 1:42 into the match at 138, and Ean Mueller coming through with a huge fall at 170 to give Brick Memorial a 29-26 advantage.

Mueller was ahead, 9-2, midway through the second period and rolled Edgar Padilla into a cradle to pick up the pin at 5:12.

On the Long Branch side, junior Stivini Silva won a 5-2 decision over senior Ryan Andrus that proved crucial in the final score.

Senior Louie Saez shook off an early 2-0 hole to earn a major decision over Brick Memorial senior Bryan Wilson with a takedown late in the third period to nail down the extra point.

Seniors Chris Dean and Issac Shohet also won by major decision at 126 and 145, respectively, while senior Peter Wersinger opened the match with a technical fall victory.

"Working this up, there were a lot of matches you are thinking are in our favor," George said. "We lost the flip and we wanted Wersinger on Williams and then we thought we could steal another match or two up there. Then their heavyweight (Chris Miller) did a good job keeping (Kevin Cerruti) to three points - not with stalling, just good wrestling. It was really good wrestling on their part."

Junior Rey Guzman also did his part by staying out of a fall or technical fall against freshman standout Vin Santaniello at 113. Guzman made it to the final 30 seconds within seven points, but Santaniello took him down for a near fall at the end of the third to secure the bonus point.

Long Branch advances to Sunday's Group semifinals at RWJ Barnabas Health Center in Toms River, where the Green Wave will face South Jersey champion Highland.

"There is a lot of history between these two programs," Santos-Silva said. "We are two great programs in the Shore Conference and the state. We beat them this time, who knows in the future, but right now, we're champs and that's all that matters to me."


Box Score

Long Branch 30, Brick Memorial 29 (Long Branch wins on criteria)

195: Peter Wersinger (LB) tf. Roberto Herrara 19-4

220: Sam Williams (BM) p. La'Qym Morris 4:00

HWT: Kevin Cerruti (LB) d. Chris Miller 7-0

106: Joe Rotondo (BM) md. Dylan Kelleher 12-2

113: Vin Santaniello (BM) md. Rey Guzman 14-4

120: Ryan Zimmerman (LB) d. Michael Richardson 6-0

126: Chris Dean (LB) md. Liam Rivera 15-6

132: Stivini Silva (LB) d. Ryan Andrus 5-2

138: Caleb Alvarado (BM) p. Ryan Carey 1:42

145: Issac Shohet (LB) md. Brian Alexander 10-0

152: Louie Saez (LB) md. Bryan Wilson 11-3

160: David Szuba (BM) d. Luke Arnold 3-2 (OT)

170: Ean Mueller (BM) p. Edgar Padilla 5:11

182: Daniel Santos-Silva (LB) d. Ron Hoppling 3-2


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